Last night, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Ultimately, this has very little to do with the United States. But, as is our American tradition, I’m going to make it about us anyway. After all, we learned our fierce, sometimes ignorant, independent behavior from somebody. That somebody is our proper, protestant, tea-drinking parent, Britain.
The EU Referendum will have massive implications. I can’t go into detail about those implications, because no one can. A country has never left the European Union before, and therefore, there’s a huge amount of uncertainty about what will happen to the UK politically and economically, and how that will impact the rest of the world. In this regard, the Brexit is comparable to a movement happening in the United States currently. The movement to elect Donald “My hands are small but trust me, my dick isn’t” Trump as President.
First of all, it’s important to understand who is behind the push for the Brexit to understand the parallels. The so-called “Leave” camp was spearheaded by two major political leaders. The first is Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Farage and the rest of UKIP are, as the Brits would say, fuckwit twats. UKIP’s entire platform is anchored by a populist, anti-immigration message. This is entirely analogous to Donald Trump’s campaign within the US. The voter bases in both movements are comprised of white, working class men and women without higher education. And both Trump and Farage make outrageous, racist comments. While Trump has been blabbering about walls getting higher, Farage has been telling Britons that they could save money by medically treating taxpayers instead of immigrants with HIV.
The other leader of the Leave camp has been former mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Johnson looks a bit like a character in those sitcom crossover episodes between live action and animated shows, and they took an animated character and made him real, and messed it up horribly. Johnson is a member of the Conservative party, the same party of staunch “Remain” supporter, Prime Minister David Cameron. Johnson has been using the amount of money which leaves the UK bound for the EU as a talking point for his Leave campaign, saying that money should remain in Britain. However, John Oliver vehemently debunked Johnson’s platform on his show this past Sunday as uneducated nonsense. The Johnson/Cameron split in the Conservative party is much like the Trump/Never Trump split of the Republican party. If the outcome of the Brexit vote is an indicator of what is to come at home, we could be headed for trouble.
The most immediate aspect of the Brexit which has affected the UK and the world is uncertainty. No one really knows what impact the Brexit will have on the UK’s economy, so naturally, everyone freaked out. The British Pound dropped eight percent in value overnight, sending to its lowest level in over 30 years. The impact of this cannot be overstated. The UK went from being the fifth largest economy in the world to the sixth in 12 hours, after being overtaken by France. And the economic impact isn’t just limited to the UK. On the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow dropped 500 points at the opening bell after uncertainty from the Brexit scared investors. One can only assume the markets would react in a similar way if Trump were elected.
The uncertainty isn’t just economic, it’s political. For one, David Cameron announced he would resign as Prime Minister in three months. The UK doesn’t have a vice-president equivalent, so its unclear who will be the next PM. Cameron has said that he will help the UK transition to its new leadership, which will likely be a pro-Leave Conservative. This could mean badly-animated Boris Johnson might become the Prime Minister.
The vote also showed a heavily polarized UK. While England itself (barring London) was extremely pro-Leave, Scotland was extremely pro-Remain. You may recall that Scotland recently had their own referendum on whether or not to remain in the UK. Now, the Brexit vote calls Scotland’s status within the UK into question.
Perhaps the most discouraging thing about the Brexit vote was just how many signals were given about its potential consequences that were ignored. Obama, Cameron, and other EU country leaders pleaded with the British people to vote Remain. Nobel Prize-winning economists warned the Brits about the long term economic damage that would come from leaving the EU. And now that the vote is over, many Britons are realizing just what they’ve done after it’s too late. Google Trends reported that the second highest search in the UK this morning is “What is the EU?” Some are even saying that they wish they could change their vote.
WHAT THIS ALL MEANS FOR AMERICA
The UK is one of our strongest allies. A weaker UK means a weaker US. But perhaps most importantly, an ignorant UK gives license to an ignorant US. Americans, please consider the immediate impact of what is happening to Britain’s economy and political landscape as a preview of what would happen if Trump wins in November. Take your time to become politically educated and understand what your vote means. You have a voice. Make sure you know what it is saying before you speak.