The Parallels Between the Brexit Vote and the U.S. Election

In a stunning upset, the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union on Thursday. The vote was a historic victory for a populist movement that has clear parallels with the political revolution being led by Donald Trump on the other side of the Atlantic.


In spite of protest from world leaders, economists, and multinational corporations, voters in the U.K. opted to revoke its EU membership and throw the global economy into a short-term free fall, effectively ousting Prime Minister David Cameron in the process. Coupled with a lingering economic recession in non-metropolitan area, fears over the EU's influence and its liberal immigration laws drove the Brexit vote.

A parallel sentiment has given rise to Trump, who celebrated the U.K. departure as a declaration of independence and acknowledged that American voters will have a similar opportunity to "re-declare their independence" in November.

"Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first," Trump wrote in a press release. "They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again."

(Trump conveniently overlooked that voters throughout Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU.)

Like the Brexit decision, few in America seemed to take seriously the prospect of Trump clinching the Republican presidential nomination at first. He deliberately rejected political convention and advanced an agenda that relied heavily on his supporters' fears about illegal immigration and global trade.

Trump capitalized on the economic anxiety of his base to stoke fear about outsiders, be they from Mexico or China.

Now, for comparison's sake, look to the rhetoric of this Brexit "Leave" leader.

Here's Nigel Farage, the leader of UK Independence Party, as results from the Brexit referendum shifted in favor of an EU exit:

"We will win this war. We will get our country back. We will get our independence back and we will get our borders back."

And here's Farage, again, in his victory speech.

“It’s a victory for ordinary people, decent people. It’s a victory against the big merchant banks, against the big businesses, and against big politics.”


There are limitations to this parallel, of course, which POLITICO lays out neatly here. The range of pro-Brexit advocates, for example, "spans a very different sort of political spectrum than Trump’s coalition" — with working class citizens outside of Britain's urban centers joining some wealthy residents of London's Notting Hill neighborhood in their support for the exit — but still, there's no mistaking the shared populist sentiment that inspired Thursday's historic vote.

"The referendum campaign — just like the U.S. election — has boiled with populist anger, fear-mongering by politicians, hostility towards distant political elites and resurgent nationalism, and exposed a visceral feeling in the electorate that ordinary voters have lost control of the politics that shape their own lives," CNN reports. "Its success raises the question of whether those forces will exert a similar influence in America in November."

RELATED: Here are the Results of the Brexit Referendum