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For U.S., ‘Brexit’ Was a Sign of Things to Come

Mr. Trump’s victory may also help former President Nicolas Sarkozy in his difficult battle for the right’s nomination for the presidency against the more centrist former prime minister Alain Juppé this month, which is likely to be the first political indicator of the impact.


Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, right, campaigned in August with Donald J. Trump in Jackson, Miss. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

“It will feed into the process in France,” said François Heisbourg, a French analyst. “Marine Le Pen actually looks sensible by comparison, and the one who will look most like Trump is Sarkozy.”

Those who strongly favored Brexit, like Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, who stumped for Mr. Trump, warned of “future political shocks in the years to come.” He saw “the end of a period of big business and big politics controlling our lives,” and hailed Mr. Trump as “a president who likes our country and understands our post-Brexit values.”

Those like Mr. Farage who want a sharp break with the European Union also took heart that after President Obama said that Britain would be “at the back of the queue” for a bilateral trade deal, Mr. Trump promised that Britain would “certainly not be at the back of the queue, that I can tell you.”

On Monday in North Carolina, Mr. Trump told a rally: “It will be an amazing day. It will be called ‘Brexit plus plus plus!’ You know what I mean?”

Many Americans might not have known what he meant. But Britons and Europeans understood immediately.

Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union sent tremors through the political and financial system and the center-left news media. It was a blow to the betting markets and to the pollsters. It was a rejection of the governing political class. And it was delivered by older, working-class voters in areas of Britain hit hard by globalization, angered by immigration and anxious about their nation’s identity in a borderless world.

“At first blush, the parallels with Brexit are uncanny,” said Robin Niblett, the director of Chatham House, a research institution in London. “I heard older voters in Florida saying that they ‘wanted their country back again,’ almost exactly the same language” used in England and Wales.

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“It’s no longer ‘the economy, stupid,’ it’s ‘identity, stupid,’” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “What we are seeing here is what we saw in the Brexit referendum, which is that identity and cultural politics are even bigger determinants of people’s politics than we thought possible.”

John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, said he saw a similarity in the confrontation among classes. “The divide between the liberal, the educated and the young versus the older and undereducated has been an important factor in both the U.S. elections and Brexit,” he said.

“It’s the rebellion of the Rust Belt,” he said. “The bigger, broader message to the elites is, ‘Hey, guys, a large portion of the public is rebelling against the consequences of globalization.’”

The big question for Europe is whether its leaders will finally recognize that Brexit supporters and other nationalists might have a point. “The continued insistence on linking free trade with free movement of immigration will increasingly come under democratic pressure,” Mr. Curtice said.

Mr. Trump’s victory gave great encouragement to other populist, anti-immigration leaders in Europe, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Ms. Le Pen, who have both warned about Islamic radicalism.

“The Americans are taking their country back,” Mr. Wilders, who leads the Freedom Party, wrote on Twitter. Ms. Le Pen congratulated “the American people, free!”

More bitingly, a vice president of the National Front, Florian Philippot, said on Twitter: “Their world is crumbling. Ours is being built.”

Despite the euphoria on the far right, some observers said the shock over the British vote and the Trump victory might bring “an element of soberness to Europe and make it harder rather than easier for populists to win,” Mr. Niblett said.

But there was fear that Mr. Trump’s “America First” approach would leave Europe on its own, while Russia’s expansionist president, Vladimir V. Putin, whom Mr. Trump openly admires, worked to undermine confidence in NATO security guarantees and in the cohesion of the European Union itself.

“This is a wake-up call for European leaders,” said Guy Verhofstadt, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, who will help prepare the European Union’s negotiations with Britain. “Donald Trump has declared several times that our priorities are not his.”

Even if Mr. Trump pulls back from his campaign stands, said Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, “those with an interest to undermine and destabilize NATO and Europe will be emboldened.”

And she worried about another possible parallel to Brexit in the rise of hate crimes and discrimination against foreigners and nonwhite Britons that followed the referendum.

While the parallels are real, said Jan Techau, the director of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum at the American Academy in Berlin, “compared to the impact of the Trump victory, Brexit looks like a mild spring morning.”

“Both are a kind of abdication of responsibility to the world,” which will be very destabilizing, he said. Even if America remains in NATO, “trust will quickly start to evaporate and the one country needed to keep NATO on track will be absent or worse.”

Source: NYT > World

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