Last week’s stunning UK vote to leave the European Union is having a ripple effect across the globe. The Brits themselves are beginning to contemplate the resultant strains on their economy – at least for the short run – not the least of which will be the inevitable loss of foreign trade markets and workers’ easy access to European job markets.
They probably know that President Obama’s unfortunate crack prior to the vote – he said they will have to go to “the back of the queue” with respect to trade relations with the U.S. if thy chose to leave the EU – was likely a harbinger of what they can expect from other world leaders.
Indeed, mindful of a possible charge that he was mixing in the affairs of another country, the president said he was only reacting to the claims of Brexit supporters that Britain would always be able to negotiate a new, separate deal with the U.S.
Mr. Obama said, rather harshly:
They are voicing an opinion about what the United States is going to do. I figured you might want to hear from the president of the United Sates what I think the United States is going to do.And on that matter, for example, I think it’s fair to say that maybe some point down the line there may be a UK-U.S. trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done.
There will also necessarily be changes in Britain’s military defenses, inasmuch as a member of a politically integrated Europe requires a very different defense posture than does an outsider nation. And the 27 remaining members of the EU reportedly are already contemplating their own new strategies necessitated by the UK withdrawal.
As for the U.S., the world’s sole superpower with security interests across the globe, there is an obvious concern about any change in alignments. Indeed, a front-page story in The New York Times on Sunday posed this question in its opening paragraphs:
Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union is already threatening to unravel a democratic bloc of nations that has coexisted peacefully together for decades. But it is also generating uncertainty about an even bigger issue: Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?Britain’s choice to retreat into what some critics of the vote suggest is a “Little England” status is just one among many loosely linked developments suggesting the potential for a reordering of power, economic relationship, borders and ideologies around the globe.
In a broader sense, the Brexit vote has cast doubt on what had seemed for decades to be an inexorable march toward world government. Political scientists have long noted that the nation-state, comprised of individuals with similar beliefs and culture, was a relatively recent development, and human history was mostly characterized by local towns, villages, and, of course, arbitrarily bounded empires. Many had suggested that the advent of the European Union marked the beginning of the end of the nation-state as the world’s political organizational model.
But what seems even more fascinating to some is the parallel between the Brexit campaign and the current American presidential showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. According to another front-page New York Times story on Sunday,
For Hillary Clinton, Britain’s emotionally charged uprising against the European Union is the sort of populist victory over establishment politics that she fears in the coming presidential election.Mrs. Clinton shares more with the defeated “remain” campaign than just their common slogan, “Stronger Together.” Her fundamental argument, much akin to Prime Minister David Cameron’s against British withdrawal from the European Union, is that Americans should value stability and incremental change over the risks of chaos if Donald J. Trump wins the presidency.
The article went on to report on the “populist” issues in both campaigns. Embedded in the Brexit effort was dissatisfaction with several hot button issues such as over the top mass immigration, open borders, migrant criminality, conflicts with the Muslim community, loss of control of political independence to EU decision-makers, loss of jobs for British citizens, loss of trading opportunities, and outsourced manufacturing. If these sound familiar, it is because they track much of what constitutes the thrust of the Trump campaign.