When the election results started trickling in on Tuesday, to many Americans it felt like déjà vu. Despite a solid lead for Secretary Hillary Clinton over Donald J. Trump in almost every poll, the actual results coming in looked much closer and finally tipped in favour of Mr. Trump – much like the night of Thursday, June 23, 2016 when the Brexit referendum votes were counted in the United Kingdom.
But the failure of pollsters to accurately predict the outcome of the vote is not the only similarity between Britain’s vote to leave the EU and the 2016 U.S. Election.
Most strikingly, Trump promised “Brexit times 10” ahead of the election, and Nigel Farage campaigned for Trump and later linked the Brexit vote to the Trump victory, claiming that “the revolution continues.”
While it is unclear what “revolution” Mr. Farage was referring to, both the Brexiteers and Trump ran highly controversial campaigns. Both campaigns had aggressively questioned immigration, and the cosmopolitanism of globalized elites.
Another obvious parallel is the uncertainty in the aftermath of the decision. When Brexit is only defined as “Brexit,” “Brexit times ten” isn’t very clear either. Both campaigns offered extensive promises without much attention to boring policy details. And while Theresa May is still struggling to define what “Brexit” could in fact mean, it is mostly unclear what a Trump presidency will bring for the U.S. and the world.
With the Republicans holding power in both the legislative and the executive branches of government, under normal circumstances they would have at least two years’ time to implement their agenda. But in reality there is a wide schism between the platform that carried Donald Trump to victory, and the platform and beliefs of the Republicans in Congress.
Whether we are discussing trade deals, the future of entitlement programs, or a myriad of social issues, many of Trump’s positions are under-defined or outright unclear, except for the fact that he aggressively dismissed the Republican orthodoxy that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan stands for.
Ryan strongly supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other international trade deals looking to expand the United States’ international trade relationships. Trump campaigned on a platform that strongly opposed TPP, claiming that it will hurt US businesses and increase the US trade deficit to China.
Furthermore, Trump would like his administration to revisit and possibly dismantle existing trade deals that the Republicans in Congress have supported for decades.
While Trump and the Republican Congress may find more common ground on issues like tax reform and immigration, the truth is nothing can be certain.
That is even true for the future relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. While Trump has expressed that he may consider negotiating a trade deal with a post-Brexit UK rather quickly, this would arguably still be following his ‘America first’ principle.
Furthermore, should Trump’s comments on international affairs become foreign policy, the UK will need to seriously increase its defence spending to fill the gap when NATO won’t provide collective security anymore.
As with Brexit, however, we can’t foresee the future; after a divisive campaign, what remains is a divided country with an uncertain future.
Measurement and evaluation