Recently I have been embarrassed that one of the two major political parties in this country actually chose a grandstanding reality show star as its Presidential nominee. It is difficult to believe that anyone other than our most ignorant citizens would vote for the likes of Donald Trump to be President of the United States. To even contemplate that Trump actually received 10.8 Million votes in the Republican primaries, the most for any Republican candidate in history, is mind blowing for people like me.
During the last few months I paid particular attention whenever one our British cousins expressed utter distain for Trump. British Prime Minister David Cameron called Trumps proposed Muslim travel ban “divisive, stupid and wrong,” and “…I think if he came to this country it would unite us all against him.” Several other high visibility British politicians made similar comments. More than 570,000 Britons signed an online petition demanding that Trump be banned from entering from the United Kingdom and the British Parliament actually seriously considered the question. My thought at the time was, “The British are bright people.”
Well, evidently I formed my opinion prematurely based on insufficient evidence. British politicians may have their thinking caps on straight, but the same cannot be said of the majority of the British people. As I began to write this I was hearing early news reports of the results of the “Brexit” referendum. Now it is official; the British voters have chosen to leave the European Union by a margin to 51.9% to 48.1%. By every rational measure this isn’t a very smart decision. The Brits have proven that when it comes to mass attacks of stupidity, they aren’t going to take second place to their American cousins. We haven’t elected Donald Trump as our President, at least not yet.
Published well before the vote, a long term analysis by the British equivalent of our Department of the Treasury showed that Great Britain “…would be permanently poorer if it left the EU…” and “productivity and GDP per person would be lower”. The analysis calculated that the GDP loss per average British household over a next 15 years would be between £2,600 and £5,200 per year (or between $3,562 and $7,124 a year in American dollars) if Brexit succeeded. That’s a substantial loss by anyone’s reckoning. Of course, the lower country’s GDP, the lower its tax receipts which are necessary to sustain the government and its services.
Great Britain has been a member of an European economic partnership since it joined the European Common in 1973 and all of its current international trade agreements were made though the European Union, at least until last Thursday. Following the vote, all of those agreements are essentially void. Britain will have to renegotiate trade agreements with every other country in the world, including its biggest trading partners: The other countries in Europe, the United States, and China. It has been estimated that renegotiating all of those agreements will take at least two years. Some are predicting the process will take as long as 5 years and nearly everyone expects the terms of those new agreements to be less favorable to the British than those they are replacing. This will be especially true when Britain attempts renegotiate trade agreements the EU. The remaining EU countries are very likely to seek to make an example of the British as a warning to factions in other EU countries which are also clamoring to leave the European Union.
Given the expected consequences of Britain leaving the EU, when results of the vote became clear, the British pound tumbled against the American dollar to 31-year low culminating in its greatest one day loss in the pound’s very long history. Nor was the shock limited to Britain’s financial indicators. The Dow ended the day down 611 points, or over 3.4%, while the S&P 500 lost 3.6%. Stocks tumbled in Europe; the Frankfurt and Paris stock exchanges fell 7 percent to 8 percent and the Japanese Nikkei stock market lost 7.9% today
So in the face of dire economic predictions from financial experts the world over and warnings voiced by Britain’s most important prominent politicians and civic leaders, why did the majority of British citizens defiantly line up behind the Brexit alternative. It wasn’t about economic issues, but despite them. It was all about regaining what some viewed as lost sovereignty and “taking our country back”. Brexit proponents, mostly social conservatives, pushed nationalism and spread fear throughout the islands, harping on the open borders of the EU and threats of terrorism.
One cannot escape the parallels between the Brexit and the success of Donald Trump in the Republican primaries. There are a lot of similarities between the two campaigns, including not only some of the major driving issues, but also the demographics of both the proponents and opponents. Those in favor of both Brexit and Trump tend to be older, non college educated, social conservatives, and those living primarily in rural areas. On the other hand those opposed in each case included financial experts, established politicians, young people, the college educated, and those living in urban areas. Not surprisingly Trump stated that he believed Brexit is a good thing.
There have been those pundits who use those similarities to illustrate why Trump might win the general election. However, the two campaigns differ in one fundamental and very important regard – Brexit was about an idealized concept while the Trump campaign is about a single person and that person is an egotistical blowhard with a narcissistic personality disorder who apparently cares only about himself, not our country. The fact Trump said that devaluation of the British pound resulting the expect economic disorder in Britain will bring more people to his golf courses should tell you all you need to know about why Trump will never be President of the United States.