This Thursday on June 23rd Europe will hit a crossroads for sovereignty, immigration, trade, and perhaps even the dismantling of the European Union, an international institution that has spanned the length of twenty years. Although the intricacies of the contentious showdown between loyal EU politicians and those who favor British sovereignty is well-known to those directly linked to the outcome, the British Exit of the EU (Brexit) remains a mystery to a large portion of the American public.
In fact, when asked if they had enough knowledge about the issue of Brexit to have a stance on it, 20% of Americans said that they lacked the necessary insight to prefer one side over the other. The nature of this inherent ambivalence is drastic due to the implications of the June referendum with regards to the US economy, trade, and defense relationships with both the EU and the UK.
Public opinion in the United States seems to closely mirror the stances of a particular Republican or Democratic presidential candidate. First let’s look at the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. When asked if he thought Britain would be better off if they voted for Brexit, he said, “I don’t know, you’d have to ask them. I just think they may leave.” This echoed the response given by many U.S. politicians, which seems to espouse the sentiment that it’s better to leave the British to their own devices.
In similar fashion, Democratic hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders gave his views on the controversial issue on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he said, “I would hope that they stay in [the EU], but that’s their decision.” Again, it’s clear that American politicians want to stay away from this debate if at all possible.
Perhaps the only U.S. presidential hopeful who took a definitive stance on Brexit was the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, who said in a written statement that she, “believes that transatlantic cooperation is essential,” and that, “cooperation is strongest when Europe is united.” This presents an obvious shift from the other two serious candidates for the presidency, but it will likely show up as a blip on the radar of American voters.
Despite these public statements, the individual policies that each candidate has proposed seem to indicate pointedly rigid stances on the issue. In particular the increased attention given to immigration has played into the hands of candidates on both sides of the aisle. After examining the following analysis of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, a juxtaposition will appear between the candidates’ proposed policies on immigration and their unwillingness to engage in the political battle being waged across the Atlantic.
Although Americans and their politicians pride themselves on being exceptional on the world stage, the bottom line is that the current US political climate closely mirrors that of the UK. Take, for instance, the words of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, and put them in conjunction with the UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) current leader, Nigel Farage, and a pattern is obviously prevalent.
On immigration in particular, the two right-wing political leaders seem to be overwhelmingly in agreement. Nigel Farage was adamant that the policies encouraged by the EU have had a detrimental impact in Great Britain, going as far as saying, “we have to admit to ourselves… that mass immigration and multicultural division has for now been a failure.”
Now compare that to similar rhetoric made by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and the resemblance is resounding. Trump had the following to say regarding immigration along the United States southern border, “I would be not allowing certain people to come into this country without absolute perfect documentation.”
The implicit similarities don’t stop on the Republican side of the ideological spectrum. It’s already been observed that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders support (however reluctantly) the Remain campaign in Great Britain. What’s interesting is the degree with which the current Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has voiced his support for a complimentary immigration platform.
In January, Hillary Clinton forcefully said she would, “end family detention, close private immigrant detention centers, and help more eligible people become naturalized.” In similar fashion, Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech this month that the continued stress put on local institutions, “isn’t the fault of migrants. It’s a failure of government.”
Finally, there’s the Democratic holdout, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who boldly proclaimed, “I will fight for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans living in this country.”
Essentially the American public, while ambivalent on the surface to the Brexit issue, still faces analogous issues that coincide with many people in the UK. Furthermore, if presidential candidates are any sign of public opinion, then the American people are just as torn on perhaps the most controversial aspect of Brexit, the immigration conundrum.