Foreign Policy Blogs

Brexit Makes Trump’s Wall More Likely

this Wednesday, June 22, 2016 file photo, advocate to exit Europe Boris Johnson poses for a selfie photo with voters during a whistle stop tour of the country on the final day of campaigning before Thursday's EU referendum vote, in Selby, north England. (Andrew Parsons / PA via AP, File)

Pro-Brexit advocate Boris Johnson poses for a selfie photo with voters on the final day of campaigning before Thursday’s EU referendum vote, in Selby, north England. (Andrew Parsons/AP, File)

Depending on which side you were supporting, 24 June, 2016 was either one of Britain’s “finest hours” or a 21st century “Dunkirk.”

That morning, Britain’s nationalistic impulse prevailed over a slow to form multi-national spirit that proved to be far weaker than most ever thought. By choosing to slap the hands of Brussels based bureaucrats off the helm off H.M.S. Great Britain the Brits have set a precedent that other populations across the EU may very well follow. Have Boris Johnson and the seventeen million people that followed his lead inflicted a massive hole into the wall that up until 24 June, 2016 held back surging nationalism?

Chancellor Angela Merkel characterized the exit vote as a “turning point for Europe” and “a turning point for the European unification process.” But might the outcome also be a harbinger of a coming and monumental pivoting away from the globalization process, especially, that dimension of the phenomena that requires the strengthening of the supranational at the expense of local institutions and authorities.

With this vote, the unthinkable becomes far more thinkable, and even doable for populations across Europe and the United States who feel they have come out on the losing side of the globalization proposition.

With this vote, Britain has now made it less indecent for states (and their anti-globalization, anti-immigration political factions) to advance and intensify conversations centered on putting the speed brakes on free trade, open arms immigration and other defining features of globalization.

With this vote, an entity originally devised and established as a war prevention mechanism is now spiritually at its weakest point since the march towards integration began over 60 years ago.

With this vote, President Vladimir Putin smiles knowing that his up-start, but potent, political and security peer competitor to the West has just had its confidence knocked out of it.

But most importantly, with this vote, the aspiration for a more open, prosperous, unified and homogeneous global society will be more vigorously tested by demagogues and right of center factions across the world that can now look to the UK for inspiration.

Further, European and American voters might come to the conclusion as the Brits have, that their national aches and pains, such as protracted fiscal crisis, immigrant and refugee inflows, and urban terror attacks can be better solved in their respective nations’ capitals than by uber-educated elites based in distant cities.

For sure, even if the causal links between the shortcoming of globalization and the economic pain of individual citizens are statistically frail, the isolationist political mood—to varying degrees a backlash to globalization—might prove hard to contain in the coming months and years.

Lastly, the presumptive American Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, celebrated the decision of British citizens to “take their country back” and linked the campaign to his own quest for the U.S. presidency. He remarked that the result goes to show how “angry” voters on both sides of the Atlantic are with the status quo. If the vote on 24 June proves to be the beginning of a trend, Mr. Trump just might get this wall.



Oliver Barrett

Oliver Leighton-Barrett is a multi-lingual researcher and a decorated retired military officer specializing in the inter-play between fragile states and national security matters. A former U.S. Marine, and Naval aviator, Oliver is a veteran of several notable U.S. military operations, to include: Operation Restore Hope (Somalia); and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan and Philippines). His functional areas of focus include: U.S. Diplomacy; U.S. Defense; and Climate Change. His geographic areas of focus include: Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).