Brexit: Lessons for America

image:US/EUfrom Flickr

arturo-100x100by Arturo Mendoza

On Friday 24 of June, people across the pond – myself included – went to bed in shock. A 52% of the electorate in the United Kingdom voted in favour of leaving the European Union, the flagship of regional integration across the world.

Living among interdependent societies – Is there any other way in the 21st Century? – there’s no need to be British or European in order to dimension the impacts of such a decision in the world’s economy and politics. A decision that, as revealed by Google Trends, was massively misinformed. Just to put an example, ‘What’s the EU?’ was the second top question after the polls closed. Please let me repeat myself, after the polls CLOSED!

Only few hours after the EU referendum’s results were confirmed, the Mexican finance minister announced cuts –not the first time though– to government spending for 31.715 million pesos (more than 1 million GBP) in order to deal with unstable markets and with the collapse of oil’s price. Now, it’s important to stress the fact that we’re talking about Brexit’s economic consequences in a country that’s located 8,929 km away and which trade with the UK, ally and friend, only represents 0.7% of its GDP. Putting it that way, you can possibly imagine how dramatic will be the consequences in Europe for 27 countries that trade big amounts of goods and services with the UK as a daily basis.

Nevertheless, considering that other fellow contributors have commendably commented and written on this issue, it’s not my purpose to discuss the economic or domestic impacts of Brexit but rather the political message that could be read across the pond.

Brexit is now a real testimony on how politics and misinformation could lead to disastrous outcomes. According to The Guardian, instead of a serious evaluation of the EU programmes and funds from which the UK has benefited (e.g. Erasmus exchange programmes or infrastructure funds in South Yorkshire), ‘discontent with the scale of migration to the UK has been the biggest factor pushing Britons to vote out.’ Furthermore, Nigel Farage’s UKIP (radical right) also ‘helped cement a link between immigration and the EU in the public mind.’

With an imminent withdrawal procedure ahead, properly stated in the Treaty of Lisbon (art. 50), the UK unfortunately passed the point of no return. However, the divisive discourse that propelled public’s distrust in the EU isn’t sui generis and could lead to more regretful outcomes in other parts of the world. As an example, poisonous rhetoric and misinformation could also explain the rise of Donald Trump –the only man who argues that Scots voted out– in the United States of America.

According to Brookings Institution, 43% of all Americans believe that immigrants are a burden to the US because they take American jobs, housing and health care –not a coincidence if you’ve listened to similar statements at your ends. The division over this issue could even grow more as a consequence of misinformation calling for ‘big beautiful walls’ to be built in order to prevent the entrance of immigrant ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers.’

Nevertheless, what vociferous Trump hasn’t told the American electorate is that the immigrant community of Mexican origin that he has repeatedly insulted ‘sustains 8% of the United States GDP.’ Furthermore, according to Foreign Secretary of Mexico, the bilateral commercial relationship is responsible for generating 6 million US jobs.’

If the consequences of Brexit were felt in distant Mexico, I cannot imagine what would happen if a misinformed US citizenship, based on fear and stereotypes, votes for Trump. Wouldn’t it be shocking, as it happened to many of us on the 24 of June, to realise that another important decision wasn’t preceded by a much needed soul searching? Brexit has delivered a message to the world: Base your votes on facts and not on fears, bigotry and speculation.

It holds true that the EU referendum and the US General Election have different contexts and actors. However, the one thing they share is the mischievous rise of intolerance and misinformation that ended or could end up in hasty decisions.

If after November 2016 Google Trends reveal that Who’s Donald Trump?, What’s racism?, What’s discrimination? or Is Trump being delusional? are among the top questions in the United States, we would then need to ask ourselves: What has become of (or what have we done to) the world?

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