It’s difficult to think of any issue in British politics outside of going to war that would normally impact the U.S. presidential election. But Brexit is it.
When I went as an observer to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I was astonished by the reaction. Delegate after delegate wanted to shake hands to say congratulations on Britain reasserting our own national democracy. The Mississippi delegation even invited me to their state, to experience some traditional Southern hospitality, and indeed that’s how I ended up making a trip to Jackson, Miss., last month.
But the reaction was deeper than just amongst politicos. Ordinary people I spoke to in bars came up and talked to me about Brexit. Indeed, a group of U.S. naval veterans I shared a coffee with told me we should have done it years ago, that we British must have been mad to give away our sovereignty. I was surprised by how much they knew about the European Union. They particularly understood that E.U. membership meant open borders for Britain — which, in an age of increasing terrorist risk, they thought was plain crazy.
There is no question that Donald Trump’s campaign, under its new management, sees Brexit as a big opportunity. Trump even recently styled himself as “Mr. Brexit.”
But when the Trump team draw parallels between the situations in Britain and the United States — the detachment many voters feel — and compare their effort to our recent referendum success, they are absolutely right.