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Brexit vote sends shockwaves across the Atlantic

Published 25/06/2016

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump gives a speech at his revamped Trump Turnberry golf course in South Ayrshire
US presidential hopeful Donald Trump gives a speech at his revamped Trump Turnberry golf course in South Ayrshire

The UK's stunning vote to leave the European Union has sent political tremors across the Atlantic, with Donald Trump hoping that frustrated US voters will back similarly sweeping change.

The result has also rattled Democrats, who are ba nking on Americans ultimately choosing a more conventional leader in Hillary Clinton this autumn.

The parallels between the forces that drove the British vote and those at the core of Mr Trump's campaign are striking.

Among them is a belief that globalisation is hurting the working classes, and increased immigration is changing the country's character.

In both the US and UK, there is strong resentment of political elites who often appear to have little connection to the voters they are supposed to represent.

"I think there are great similarities between what happened here and my campaign," Mr Trump said from Scotland, where he was attending the opening of one of his golf courses.

"People want to see borders. They don't necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don't know who they are and where they come from."

In the US, presumptive Democratic nominee Mrs Clinton cast the economic uncertainty which followed the Brexit vote as a reason America needs "calm, steady, experienced leadership" in the Oval Office - a knock on her often unpredictable and politically inexperienced Republican rival.

Mrs Clinton's aides also highlighted Trump's assertion on Friday that a weaker pound would make his Scottish golf course more attractive to visitors.

"Donald Trump actively rooted for this outcome and he's rooting for the economic turmoil in its wake," said Jake Sullivan, Clinton's senior policy adviser.

Other Democrats, openly anxious, warned that the party should not underestimate the willingness of angry American voters to choose a more uncertain path in November and side with Mr Trump.

"It's a timely big splash of cold water in the face of Democrats," said Ron Kirk, the former Democratic mayor of Dallas and US trade representative for president Barack Obama.

Democratic operative Lynda Tran said that if US voters are indeed seeking a broad political overhaul in November, Mrs Clinton will be "at a major disadvantage".

"Having spent the last three decades of her life in public service, in the public eye and being a core part of the policies and the administrations that have brought us to where we are right now, it's very difficult for her to grab the mantle of change," Ms Tran said of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady.

Mr Trump is trying to rebound from one of the worst stretches of his campaign. He has struggled to raise money and build a robust organisation for the general election, and this week he shook up his operation by firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

But for some Republicans, the outcome in Britain was a reminder that despite Mr Trump's shortcomings, he may be the candidate most attuned to voters - something which campaign funding cannot buy.

"Brexit is a wakeup call for the Clinton team," said Scott Reed, chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce. "The status quo won't work this cycle."

The referendum was fuelled by support from white, working class voters from outside the UK's population centres - a similar profile to Mr Trump's supporters. The biggest challenge for Mr Trump will be broadening his base and overcoming his negative standing with minorities and women.

Unlike in Britain, where the referendum was decided on the basis of a national popular vote, the American election is determined on a state-by-state basis, with many of the most politically powerful states also being the most diverse.

But Jerry Spaulding, a farmer from Gilmanton, New Hampshire, who plans to vote for Mr Trump in November, said he would not be surprised if the breadth of Mr Trump's support is broader than it may look in public opinion polls.

"I do think you're going to see a lot of people coming out of the woodwork, like they did in Britain," Mr Spaulding said.


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