Donald Trump Understands Brexit Even Less Than He Does American Politics
The United Kingdom woke up Friday morning to find that two major symbols of upheaval had descended on its shores. The first was that citizens had voted to leave the European Union, throwing the nation, the continent, and the global economy into turmoil. The second blow was the arrival of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, who visited a new Trump Golf Resort in Scotland.
Trump had been supportive of the United Kingdom “Brexiting” from the EU, and, like any good bully, he reveled in the referendum’s success in a series of tweets and a statement. But like so many of his statements, Trump’s tweets revealed just how little he understands history, economics, and politics. He began, "Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!"
Well, at least his first sentence is probably correct. Everything else is a mishmash. It might have been good for Trump to know that the reason the Scottish might have been “going wild” is because they voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, with wider margins than any the other countries that make up the U.K. Which brings us to Trump’s next flub: The United Kingdom is not a country, but rather, is made up of the countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and North Ireland. (He should have said “nation,” not that I think it would have made the Scots like him that much more.)
Ironically, Trump is sort of accidentally right about the Scots taking “their country back,” as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stated that a Scottish Independence Referendum is now “highly likely.” A referendum in 2014 on whether Scotland should separate from the United Kingdom was defeated 55 percent-45 percent, but many predict that the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU could tilt public opinion back toward Scottish Independence. It’s possible that by taking their country back, as Trump puts it, the citizens of the United Kingdom have precipitated their nation’s demise.
(On a pedantic note, Trump’s claim that there will be “No games!” feels a little silly, since he’s in Scotland to open a golf course.)
Leaving aside the stray apostrophe, Trump’s invocation of self-determination on the surface sounds good, but shows once again his lack of understanding of the history of the United Kingdom and the history of self-determination. Throughout its history, Britain has often found itself on the wrong side of self-determination. In a report on the many current global controversies regarding self-determination, the United Kingdom’s being subject to the European Union doesn’t make the cut.
There’s something simply cheeky (as they’d say in the United Kingdom) about Trump already speaking on behalf of America, even when he’s directly contradicting President Obama’s stance on the referendum. But even more problematic is Trump's use of “free,” as it’s unclear what freedoms the United Kingdom will enjoy now that they’re out of the EU. They’ll most likely lose their current freedoms to trade, travel, and relocate throughout the European Union. They may lose opportunities for scientific and academic research, as well as entrepreneurial and economic exchange. In the end, Janis Joplin might be right: In Trump’s sense, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.
It may take a few months to figure out exactly what the next phase of the United Kingdom looks like, but one thing’s for sure: Trump barely knows what’s going on right now.