Brexit Supporters Sounded Alarmingly Like Donald Trump

British politicians who campaigned for the U.K. to leave the European Union relied on anti-immigrant appeals.

In a historic referendum, the United Kingdom voted Thursday to leave the European Union, an endorsement of the efforts of right-wing politicians citing anti-immigrant and racist arguments to force the country to exit the EU.

A clear parallel to their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic, proponents of the "leave" side -- those voting for Britain to withdraw its EU membership, making it the first nation to do so -- campaigned using nativist and xenophobic appeals.

The "Brexit" movement found its leader in Nigel Farage, head of the right-wing UK Independent Party. Not unlike presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Farage is a businessman-turned-politician who ran a campaign focused on the negative impacts of immigration and nationalistic promises to "take back our country."

Also like Trump, Farage has utilized Islamophobia, referring to Muslims as a "fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us."

“There is an especial problem with some of the people who’ve come here and who are of the Muslim religion who don’t want to become part of our culture," he told The Guardian last year. "So there is no previous experience, in our history, of a migrant group that comes to Britain, that fundamentally wants to change who we are and what we are. That is, I think, above everything else, what people are really concerned about."

U.K. Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage delivers a speech ahead of Thursday's EU referendum.
U.K. Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage delivers a speech ahead of Thursday's EU referendum.

Farage's views mirror those of Trump, who has stoked anti-immigrant and racist fears by labeling Mexican immigrants as "criminals" and "rapists," advocating for a ban on Muslim immigration and calling for the constant surveillance of mosques, among countless other statements and proposals.

Trump unsurprisingly threw his support behind the "leave" camp earlier this week, although he said he didn't really know much about the issue.

“I don’t think anybody should listen to me, because I haven’t really focused on it very much," he told Fox Business Network. "But my inclination would be to get out, because you know, just go it alone.”

After the Brexit vote, Trump compared the movement in the U.K. to the presidential election in a tweet, saying U.K. voters "took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!"

A centerpiece of Trump's pitch to voters is a proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to stop immigration from Latin America. Farage campaigned on the supposed dangers of immigration to the U.K. and argued that the country was endangering its borders by remaining in the EU.

His party produced provocative posters featuring refugees entering the EU. They bore the tagline: "Breaking point: the EU has failed us all."

Farage addresses the media on June 16 during a national poster launch campaign ahead of the EU referendum.
Farage addresses the media on June 16 during a national poster launch campaign ahead of the EU referendum.

Another key ingredient in the brew of racism and xenophobia that fueled Brexit proponents was right-wing nationalism.

It catalyzed the shooting and killing of British politician Jo Cox last week. Cox, a rising star within Britain's Labour Party, was a strong proponent of the U.K. remaining in the EU and advocated for the rights of immigrants and refugees.

Farage angered many in his Brexit victory speech by saying the "leave" movement won "without a single bullet being fired." 

The gunman in Cox's shooting, Thomas Mair, had ties to right-wing extremist and nationalist groups

When he opened fire, Mair reportedly said, “Britain first, keep Britain independent, Britain always comes first.” And in his first court appearance following the killing, he declared, "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain." These nationalist slogans echo Trump's pronouncements to "make America great again," put "America first" and "take our country back" -- and prove that anti-immigrant and xenophobic platforms are alive and well in on both sides of the Atlantic.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar,rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Paige Lavender contributed to this report.



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