The common threads between Brexit, US presidential election and France

Faisal Al-Shammeri

Published: Updated:

Not all events are exactly the same and frequently the determining factor is context. However, we are able to see common threads between Great Britain, The United States, and France along with a common theme in all three cases.

The factors on the ground that propelled Great Britain to leave the European Union had some similarities as to what took place in the Presidential election in the United States this past November. The current political climate in France can also subsequently draw parallels to The Brexit vote and The United States.

In all three countries there were, and currently are, clear issues of the highest importance to the electorate: globalization, integration versus national sovereignty of which immigration was a prominent topic in the national sovereignty discussion, major urban population centers versus smaller localities, and the view of many within the citizenry of an aloof, contemptuous, elite establishment who are determined to rule over them in permanent perpetuity at all costs.

Even in Australia these similar sentiments can be found and are beginning to bubble to the surface of mainstream public discussion. In The West a major debate is taking place at the moment, of which the impact will be felt for a long time moving forward. So what does The Brexit Vote, The Presidential Election in The United States this past November, and the current French Election have in common?

And how does the discussion of globalization, integration versus national sovereignty, immigration, urban centers against smaller localities, and citizenry against establishment unfold in France at the moment?

The Brexit vote

Let’s start about what the Brexit vote was not about. Brexit was not an enthusiastic mandate for the implementation of conservatism over socialism. It was the choice of conservatism on the ballot that was the determining factor when the citizen went in to cast their vote. Great Britain is still a socialist country today. It did not change one element of its socialist welfare state. In this regard it is clear to see that it was not a victory for conservatism.

In Great Britain during the Brexit vote the dominant themes were national sovereignty, immigration, and globalization. This is what the Brexit vote was really about. Getting back control for the country to make its own decisions over continental EU bureaucrats. And among other topics within the discussion over national sovereignty, what the British citizen who voted yes for Brexit, wanted was to wrest control over immigration from Brussels and Strasbourg.

In the United States the discussion also focused on national sovereignty but the debate took place within the framework of globalization and specifically trade while immigration was also an absolutely prominent topic as well. In Great Britain, the Greater London Area supported to remain within The European Union.

However in the traditional Labor strongholds of Newcastle, Manchester, and Sunderland (among others), across industrial heartland of the Northeast and Midlands these areas went decisively for leaving the European Union along with displaying a staunch anti-establishment tone and thus for Brexit.

In the first round of elections nearly 40 percent of the French electorate voted for anti-European viewpoints, represented on both the left and the right. (AFP)
In the first round of elections nearly 40 percent of the French electorate voted for anti-European viewpoints, represented on both the left and the right. (AFP)

Globalization and trade

What was not properly understood prior to the vote was the disparity of the gulf in the daily lives between the urban elite and the middle class citizenry. Between the rulers and those who perceived that they were being ruled. Globalization and trade has been perceived as the factors for the decades long decline of the industrialized belt of Great Britain.

In the United States the major coastal and urban population centers on both coasts also went for the establishment and status quo much as Greater London voted during The Brexit Vote. Like Great Britain, the reliability left-leaning and industrial states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin which had voted for the left for decades decisively chose the anti-establishment candidate.

Like the decline of the British industrial heartland of the Northeast and Midlands, the citizenry of these states had a similar story to tell as their British counterparts. In both examples they felt that the traditional working classes had been the big losers from globalization.

So how does this tie into France? A current assessment of the state of the nation could as summarized as follows: An election held under a state of emergency which has subsequently involved the suspension of civil liberties; over 250 killed by terrorists since Charlie Hebdo attacks; 1 in 5 young people unemployed; a sclerotic, suffocating state sector; with a rigid economy in long-term decline.

The French electorate

In the first round of elections nearly 40 percent of the French electorate voted for anti-European viewpoints which were represented on both the left and the right. For the first time since 1958, when the Fifth Republic was created, neither of the traditional center-left or center-right parties will be represented in the 2nd round of run-off elections.

Furthermore this 40 percent block of the French electorate clearly wants to upend the elite establishment not just in Paris but in the European Union as well. The citizenry of the traditional working classes, like their counterparts in Great Britain and the United States discussed earlier, likewise feel that they as well have been big losers from globalization, and in their case nearly six decades of increased European integration.

And yet again here we are, the themes of Great Britain and the United States are conspicuously present in France at the moment: globalization, integration versus national sovereignty, immigration, urban centers against smaller localities, and citizenry against establishment. The two current candidates offer clear, but albeit starkly different positions on these issues.

Perhaps another way to look at France would be that the French who voted for the winners of the 1st round of elections did not vote according to the conventional political spectrum, but were divided in simplistic terms between optimists and pessimists. If this is so, then the question therefore arises, if that divide prevails and truly exists then how will the voters who did not support the leading candidates vote in two weeks time?

France has a lot of problems. One candidate argues that they don't really matter, while another says they need to be addressed. Are the supporters of Hamon, Melechon and Fillon all happy enough with the status quo? It doesn’t feel that way.

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