Britain's 'Brexit' Vote Has Echoes Of The U.S. Presidential Race : Parallels With its anti-immigrant rhetoric and talk of unfair trade, the pro-Brexit campaign shares themes with Donald Trump's presidential run in the U.S.
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Britain's 'Brexit' Vote Has Echoes Of The U.S. Presidential Race

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Britain's 'Brexit' Vote Has Echoes Of The U.S. Presidential Race

Britain's 'Brexit' Vote Has Echoes Of The U.S. Presidential Race

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ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: As we have heard all week, migration is a hot button issue here. It's one of the big issues that brought about this week's referendum. Voters who support leaving the EU say take control of immigration. In fact, they say the British have to take back control of their country. Well, those cries sound a lot like our presidential election this year. And as my London-based colleague Frank Langfitt reports, there are similar themes in the campaigns to get Britain out of the European Union and the one to put Donald Trump in the White House.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Erik.

ERIK BIDENKAP: Hey.

LANGFITT: How are you?

BIDENKAP: Nice to meet you.

LANGFITT: Very nice to meet you as well.

Eric Bidenkap arrived in London from the States six weeks ago for a new job. We met recently at a pub in Notting Hill. And over pints, he said he thought he was leaving behind America's toxic campaign politics for a more refined debate here on Brexit.

BIDENKAP: I expected that there would be more civility, better manners, I guess, you know, politeness. I wouldn't call it political correctness, but I expected the conversation to be of a higher level.

LANGFITT: Instead, he found what he called the same kind of scare tactics particularly focused on immigrants and Muslims.

BIDENKAP: I was really curious to see after the shooting in Orlando if that would be used as an example here to vote to leave, and it was.

LANGFITT: What did you think of that?

BIDENKAP: It felt like a cheap ploy preying on people's fears when people are feeling vulnerable.

LANGFITT: And Erik Bidenkap says similar issues are driving the debates on both sides of the Atlantic.

BIDENKAP: In America, politicians are saying we're losing to China, we're losing to Mexico. They're stealing our jobs. And here in Great Britain - same thing. You've got these open borders, this open economic zone with the rest of the continent. And people are feeling like they're losing their jobs, that they're not able to sell their goods at a fair price.

LANGFITT: The key politicians championing these arguments are Nigel Farage of the nationalist U.K. Independence Party and Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

ELIZABETH EVANS: I'd put them in the same box, both of them.

LANGFITT: Elizabeth Evans is a county councilor with the Welsh Liberal Democrats. She says Farage, like Trump, is a charismatic populist who's tapped into public frustration.

EVANS: He's based his whole rhetoric, his whole story, around immigration. And when I hear Donald Trump, I just make comparisons in what they're saying, with his wall between Mexico and the United States.

LANGFITT: Does Nigel Farage have a wall he wants to...

EVANS: He'd like one.

FRANK LUNTZ: Both Britain and in America, there are millions of people who have not seen their incomes move ahead.

LANGFITT: Frank Luntz is an American pollster and communications consultant who's done work in Britain for decades. He says Trump and Brexiteers like Farage appeal to people who've never quite recovered from the global financial crisis and feel abandoned by establishment politicians. Luntz says many Americans believe...

LUNTZ: The political system and the economic system is rigged against them. And that same sentiment is happening in Britain with about 70 percent believing that the elites are hostile and actually making their lives more difficult - the very people who were elected to listen and learn and help them get through their day-to-day lives.

LANGFITT: Both the Trump and the Brexit campaigns are trying to reverse globalization. Thomas Wright of The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, sees this as a worrisome moment.

THOMAS WRIGHT: It does appear we are at sort of a tipping point in terms of the future of our politics. Does it continue to be a politics that is generally sort of outwardly focused and focused on an open global economy and opportunity and optimism? Or is it one that's more nationalistic, more inward-looking and more about closing countries off?

LANGFITT: Wright says the stakes for economic cooperation among countries are high. And this week's vote in the United Kingdom and November's ballot in the U.S. may begin to tell us which way the Western world is headed. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London.

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