Experts: US ‘Brexit’ is Not in the Cards


The fear that anti-establishment anger will lead to a Brexit-level result in the US presidential election in November is overblown, according to one economist.

“The Brexit vote came as a surprise by the UK because a lot of pollsters were saying it was very unlikely that the UK would get a leave vote,” said William Lee, managing director, head of North America Economics at Citi Economics Research Group and who spoke recently at the Brexit Symposium hosted by SIFMA. “This polling exercise demonstrated that this discontent is widespread but hidden.”

There are common themes that run between the UK’s vote to depart the European Union and the current US political environment, such as economic and immigration concerns, he noted, but believes that the similarities end there.

The UK’s Brexit vote was not an anti-establishment strike against the UK’s national government, but against the supra-national government of the EU and its bureaucracy, according to Lee. In the US, the Electoral College acts a damper against runaway populism.

“It’s not quite majority rules,” he explained. “The Electoral College is dominated by the key states that have the most people.”

Although the UK and US residents also cite immigration as a leading concern, Lee sees it as only a relatively recent issue for the UK compared to the US.

“In the US, a nation of immigrants, the immigration flow have been going back to the 1960s and 1970s,” said Lee. “I think it has become such a big movement in the US because it has become part of the political agenda.”

The UK and US have the same percentage of non-native-born population, but there is a broader spectrum of minority backgrounds in the US than in the UK, he added.

When dealing with the Electoral College map, minorities in the US are very influential in the swing-state votes.

“In the past election, the swing states tend to go Democratic because many of these minority groups have voted Democratic,” said Lee. “I think those are the electoral differences between Brexit and the case of the US. The Electoral College holds back some of the non-traditional political influences.”

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