voter turnout

Brexit, Lest We Forget

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    In the U.K. this year, many people believed there was no way the plan for Britain to leave the European Union would be acceptable to half of the population. In the U.S. most people think Hillary Clinton will win. In order to make sure there are no regrets, voters need to inform themselves and, most importantly, go vote.

  • Facts


    • Voter turnout in the United States is the lowest among developed countries and in the 2012 elections, 54 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote.
    • Indicators suggest a record 46.27 million people have voted early in this election by mail or at polling stations.
    • In a referendum in June, Britain voted to leave the E.U. by a narrow margin of 52 to 48 percent.
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Donald Trump, Nigel Farage
Uncomfortable similarities: British politician Nigel Farage, an advocate of the Brexit, meets U.S. politician Donald Trump. Source: AP Photo

The Brexit vote is still fresh in my mind – after all, it was only a few months ago that the U.K. voted to leave the European Union.

Americans would do well to bear the consequences of that in mind as they go to vote today.

As a dual national I have the privilege of voting in the United States as well as in the U.K. and right now I see a lot of similarities between the two countries. The Brexit referendum in the summer, when Brits voted to leave the E.U., came after a divisive, emotional, populist debate. I see the same kind of division, rancor and failure to listen to the other side here.

It is easier to react to a candidate’s outrageous comments than read widely about the intricacies of foreign policy and economics.

People like Jay say, “get out and vote.” Jay is an African-American businesswoman from Arizona who works in Washington D.C. and who had just voted before we chatted. “People need to get involved at every level. That’s where it happens, from school boards to local politics,” she said. Plus, for people living locally, there’s a referendum on whether Washington D.C. should become a state.

Just as everyone assumed that people in Britain would vote to stay in the European Union, most people think Hillary Clinton will win. But that’s in no way decided as yet. That’s why it’s so important people remember Brexit. And remember how, the day after the vote, apparently hundreds of people entered into Google search: “what is the European Union.” That was even though they had just voted on it!

I’m still upset about that and I really hope Americans aren’t going to make the same mistake. But I’m also worried. The other day I asked people on the street what they thought about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, the trade deal between the E.U. and US. I didn’t get many answers – just puzzlement. “What’s that? You mean TPP?” some people said. Many Americans are more concerned about the Trans-Pacific agreement – the TPP – and they know more about it. In Europe, hundreds of thousands of people have protested against TTIP.

There are a lot of demands on our time in this busy world. It is easier to react to a candidate’s outrageous comments than read widely about the intricacies of foreign policy and economics. But whether it’s local representation or trade deals, it’s worth picking through the complexities ahead of the vote, just as it is important to get out and vote. Many young people didn’t vote in the British referendum. That was a mistake. But it pays to make time for the things that matter. In the United States, it is not too late yet.


Allison Williams is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author:

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