Donald Trump, one of the few international political figures to endorse Brexit, saw a party mostly united behind that stance at the Republican national convention in Cleveland this week.
The Republican nominee, who held a press conference in Scotland where he hailed the British vote to leave the European Union and “exercise the sacred right of all free peoples”, has repeatedly taken credit for predicting the result in the month since and Republicans seem ready to echo him, with none expressing their disappointment with the result.
Carl Paladino, a longtime Trump backer and former Republican nominee for governor of New York, hailed the result of the referendum. Paladino told media reporters: “I think [the European Union] is only good for liberal progressives who want to go in there and use this union of bureaucrats to control people’s lives, because that’s their mission in life: to control every aspect of your life and make your life as miserable as possible.”
The outspoken New Yorker thought the referendum result was connected to Trump’s rise in the United States. “I think the UK was just a preliminary symbol of what’s happening in America right now.” In Paladino’s opinion, “the people are speaking up. The middle class has had enough of being marginalized. The establishment in our capital has taken it way beyond the reservation, way beyond the powers that the people have granted them, and it’s time for that establishment to take a break and find something else to do in life.”
Paladino was echoed by actor Scott Baio, the star of television sitcoms such as Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi, who gave an impassioned pro-Trump address on Monday night. Baio told the Guardian he thought Brexit was the right decision: “You left, I love it.”
Nigel Farage, architect of the Brexit campaign, arrived in Cleveland to witness Donald Trump’s remarkable rise to win the Republican nomination for president.
Other delegates took more cautious approaches. Terry Branstad, the six-term governor of Iowa, pointed out: “The interesting thing is they were predicting the stock market is going to go to hell if we passed this, but we set all-time records.” Branstad, who leads one of the most important agricultural states in the union, noted in his opinion: “The big problem has been European Union has been opposed to GMOs, but I think this change may be good for American farmers and may be helpful for United States – so I don’t necessarily accept the conventional wisdom that this is bad.” Branstad was simply frustrated because the “European Union has been a big problem throwing up barriers to GMOs for no scientific reasons, just purely to trying block trade from the United States and anything we can do to give us better access and eliminate some of that.”
Branstad, who is the longest-serving governor in American history, did see some similarities between Brexit and the rise of Trump. “I think what it says is that there are a lot of people who are not happy with establishment in Europe, as well as here in America. Certainly not happy with the immigration policies and the danger that’s created, and I think the policy last night, ‘Make America safe again’, I think that’s a great message.”
Rachel Hoff, a delegate from Washington DC who has come to national attention in recent days with her impassioned plea for gay rights on the Republican platform, committee took a cautious approach. “Time will tell if it’s a good thing or bad thing for the United States.” Hoff, who is a defense analyst at a Washington thinktank, didn’t think “there will be a long-term effect on the economy”. As she noted: “We saw a big slump right after and I don’t think it will hold.” Instead, Hoff said: “The main way it presents complications for us is in terms of our ability within Europe and within Nato to work with our partners there. The UK is obviously the foremost among them, given our special relationship with them, and our relationship gets a lot more complicated with the UK exiting.”
However, the most common opinion on the floor may have been that of Curly Haugland, a veteran Republican activist from North Dakota. When asked what he thought about Brexit, Haugland simply said: “I have no idea, not a concern.”