Three years after Brexit, global nationalism is still ascendant

Liberals still haven't responded to the widespread rejection of the global order

A Brexit ballot.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images, golubovy/iStock, stevanovicigor/iStock)

Three years ago this weekend, British citizens voted to leave the European Union, and a lot has changed in the world since then. Though the United Kingdom has yet to officially exit the EU — and, after failing to come to an agreement by the initial exit date in March, it's still unclear when or even if it will — the nationalist revival that it represented has spread far beyond the English Channel. The American election of Donald Trump that followed a few months later simply confirmed that the political logic driving Brexit was a global phenomenon, and numerous other right-wing nationalists have since gained or solidified their power in countries like India, Brazil, Italy and Hungary.

Last month, this resurgence of nationalism continued with the European parliamentary elections. Though they were not the overwhelming nationalist triumph that some had predicted, far-right parties were still dominant in countries like Italy, where Matteo Salvini's League went from winning a mere 6 percent of the vote in 2014 to 34 percent this year, and France, where Marine Le Pen's National Rally received more votes than President Emmanuel Macron's pro-European party. At the same time that the Europeaon elections were being held, the far-right prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, won re-election in a landslide, strengthening his grip on the country. With the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil last October, all of the so-called "BRIC" countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) — which make up about a quarter of the planet's land mass and 40 percent of the world's population — are now controlled by authoritarian nationalists.

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Conor Lynch

Conor Lynch is a freelance journalist living in New York City. He has written for The New Republic, Salon, and Alternet.