The Lack of Thought Behind Trump's Glib Embrace of Brexit

Donald Trump arrives at his Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, on Friday. The author writes that Brexit guarantees that a Europe already consumed with problems at home will turn even more inward. That’s not good news for Washington. Clodagh Kilcoyne/reuters

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

Global markets aren't happy with the British vote to exit the European Union. But Donald Trump sure is. At a press conference for the opening of his new luxury golf resort, Trump Turnberry in western Scotland, the country where his mother was born, he called the vote "historic," saying of British voters:

They're angry over borders, they're angry over people coming into the country and taking over, nobody even knows who they are. They're angry about many, many things. They took back control of their country. It's a great thing.

Trump is certainly right that the British vote is historic, though it's far from obvious that it's a great thing. To be sure, not all divorces are bad ideas. And yes, sometimes outcomes that horrify experts turn out to be great things in retrospect.

But getting from today's tumult to tomorrow's smooth sailing won't be easy or quick, if it can be done at all. Britain's divorce from the EU will take time, and talks that begin amicably can end acrimoniously.

Europeans now have to answer big questions they once thought settled about what the European Union should be. David Cameron is a caretaker prime minister while the Conservative Party searches for its next leader, and the United Kingdom may not survive in its current form.

Even if it does, it's far from clear what kind of global role, if any, a Britain outside the EU will play.

The United States will largely be a bystander in all this as governments "over there" work through the many issues Brexit has unleashed. But the process could have immense consequences for the United States, which for more than half a century has counted on Europe as its main global partner.

At a minimum, Brexit guarantees that a Europe already consumed with problems at home will turn even more inward. That's not good news for Washington.

Trump, though, is nonchalant. When asked if he had consulted his policy advisers about the British vote, he said "there's nothing to talk about."

Perhaps. But I suspect that the next president will discover that Brexit has indeed given the United States plenty to talk about.

James M. Lindsay is senior vice president, director of studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg chair at the Council on Foreign Relations.