President Obama cautioned against “hysteria” over the U.K.’s decision to exit the European Union, while also declining to draw strong parallels between the so-called Brexit vote and the political rise of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
"Mr. Trump embodies global elites and has taken full advantage of it his entire life," Obama said in an interview with NPR, laughing when asked about Trump’s saying that U.S. voters will have a chance to reject “the global elite” in the November election.
"So, he's hardly a spokesperson, a legitimate spokesperson for a populist surge of working-class people on either side of the Atlantic."
While the president said the differences are greater than the similarities between Brexit and the sentiments in the U.S. presidential election, he said there are “some parallels with what Mr. Trump has been trying to stir up here” as it relates to “xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment.”
“The ability to tap into a fear that people may have about losing control and to offer some vague nostalgic feelings about how we’ll make Britain great again or we’ll make America great again, and the subtext for that is somehow that a bunch of foreigners and funny-looking people are coming in here and changing the basic character of the nation; I think that some of that is out there,” Obama said in the interview that was taped Monday and aired this morning.
The president also told NPR that he doesn’t anticipate “major, cataclysmic changes” as a result of Britain’s Brexit vote.
"I think that the best way to think about this is, a pause button has been pressed on the project of full European integration," Obama said in the interview.
"I would not overstate it," he continued. "There's been a little bit of hysteria post-Brexit vote, as if somehow NATO's gone, the trans-Atlantic alliance is dissolving, and every country is rushing off to its own corner. That's not what's happening."
He continued by pointing out that the United States and Europe continue to share the same major international interests and also noted that Norway is not an E.U. member, but is still one of the U.S.’s closest allies.
“The basic core values of Europe, the tenants of liberal market-based democracies; those aren’t changing,” he said. “The interests we have with Europe remain the same, and our concerns internationally remain the same, so Europe can’t afford to turn in.”