MTU student gives local perspective on Brexit

HOUGHTON – Although many people in the United Sates may not have had much interest in the discussions about Great Britain leaving the European Union, as an American living there at the time, Peter Nouhan found it fascinating.

Nouhan is a student at Michigan Technological University who spent some time this summer in London and other parts of England as well as Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He was doing overseas study with an organization called Council on International Education exchange based in Portland, Maine. His focus was comparative public health policy.

“It will carry over to my law minor (at Tech),” he said.

Nouhan who will also be the managing editor of the Tech Lode student newspaper this year, said he was in London for about four weeks starting May 26. He left about one week before the vote on Brexit, which is a contraction for Britain Exit, meaning to leave the EU.

“I still got to see the debate unfold,” he said.

The vote on June 23 to leave the EU was 52 percent yes to 48 percent no.

Great Britain is comprised of England, Wales, and Scotland.

Although there were discussions about Brexit going on in the streets and restaurants, Nouhan said London was relatively quiet.

“There weren’t a lot of protests there,” he said.

However, Nouhan said he had a discussion with a young man who created some chalk art on the sidewalk at Trafalgar Square in London, which was a sort of manifesto of why he thought Great Britain should leave the EU.

“There were hundreds of people watching him,” Nouhan said.

The man who created the chalk art had with him a copy of a book by Donald Trump, Nouhan said.

“He tried to make an argument for Trump,” he said. “It seemed like his argument was more emotionally based than factually based.”

Some of the issues Trump is talking about, including immigration and his concerns about Muslims, were issues many Brexit supporters embrace, Nouhan said.

In his discussions with other people in England, Nouhan said what he found was that only the pro-Brexit people supported Trump’s ideas.

However, in London, Nouhan said most people wanted to stay with the EU.

“Sixty percent of Londoners were for staying in the union,” he said.

When he was in Liverpool, which is a working-class community with much poverty, Nouhan said people wore T-shirts stating their position on Brexit, but there were no violent protests.

“I didn’t see anything crazy there,” he said.

In Amsterdam, Nouhan said he heard about a Dutch politician who is also supporting the idea of a referendum calling for the Netherlands to leave the EU. There are a growing number of right-wing groups in Europe who have many of the same ideas as Trump, and who want their countries to leave the EU.

The day after the Brexit vote, then-Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who wanted Great Britain to stay in the EU, resigned and Conservative Theresa May, who also supported staying in the EU, took over the position. Nouhan said May hasn’t made any moves toward withdrawing from the EU, but they have two years to do so.

Many Londoners are liberal and they don’t share Trump’s ideas, Nouhan said, but they don’t think Hillary Clinton is the answer, either.

“They’re worried about our politics,” he said.