Anti-immigration politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have celebrated the United Kingdom’s vote for Brexit as a new “Declaration of Independence” for Britain. Tory Lord Chancellor Michael Gove endorsed Brexit by calling on his fellow Britons “to act like the Americans who declared their independence and never looked back.” Brexit supporters Nigel Farage, the anti-immigration leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, and Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, have called the result a new “Independence Day.” On this side of the Atlantic, 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said, “The Brexit referendum is akin to our own Declaration of Independence.” Even conservative commentator George Will, who writes for the Washington Post, wrote that “the 23rd of June can become Britain’s Fourth of July – a Declaration of Independence.”
But they’ve got America’s founding document exactly backward. The original American patriots would be horrified to hear their opus invoked in the service of Brexit.
The architects of American independence favored strong pro-immigrant policies for the colonies. King George III’s abandonment of those policies (he had stopped the flow of people to North America) was one of the Declaration of Independence’s major complaints. The founders called for a government that would allow for free movement of goods and peoples.