By Steve Holland
TURNBERRY, Scotland (Reuters) – U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump thrust himself into the heart of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on Friday, calling it a “great” development and drawing parallels to his own insurgent campaign.
In Scotland to reopen a golf resort he owns, the wealthy New York businessman wasted no time interpreting the outcome of the “Brexit” vote as an example of a global uprising against the established order. It’s an argument he said fit in with his own campaign to shake up Washington by renegotiating free trade deals and stopping illegal immigration.
“People want to take their country back. They want to have independence in a sense. You see it with Europe, all over Europe,” Trump, 70, the presumptive Republican nominee, told a news conference at the Trump Turnberry golf course.
He said the economic shock from the vote would ebb over time and that more European countries might want to break with the 28-nation European Union. Americans, he said, would have a chance “to re-declare their independence” and “reject today’s rule by the global elite” when they vote on Nov. 8.
“So I think you’re going to have this happen more and more. I really believe that, and I think that it’s happening in the United States. It’s happening by the fact that I’ve done so well in the polls,” he said.
Trump’s rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, said in a statement: “This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests.
“It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down,” said Clinton, 68, a former U.S. secretary of state, who had openly favored Britain’s remaining in the EU.
More than half a million Britons signed a petition earlier this year to bar Trump from entering Britain, where he has business interests, in response to his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.
British lawmakers decided against a ban as a violation of free speech.
TRUMP ASSAILS OBAMA
Trump assailed as inappropriate Democratic President Barack Obama’s open appeals to Britain not to split off. Shaking off a tradition of not commenting on U.S. politics from foreign soil, Trump said Obama had been embarrassed.
“It’s something he shouldn’t have done. It’s not his country. It’s not his part of the world. He shouldn’t have done it. And I actually think that his recommendation perhaps caused it to fail,” Trump said.
Democrats and Republicans both took stock of a decision that seemed to indicate Trump’s campaign had tapped into a global wave that might be hard to contain.
Joined by his sons Don Jr. and Eric and daughter Ivanka, who help manage his business affairs, Trump arrived in his signature helicopter near his clubhouse resort, a Scottish flag blowing in the wind.
The candidate praised his children’s business acumen, his Scottish-born mother and the golf course itself, dismissing complaints from Republicans that he should have stuck to the campaign trail at home.
As it happened, by turning up when he did, Trump drew global televised attention to his views on the Brexit vote within hours of Britons waking up to the surprising result.
“I said this was going to happen and I think that it’s a great thing,” said Trump, who weeks ago said he would be inclined to leave the EU.
Trump had exchanged insults with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who supported staying in the EU and said on Friday after the vote he would resign by October. Cameron had called Trump’s anti-immigrant policy ideas divisive and wrong.
“I think David Cameron is a good man. He was wrong on this. He didn’t get the mood of his country right. He was surprised,” Trump said, predicting that Britain and the United States would remain “great allies.”
‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’
Wearing a white hat emblazoned with his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, Trump walked up to the news conference with bagpipers heralding his arrival.
His visit to Turnberry, to be followed by a stop at his resort in Aberdeen on Saturday, coincided with a vote that exposed deep divisions in Britain and dealt the biggest blow to the European project of greater unity since World War Two.
Some Scots who are Turnberry members and who sat in the front row at Trump’s news conference muttered “no” whenever the subject of Scotland leaving the EU came up.
Scotland voted by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent to remain in the EU, a result sharply at odds with Britain as a whole, which voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave.
Trump, who has yet to hold public office and rates unfavorably with 70 percent of Americans in an opinion poll, defeated a crowded field of opponents for the Republican nomination while weathering one controversy after another. The latest was over the firing of his campaign manager this week, a month before the party convention.
Trump invested $290 million in renovating the resort and golf course on Scotland’s west coast, 85 km (53 miles) southwest of Glasgow.
(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Howard Goller)