Brexit, Trump and the Implications for Development- A Review

by Laura Bennett

Given the events that continue to dominate world politics, I was only too eager to attend the talk entitled ‘Brexit, Trump and the Implications for Development’, featuring a very diverse range of speakers. The discussion was chaired by Simon Maxwell, an emeritus fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). The panel itself consisted of: Michael Anderson, Centre for Global Development; Priya Deshingkar, Research Director, Migrating out of Poverty Research Consortium, University of Sussex; Peter Kyle MP, Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade (Labour); Clionadh Raleigh, Professor Of Human Geography, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex.

The discussion began with an opening statement from Director of IDS, Melissa Leach. Melissa noted that the growth of right wing populism we have been seeing is threatening the fundamental values and material dimensions which are essential to development. We therefore need to understand why this populism has grown by understanding the feelings of marginalisation which have led to the protest votes. Simon developed on this, arguing that we need to think about what we have learnt from populism and be analytical about the situation in order to learn from it. This is where the panelists came in.

Michael argued for the successes of globalisation. He noted that the internationalisation of the economy since 1945 has brought about successes such as human rights, movement of knowledge and trade, a facilitation of communication and travel and a reduction of conflict and violence. He noted that it was the economic recession which brought about the current situations and not globalisation. We should acknowledge the issues with globalisation but not condemn it completely.

Priya put forward the argument that the feelings we have been seeing regarding refugees and migrants in the USA and UK are not stand alone. These thoughts and feelings are much the same in the global south. It was noted that migration is viewed as a mainly negative thing as these negative aspects are overemphasised by policy makers and the urban elite. We should therefore be focusing on the reasons why people are moving and attempting to do something about that.

Peter gave an interesting contribution as he was speaking from a local level, which is rarely something which goes hand in hand with the word development. It was argued that people living in small communities are not interested in what academics and experts have to say. They are not interested in facts or evidence as they are too happy that somebody is now fighting for their team. We should be aiming to understand the small towns in Dover just as much as we want to understand wider issues.

Clionadh did not feel as strongly about the case for globalisation as Michael did. She noted that conflict and inequality have increased in places gaining from humanitarian aid from the UK and USA. It is because we both securitise underdevelopment and ignore it because of our own domestic issues that this happens. Development will never achieve what it should if we carry on this way, even without instances such as Brexit and Trump.

As you may be able to tell there were a range of differing and competing ideas about the relationship between events in the UK and USA and development. One thing which resonated in everyone’s comments however was the idea of communication. By making academic work more accessible for the masses, there may be more of an actual understanding of the implications of events such as Brexit and Trump. Only through an actual understanding of what is going on can we attempt to change it. Instead of attacking those we do not understand and who do not understand us, we need to try to communicate with one another.

I would therefore like to leave this round up with the same thing that Simon did, a glimmer of positivity. Simon noted that Martin Luther King did not stand up and say ‘I have a nightmare’, and as much as it may feel like one, we probably shouldn’t either.


Laura Bennett is an MA student in Human Rights at Sussex, where she also completed her BA in Anthropology . She has a special interest in minority groups and how their inequality can be analysed from both a societal level and a personal one.

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Posted in International Relations, Policy

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