By Damien Gayle/Guardian News & Media
Hillary Clinton has said the vote for Brexit, and specifically the false claims made in the EU referendum campaign, were a forerunner of her defeat to Donald Trump in last year’s US presidential election.
During an interview for BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, she said: “Looking at the Brexit vote now, it was a precursor to some extent of what happened to us in the United States.”
Referring to “the amount of fabricated, false information that your voters were given by the leave campaign”, she said: “You know, the big lie is a very potent tool, and we’ve somewhat kept it at bay in western democracies, partly because of the freedom of the press.”
“Obviously there have always been newspapers who leaned right or leaned left and they kind of counterbalanced each other,” she said. “But given the absolutely explosive spread of online news and sites that have sprung up that are very effective at propagating false stories, we’ve got some thinking to do ... there has to be some basic level of fact and evidence in our politics. Well, frankly, in all parts of our society.”
The EU referendum and the US presidential election campaigns last year were both marked by a slew of dubious claims calibrated to appeal to key sections of the electorate, and targeted social media advertising.
Fingers have been pointed at the role allegedly played by Russia, but domestic actors are also implicated.
Clinton noted that Nigel Farage had campaigned for Trump as well as for Britain leaving the EU.
Questions have been raised about the role of Cambridge Analytica, a data mining and analysis company, in both the US election and the EU referendum.
The Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK launched an investigation into the firm after complaints the Leave.EU campaign, backed by the former UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Farage, had not declared the role of Cambridge Analytica in its campaign.
The same firm, of which Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was a board member, earned £5mn from the Trump campaign for a contract trying to swing voters.
Clinton’s campaign and those of Barack Obama in previous years also employed behavioural profiling companies.
Dominic Cummings, the director of the Vote Leave campaign, said it owed “a great deal of its success” to a £3.5mn contract with AggregateIQ, which specialises in targeted Facebook advertising and profiling.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” he said in March.
Clinton also said that the UK would be put at a “very big disadvantage” if it failed to secure a Brexit deal.
She said the country could not pin its hopes on a deal with Trump, who “doesn’t believe in trade” and was close to pulling out of Nafta, the US’s free trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
The prospect of no deal between the British government and Europe has assumed prominence after talks in Brussels continued to be deadlocked over the scale of Britain’s financial obligations to the bloc.
“I mean, no deal meaning no preferential trade deals, which means products in Britain would not have the kind of easy access to the European market that you’ve had under EU membership,” Clinton said.
“It could very well mean that there would be more pressure on businesses in Britain, if not to leave completely, at least to also have sites and employment elsewhere in Europe,” she added. “I think that the disruption for Britain could be, you know, quite serious.”
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