Pro-Brexit Britons claim their own Independence Day

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Story highlights

  • Nigel Farage said that Brexit makes the UK the 184th country to have an independence day
  • Pundits have linked the vote in favor of "Leave" with Donald Trump's isolationist foreign policy

(CNN)Move over, July 4. There might be a new Independence Day.

Two-hundred-and-forty years after American colonists upset at the dictates of Parliament turned over the established political order, a new group of political upstarts has spurned the rule of the European Union. This time it's a group of Brits themselves looking to the United States for inspiration.
    "If we vote to 'Leave,' and take back control, we believe that this Thursday could be our country's Independence Day!" former London Mayor, Boris Johnson, a leader of the British movement to leave the European Union, told an audience of thousands at Wembley Stadium in the days leading up to the June 23 referendum on "Brexit."
    Nigel Farage, a member of the UK Independence Party and prominent advocate of the Leave camp, told CNN's Nima Elbagir the day after the vote, "There's now 183 countries around the world that have independence days. What we did yesterday was become 184th."
    Many pundits have labeled the UK's vote opting out of the EU as a sign of increasing isolationism, linking it to similar sentiments expressed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his "America First" policy.
    But there is at least one country that the leaders of the Brexit campaign seem to favor closer ties to: the United States. Those leaders are among the Conservative Party members vying to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, who resigned after losing the Brexit vote, and politicians further to the right who have claimed the spotlight after the successful Leave campaign.
    "We are the closest allies in the world," Farage said, referring to the U.S.-UK relationship. He added that it will "actually get stronger" in the wake of the vote.
    After President Barack Obama visited the UK in April to advocate for Britain's continued EU membership, Johnson penned an op-ed in British tabloid The Sun saying that Brexit would enable Britain to "be even better and more valuable allies of the United States."
    He also made a point to link Brexit ambitions to U.S. sensibilities, writing "The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU, for themselves or for their neighbors in their own hemisphere. Why should they think it right for us?"
    Johnson was born in New York City and held dual citizenship until 2015 -- when he gave up his U.S. passport in a desire to save money on taxes, an interest shared by many of his former countrymen. The coiner of the phrase "Special Relationship," Winston Churchill, similarly possessed American roots, with his mother having been born in New York as well.
    Johnson, a Conservative Party member, shocked the political establishment this week by announcing that he would not be running for prime minister, but the candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring share his transatlantic enthusiasm.
    "You take a look at the remaining contenders for the Tory (Conservative Party) leadership, they have various ideological tilts, but they are internationalist, outward-looking, pro-NATO and pro-the US-UK special relationship," Ted Bromund of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation told CNN.
    Theresa May, currently the British Home Secretary and favored candidate for prime minster, despite having advocated staying the EU, said in April, "Our security and intelligence agencies have the closest working relationship of any two countries in the world -- and I know that it would certainly survive Britain leaving the EU."
    And one of her main opponents in the leadership contest, the pro-Brexit Michael Gove, lauded American entrepreneurial culture and advocated a U.S.-UK trade deal while announcing his bid Friday, calling America "the one of "the most successful start-up nations."
    From the British perspective "there is more reason for a closer relationship with the U.S." following Brexit, according to Xenia Wickett, head of the U.S. and the Americas Programme at the London-based think tank Chatham House. "A set of Brexiteers saw the EU as holding Great Britain back and want to be more engaged on the international scene," including with the U.S., she said.
    The majority of the Conservatives in Parliament supporting Leave were in this camp, she added.
    Pro-Leave politicians like Farage have celebrated NATO military alliance, which the U.S. is a member of, while simultaneously slamming the EU. "We're going to stay as a key pillar of NATO," Farage said.
    A demonstrator for the 'Leave' campaign protests outside Parliament in London on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
    But Wickett cautioned that the U.S. might not reciprocate this new enthusiasm for closer ties, as the U.S. would seek more robust partnerships with France, Germany and Poland in an effort to maintain influence in the larger EU bloc.
    Brexit makes the UK "notably less useful to America," she said. "In a decade or so it will no longer be accurate to call the U.S.-UK relationship special."
    But Bromund, who specializes in U.S.-UK relations at Heritage, struck a more optimistic tone.
    "Brexit creates an opportunity. The U.S. and UK have to choose to take advantage of it," he said.
    He noted that Americans would eventually look to strike a trade deal with the world's fifth-biggest economy, even though the U.S. has until now been focused on an agreement with the EU, something Obama noted in his April visit to London.
    But according to Bromund, "There's a lot of enthusiasm, certainly among U.S. Republicans, for a U.S.-UK trade deal."
    Regardless of what happens on the political front, Wickett added that the countries' "common Anglo-Saxon value system" would keep the people of the two nations close.
    It remains to be seen if any joint independence day celebrations will be in the offering.