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The motivations of supporters in Britain for the country to leave the European Union are similar to those sparking the rise of Donald Trump in the United States, two economists told CNBC on Thursday, as Britons went to the polls to vote on the Brexit.
"A lot of the rhetoric you're hearing in the U.K. in favor of leaving is very similar to the rhetoric you hear from Donald Trump and his supporters," Robert Hormats, a former Goldman Sachs International vice chairman, said on "Squawk Box. "
British economist Anatole Kaletsky told "Worldwide Exchange " in an earlier interview: "The general sense of angst ... it's very similar to the Trump phenomenon. Here, it's being taken out on the EU. And in America, it's being taken out on Muslims and Mexican immigrants."
"We can't totally assume Brexit is not going to win," added Hormats, who had served in the Hillary Clinton State Department as under secretary for economic growth.
"This demonstrates the intensity of the nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-immigration feeling that exists in the U.K. [and] other parts of Europe," he said.
British supporters of the leave vote are more emotional than their stay counterparts, who staked out their position on economics, said Kaletsky, chief economist and co-chairman of Gavekal Dragonomics.
The betting odds were favoring the stay camp by 80 percent to 20 percent, said Kaletsky. "If the odds turn out to be wrong, the loss [in the pound] should be about four times greater than the potential [5 percent stay] gain. You're looking at a fall of about 20 percent."
The British economy and financial markets would suffer in the short term if the leave camp were to win, Kaletsky said. "The next two years would be very bad."
A Brexit win would spark "massive long-term uncertainty," agreed Hormats, currently vice chairman of consultancy Kissinger Associates. "This vote is a vote for divorce. The terms of divorce will take two, three, four, five, six [or] seven years to work out."