Trump: Other countries will follow 'smart' UK out of EU
By Peter Teffer
The European Union is “a vehicle for Germany” which the United Kingdom was “smart” to leave, incoming US president Donald Trump said in his first newspaper interview published on Sunday (15 January).
“I thought the UK was so smart in getting out,” Trump said in a joint interview with The Times and Bild newspapers, adding he believed other member states would leave the EU, and that the 2015 migration crisis caused Brexit.
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“If they hadn't been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it entails, I think you wouldn't have Brexit,” he said.
Angela Merkel's open door policy towards refugees was a “mistake”, said Trump, though he added that he planned to meet the German chancellor.
“I respect her and I like her. But I think it was a mistake. And people make mistakes.”
Trump has made blunt statements about his country's relations with Europe before, but his remarks will be even more closely watched now that he is due to take office on Friday (20 January).
Nato and Russia
Trump repeated that other members of the military alliance Nato should pay “their fair share”, but also called Nato “obsolete”. Many European Nato members are not spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defence.
In what may be a signal of his stance towards Russia, Trump hinted that sanctions against Russia over its aggressive foreign policy may be lifted in exchange for a reduction of its nuclear arsenal.
“They have sanctions on Russia - let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it,” he said.
Trump, who initially did not oppose president George W Bush's decision to invade Iraq, now called it “possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country”.
UK-US trade deal
On the future of the EU, Trump reminded his interviewers that he correctly predicted Brexit.
“If you ask me, more countries will leave,” he noted.
The US president-elect also indicated that the United Kingdom would not be at the “back of the queue” to negotiate a trade deal, like his predecessor Barack Obama had said.
“I’m a big fan of the UK. We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides,” Trump said about a US-UK trade deal.
The interview is the first Trump has given to a written medium since being elected last November.
The Times reporter who got the scoop was Michael Gove, a former member of David Cameron's cabinet who was one of the main campaigners for Britain to leave the UK.
Gove was pictured smiling alongside Trump, the two of them giving a thumbs up.