European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today (30 March) warned US President Donald Trump that he would support ‘Texit’, Texas breaking away from the US, if the flamboyant millionaire kept backing Brexit.
He delivered the astonishing slapdown the day after the UK triggered Article 50, the legal process to take Britain out of the bloc. Trump has been a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Brexit.
During a speech at the European People’s Party (EPP) summit in Malta, Juncker issued a stinging rebuke to Trump and insisted Brexit would not spell the end of the EU.
“Brexit is not the end,” said the former prime minister of Luxembourg, “A lot of people would like it that way.
“Even people on other continents where the recently elected US president was happy that Brexit was taking place and has asked other countries to do the same.
“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin Texas in America,” Juncker said to applause from EPP members.
Texan nationalists, who dream of ceding from the United States to form their own country, have taken inspiration from Brexit. After Trump’s election, there were calls for Calexit, an independent California.
It is not the first time that Juncker has clashed with Trump. In a March interview with the Financial Times, he warned the US that further break-up of the EU would risk triggering wars in the Western Balkans.
Trump’s enthusiasm for Brexit was “annoying” and “surprising”, Junker, who met Vice-President Mike Pence in Brussels in February, said.
That month, Juncker said that Europe should not cave into US demands to raise military spending.
Trump is set to attend a NATO summit in Brussels, a city he once described as a “hellhole”, on 25 May.
Tusk blasts Brexit campaign
The centre-right EPP is the largest pan-EU political group. Its members include Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Council President Donald Tusk.
It was Tusk who, on Wednesday (29 March) was handed the letter triggering Article 50, and two years of intense negotiations to hammer out a final Brexit deal.
On Friday (31 March), he will publish the draft negotiating guidelines for the talks for approval by member states at a special summit on 29 April.
Tusk, who spoke before Juncker in Malta, called for terms like sovereignty, independence and patriotism to be reclaimed by pro-EU politicians from the Eurosceptics.
“There is no reason why extremists and populists should have a monopoly on these terms,” he said.
In a swipe at the British referendum campaign to leave the EU, Tusk said “In recent years Europeans from London to Warsaw to Athens to Helsinki have been made to believe that integrating Europe is a threat to national and state sovereignty.
“That the EU, that Brussels is demanding a reduction of patriotism, that as we integrate into the EU we must sacrifice our sovereignty, that we are losing control over our own fate as we delegate part of our powers to the European community, that by strengthening this community we inevitably weaken the national one.”
Tusk added, “This was in fact the main theme of anti-EU campaigns in the UK and many other places, virtually in the whole of Europe. This is a view that is both foolish and dangerous.”
A strong EU was “the best and perhaps only guarantee of national and state sovereignty”, the former Polish prime minister said.
Tusk added that Brexit had made the remaining 27 member states more determined and united than ever before.
“The key to our future is in the unity and sovereignty of Europe.”
Juncker said, “Brexit isn’t the end of everything. We must consider it to be a new beginning. Something that is stronger, something that is better.”