When U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump told The Times Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) was “so smart”, he added a coded warning for the bloc’s leaders: “People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity … so if you ask me, I believe others will leave.”
The Republican leader warned specifically that the EU in general, and Germany in particular, had got the migrant crisis wrong.
“If [Europe] hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, with all the problems that entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. It probably could have worked out but this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.”
But reports indicate that the ailing union’s answer has been to tighten its grip.
“The best response to the interviews given by the US president is the unity of Europeans, to come together as a bloc,” said France’s Jean-Marc Ayrault, on his way to a summit of EU foreign ministers.
Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, meanwhile, exploded that Trump’s statements had led to “astonishment and agitation” in Brussels.
Steinmeier’s premier, Chancellor Angela Merkel, came under particularly heavy criticism from the president-elect, who lambasted her “catastrophic mistake” to invite an unlimited number of migrants into Europe, despite the fact that “nobody even knows where they come from”.
Some 80 per cent of migrants arrive in Germany without any identifying documents, but EU rules effectively do not allow for them to be detained until their asylum applications are processed, requiring that they be allowed to “move freely”.
The Hungarian government has attempted to challenge this, following Tunisian migrant Anis Amri’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, but faces fierce opposition from George Soros-funded NGOs armed with EU law.
Chancellor Merkel’s own reply to the president-elect was decidedly terse: “We Europeans have our fate in our own hands.”