WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the heels of Prime Minister Theresa May signing the historic letter to officially initiate the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke of Brexit and recent negative comments about President Donald J. Trump from the president of the European Commission.
During a Wednesday White House press conference, one reporter asked Spicer for a response to Mrs. May’s signing of the letter officially invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU as well as “usually strong language” from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in an interview in which he slammed President Trump and said he warned against encouraging more countries to “Brexit”.
Last Friday, the Financial Times published an interview with Juncker in which he threatened that war could ensue with a breakup of the EU and assailed the U.S. President: “He does not understand anything about Europe.” He called President Trump “annoying” for speaking enthusiastically of Brexit and said that he warned Vice President Mike Pence in Brussels last month: “I told the Vice-President, ‘Do not say that, do not invite others to leave, because if the European Union collapses, you will have a new war in the western Balkans’.”
In the response to the reporter’s questions on Wednesday, Spicer said: “I think the President is very well steeped in world affairs, especially Europe, NATO, all the issues.”
Spicer stated that the president was a leader in the effort to call Brexit and went on to read a statement:
We respect the will of the British electorate and Her Majesty’s government in taking steps of departing the European Union. Whatever future the U.K.-EU relationship looks like, we want the U.K. to remain a strong leader in Europe, for both the EU and Europe to remain a strong leaders globally.
Last month Juncker called the E.U. “beautiful” as he voiced solidarity with words from the previous president of the U.S.: “According to President Obama, Britain is weaker being outside the European Union than being a member of the European Union. That is the case.”
Within days of Trump’s election as President of the United States, Juncker lashed out: “The election of Trump poses the risk of upsetting intercontinental relations in their foundation and in their structure.” He spoke with supreme condescension of Trump: “We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works.”
During his presidential campaign, Trump made a special trip to Turnberry, Scotland, as he opened a renovated golf course. The trip coincided with UK citizens voting to leave the EU. The day after the vote, Trump held a press conference where he drew parallels between Brexit and the U.S. presidential election.
“I think I see a big parallel. I think people really see a big parallel…People want to take their country back. They want to have independence in a sense.”
Trump attributed much to the issue of immigration. He called the vote a “good thing”, adding that despite President Obama’s claims the UK would go to the “back of the line” if it left the EU, nothing would change in the U.S. relationship with its close ally under his leadership. Trump said that they would rather go to the front of the line and predicted that the UK would be a “very powerful call”.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana