U.S. Envoy to EU Urges Trump Not to Become Brexit Cheerleader

  • Ambassador Gardner rebukes Farage’s grip on president-elect
  • Trump team asked EU which country would be next to leave bloc

The outgoing U.S. envoy to the European Union said he regrets Nigel Farage’s influence with the Trump administration and urged the president-elect not to become a “cheerleader for Brexit,” in comments highlighting how America’s revamped European policy could affect the U.K’s negotiations to leave the bloc.

“There are some indications that Nigel Farage holds at least some influence with the new team. I think that’s unfortunate,” Ambassador Anthony Gardner said in his final briefing for reporters before leaving Brussels. “We should not depart from 50 years of foreign policy with regard to the EU and we should not become cheerleaders for Brexit, particularly a Brexit that appears more likely to be hard, disorderly, unmanaged -- that would be in my view absolute folly.”

Anthony Gardner

Photographer: Wiktor Dabkowski/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photos

The Mail on Sunday reported that Ted Malloch, a professor who backed the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU, was interviewed for the job to become President-elect Donald Trump’s ambassador to the bloc. The incoming president went as far as suggesting that Britain should appoint former U.K. Independence Party leader Farage as ambassador to Washington, a proposal London was quick to rebuff.

Trump’s alleged ties with opponents of European integration have raised alarm across the continent, as the bloc struggles to contain a surge of populist movements ahead of this year’s elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands. Nationalist leaders including France’s Marine Le Pen and Dutch populist Geert Wilders applauded Trump’s victory, even as the real estate tycoon has questioned America’s commitment to NATO and European security.

Who’s Next

“I was struck by various calls that were going on between the incoming administration and the EU. The first question that’s been asked is what country is about to leave next?,” Gardner said Friday, adding that while he doesn’t believe the EU is going to fall apart, the U.S. must not attempt to cause splits in the bloc. “A hard Brexit or a fragmentation of the European market would be very bad news for American business,” he said, echoing similar comments from outgoing President Barack Obama.

Gardner said he doesn’t know who will replace him in Brussels, as EU nations debate their stance on foreign policy issues including renewal of sanctions to Russia, Ukraine and the crisis in Syria. Some American ambassadors have been instructed by cable to vacate their posts by Jan. 20, he said. “It’s a breach of precedent that’s been established over decades,” he told reporters.

The outgoing U.S. envoy echoed the words of former British ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers, who left this month after coming into conflict with Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit, saying diplomats must continue to “speak truth to power.”

In a thinly disguised rebuke of the new U.S. administration, Gardner said that it now falls upon the shoulders of Europe “to carry the flame of democracy, human rights and the values that guided the transatlantic partnership for decades,” as “nothing can be taken for granted” anymore. “The violence of our political discourse, the vulgarity of our political discourse, to see things that we considered unacceptable a few years ago is now acceptable, I find profoundly shocking.”

— With assistance by Nikos Chrysoloras

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