‘The EU will stick together,’ Mogherini says as Trump takes another swipe at Europe

Donald Trump has not yet been sworn in office and has already managed to ruffle the EU leader’s feathers • Federica Mogherini warns no trade deal negotiations between UK and US as long as UK is still an EU member

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini welcomes Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella to Brussels (Photo: Ray Attard/Maltese Presidency of the EU Council)
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini welcomes Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella to Brussels (Photo: Ray Attard/Maltese Presidency of the EU Council)

“I think the European Union will stick together… I am 100% convinced,” EU high representative Federica Mogherini told reporters in Brussels following a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council.

In an with European media – The Times of London and German paper Bild – the president-elect described the UK’s decision to leave the European Union “will end up being a great thing”.

"I believe others will leave," Trump told prominent leave campaigner Michael Gove in an interview. "I do think keeping it together is not going to be as easy as a lot of people think.”

Trump also promised to draw up a trade deal with the UK “quickly” after Brexit and said he could understand why voters chose to leave in last year’s referendum. “You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”

Speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting of foreign affairs minister, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters that the best response was European unity: “As with the case of Brexit, the best way to defend Europe is to remain united. This is a bit of an invitation that we are making to Mr. Trump. To remain a bloc. Not to forget that the force of Europeans is in their unity.”

“We have to see what will come out for American policy,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, conceding that Trump’s comments had “caused astonishment and excitement, not just in Brussels”.

Asked whether the ministers had discussed Trump’s comments, Mogherini said she “respected the opinion of the president-elect… but I think the European Union will be ok”.

“Let me specify one thing, what we discussed with Boris Johnson. The UK is still a member of the EU so this must also be taken into consideration. As long as a member state is still a member state, there cannot be trade agreements with third parties.”

In other words, Mogherini warned that Britian cannot negotiate any trade deals with the United States as long as it is still a member of the European Union.

“This is fair for me to specify because it’s a framework that we all share, including the United Kingdom.”

Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels

The council meeting was addressed by Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella, in his first speech since Malta assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Mogherini and the other EU ministers conveyed their support to the Maltese Presidency, whilst Libya was identified as one of the priorities taking up on the agenda in the coming months.

The Eastern Partnership, the Western Balkans and relations with important regional actors such as Egypt and Turkey were also underlined.

Vella called for discussions on Libya that are not restricted to migration but delve into the political and humanitarian realities. Vella also identified Africa as a continent that calls for increased attention, due to existing threats and opportunities for deepened engagement.

The ministers discussed developments related to Syria, particularly in relation to the ceasefire presently in place, and a meeting scheduled to take place in Astana on 23 January.

The Geneva framework, Vella pointed out, should remain at the heart of any progress and the UN should remain the moderator of any dialogue.

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