BRUSSELS: The Donald Trump administration would be committing "sheer folly" if it supports the European Union's breakup as it seems to be doing, the outgoing US ambassador to the EU warned Friday (Jan 13).
Anthony Gardner, who is leaving his Brussels post after three years, said Trump's transition team had been asking EU officials which countries will follow Britain in voting to leave the 28-nation bloc.
"To think that by supporting fragmentation of Europe we would be advancing our interests would be sheer folly. It's lunacy," Gardner said, hailing seven decades of transatlantic peace and prosperity.
He said US support for a hard Brexit, or a complete break from the EU single market, would also be "the height of folly."
Leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage was the first British politician to meet Trump following the New York real estate tycoon's shock election victory in November, and has been back for a second visit.
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who has threatened a so-called "Frexit", was seen at Trump Tower in New York on Thursday although officials said she did not meet the president-elect.
Gardner said he had heard that members of the Trump transition team had "made phone calls to EU institutions" asking if more countries would leave the union.
"That was the one question that was asked, basically what is the next country to leave, which is kind of suggesting the place is about to fall apart," Gardner said.
"It's a perception that Nigel Farage is presumably disseminating in Washington. And it's a caricature," he added.
Trump's administration would be taking a "flawed approach" if it pursue bilateral ties within individual EU countries like Britain on the "false assumption" that the bloc is dysfunctional.
Gardner also hoped Trump, who has been seen as cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, would stay tough on the US-EU sanctions imposed on Moscow since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
"It would be inconceivable and shameful if we were to consider lightening sanctions on Russia," Gardner said, citing US intelligence confirmation of Russia's meddling in the US elections.