US President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has warned the EU it can expect “hostility” after Britain leaves the bloc.
Bannon issued the warning to Germany’s ambassador to Washington, Peter Wittig, during recent talks, sources told Reuters.
Trump’s senior aide is said to have told Wittig the administration hopes to conduct future relations with Europe on a bilateral basis, but viewed the EU as a flawed construct.
Three anonymous sources who were briefed on the talks between Bannon and Wittig had confirmed the view that European leaders should prepare for a policy of “hostility towards the EU.”
One source said the US demonstrated no appreciation for the EU’s role in ensuring peace across Europe.
“There appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unraveling of the EU would have grave consequences,” the source said.
Another source said Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to one he delivered to a Vatican conference in 2014, when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News, and said there was a yearning for nationalism by people who “don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.”
The German government and Wittig declined to comment, citing the confidential nature of the diplomatic talks.
The White House said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate.
An official said the meeting had taken place but “they only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello.”
Bannon’s meeting came just one week before US Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America’s “steadfast and enduring” commitment to the EU.
Speaking to the Munich Security Conference, he said: “President Trump and I look forward to working together with you and the European Union to deepen our political and economic partnership.”
Thomas Matussek, senior adviser at Flint Global and a former German ambassador to Britain and the UN, told Reuters: “We are worried and we should be worried.
“No one knows anything at the moment about what sort of decisions will be coming out of Washington.
“But it is clear that the man on top and the people closest to him feel that it’s the nation state that creates identity and not what they see as an amorphous group of countries like the EU.”
Trump has made no secret of his support for Brexit, and has repeatedly praised former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
Recently an outgoing US ambassador suggested Trump supports the breakup of the EU. Anthony Gardner, departing as ambassador to the EU, said senior figures in the Trump team had been asking EU officials which countries will follow Britain in voting to leave the bloc.