If President Donald Trump keeps supporting Brexit, European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he’ll back U.S. states that want to leave the union.
“The newly elected U.S. president was happy that Brexit was taking place and was asking other countries to do the same,” Juncker said Thursday during a speech at the European People's Party conference in Malta. “But if he goes on like that, I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas, in the United States of America.”
It was not immediately clear whether the statement was serious or not, though Alexander Winterstein, deputy chief spokesman for the EU commission, said Juncker was simply “making a point that is as simple as it is valid,” according to the Daily Express.
“He does not suggest that certain states should secede from the United States,” Winterstein said. “And at the same time, I think he considers it also not terribly appropriate for other heads of states to suggest that member states of the EU leave the EU. So I think that’s the comparison that he’s drawing.”
Juncker’s criticism of Trump comes the same week British Prime Minister Theresa May officially began the process of withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Union. Brexit is a common term used for Britain's exit from the EU.
“Today, the government acts on the democratic will of the British people,” May told lawmakers Wednesday in the House of Commons. “This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.”
European Council President Donald Tusk took to Twitter shortly after May’s announcement to say the U.K. has “delivered” on its promise to sever ties with the EU.
European Union leaders met the day after May formally announced the U.K.’s split. It should be noted, though, that Juncker never directly criticized the U.K., but only discussed “Brexit” during his attacks on Trump.
“Brexit isn’t the end of everything, we must consider it to be a new beginning,” he said.
Tusk said that the divorce will serve to make the EU “more determined” and that the body will remain “united in the future, also during the difficult negotiations” with the United Kingdom.
The day before the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Trump said Election Day would be “Brexit plus, plus, plus.” It turns out, he was right.