As Brexit negotiations continue in the United Kingdom, President Donald Trump weighed in during an Oval Office meeting Thursday with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, claiming British Prime Minister Theresa May did not listen to his negotiating advice.
“I can tell you it’s a very complex thing that’s going on right now,” Trump said, adding, “It’s tearing a lot of countries apart. And it’s a shame it has to be that way. I think we will stay right in our lane. We’re doing fantastically as a country. Our economy is booming. We’re the envy of the world. Other economies are not doing well.”
Trump also repeated falsehoods he’s made before Thursday when he said he was not a supporter of Brexit.
“I was right and people laughed when I predicted it,” he said, recalling a 2016 news conference at his Scottish golf course.
Trump’s news conference at his Turnberry golf course in Scotland took place the day after the Brexit referendum – once the results were already known. In a Fox News interview before the referendum, Trump recommended UK voters vote to leave Brexit.
Trump said Thursday he was “surprised at how badly it has gone from the standpoint of negotiation,” adding, “I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it. She didn’t listen to that and that’s fine. She’s got to do what she’s got to do. I think it could’ve been negotiated in a different manner, frankly. I hate to see everything being ripped apart right now.”
Trump’s comments come in the midst of an intense week of political chaos in the United Kingdom, as it barrels towards a March 29 legal deadline to leave the European Union.
Parliament has twice now rejected the withdrawal agreement May negotiated with the European Union, though it voted this week against leaving without a deal in place.
A “no-deal” Brexit could lead to market chaos, long lines for goods at the borders as they wait customs checks and price increases, among many other effects.
On Thursday evening, UK lawmakers voted in favor of delaying the Brexit process and instructed May to ask the EU for an extension, potentially delaying the official exit date until later in the summer. But all remaining 27 EU countries need to agree to the extension, something they’ve warned they will only do if the UK shows it has a clear plan on how to reach a deal.
Trump said it’s unlikely the British could take another vote but he would like to see it worked out so the US could do a “very big trade deal” with the UK in the future.
“It’s a tough situation, frankly, it’s a shame. There was no reason for that to happen. They could have had the vote and it should have gone smoothly,” he said, calling the issue of the Northern Ireland border “one of the most complex points.”
Trump invited his Irish counterpart, the prime minister, a position known in Ireland as taoiseach, to weigh in, and Varadkar noted that he had a “different opinion” from Trump.
“I regret that Brexit is happening and the UK was a really important part of the European Union. But they’re going now and that’s their decision,” Varadkar said, adding that the negotiations shouldn’t cause any problems in Northern Ireland.
Varadkar continued, “We shouldn’t have a hard border, or anything to disrupt the peace process. And also we want to make sure we still have frictionless trade between Britain and Ireland because I believe in free trade. I think it’ll be a few years until the UK sorts itself out, but in the meantime the EU is available to talk trade with the US.”
CNN’s Hadas Gold and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.