It isn’t clear that the U.K. knows what it wants as it prepares to leave the European Union, Slovakia’s prime minister said, adding that Britain must “suffer” more than the 27 countries who will remain in the bloc.
Robert Fico, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, repeated that member states won’t make concessions on the four freedoms ensuring the free movement of labor, goods, services and capital inside the trading bloc. He also said there may be a silver lining to Donald Trump’s election victory in that it will spur Europe to bolster its military.
“I’m not sure whether the U.K. knows what it wants,” Fico said during a conference in the capital Bratislava Tuesday. “The split will be painful, but should it be we who suffer? The biggest loss for the EU would be if the U.K. comes out from the negotiations a winner.”
Fico joined a clutch of other EU leaders who have piled on criticism of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. Italy’s economic development minister, Carlo Calenda, called her approach chaotic and unacceptable last week, while Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem dismissed comments by U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as “intellectually impossible.” The ire prompted Polish President Andrzej Duda to call for his country’s fellow EU members to cool off this week to prevent damage to both sides.
Trump’s surprise presidential election win, and the question over whether his administration will honor the U.S.’s commitments to its NATO allies, may spur EU states to spend more on their militaries, even if that may prove costly to budgets, Fico said.
“It will be good in that it will finally ignite us,” Fico said. “It may represent pressure on budgets, but we can’t let Europe be in a position where it’s not able to respond to urgent crises.”