Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen was less than complimentary about Brexit voters
Green Party veteran Alexander Van der Bellen railed against the populism behind Britain’s decision to leave the EU as he went on the attack.
He described his recent election victory against far-right candidate Norbert Hofer as evidence that you “can win against populism” and urged other EU leaders to follow his lead.
But when asked about countries wanting to quit the bloc he made a succession of extroardinarily undiplomatic remarks which will be interpreted as a direct attack on Brexit.
The Austrian chancellor Christian Kern, who has struck a more eurosceptic tone during campaigning, looked on nervously alongside EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker as the rant unfolded.
The Green Party veteran said you would have to be 'crazy' to want to leave the EU
Mr Juncker met Austria's two leaders to discuss the future of the EU
Mr Van der Bellen blasted: “You must be crazy to believe that the old fashioned nationalist sovereignty of the 30s gains you more power for your own country than being a member of the union.
“You don’t have to be particularly intelligent I don’t think to understand that.”
The Austrian president also railed against the “tragic and inappropriate decision of the majority of UK voters to vote for Brexit” and said the result had “woken a lot of people up in Austria”.
At one point Mr Van der Bellen also alluded to his personal opinion on the issue of whether Europe should become a superstate, saying he did not want to describe meeting EU officials as a “foreign trip” because “we’re not really abroad when we’re in Brussels”.
Although his role is largely ceremonial, the remarks by the Austrian president will hit home because they are indicative of the tone EU states are set to take throughout the Brexit process.
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He was speaking during a press conference alongside Mr Kern and Mr Juncker after the trio discussed a number of important issues facing the EU, including Brexit.
Mr Kern, who has called for reform of the EU including allowing his government to prioritise Austrians over other European citizens for jobs, also lined up Britain as he launched an attack on “fair weather Europeans”.
He said: “We do note that as a result of Brexit and the increase in right-wing populism, as well as the developments in the United States, our commitment is required more than ever.
“Being a European means not just being a fair-weather European, but committing yourself to Europe when it’s raining.”
In a barb at Brexit, he added: “It’s clear there is no country that is worse off after joining the EU than it was before hand – that is self evident.”
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
For his part Mr Juncker addressed the growing threat to the future of the EU project in the Netherlands and France, which are both set to hold crunch elections which could see eurosceptics sweep to power.
He urged mainstream politicians in those countries not to lurch to the right in an attempt to stem the anti-Brussels tide, and said Mr Van der Bellen had shown that opposing populism was the route to success.
The Brussels boss said: “If you want to bring populism down, don’t repeat the same message.
“Oppose their views, don’t try to nuance their views. Say the contrary if the contrary is right, don’t repeat this populist slogan.”