NATO is "obsolete", Germany's Angela Merkel made a "catastrophic mistake" on refugees, Brexit will be "great" and he "couldn't care less about" the plans for his Co Clare hotel, US President-elect Donald Trump has said.

Five days before his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, the billionaire populist let loose a torrent of controversial comments about European allies in interviews with British newspaper The Times and Germany's Bild.

The Times interview was conducted by Conservative MP Michael Gove, a former British cabinet minister and prominent Leave campaigner.

Mr Trump said Brexit "is going to end up as a great thing" and said he backed a trade deal with post EU Britain, which would be "good for both sides".

"We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly," said Mr Trump, confirming he will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May soon after his inauguration on 20 January.

The pound took a hit this morning in early Asian trade after Britain said it might undercut the EU economically if it cannot obtain both single market access and immigration controls, with British media warning of a so ­called "hard Brexit".

"Other countries will leave" the European Union in future, Mr Trump prophesied, largely due to the pressure the bloc was put under following a significant rise in migrants and refugees arriving.

"If they hadn't been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it ... entails, I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel’s back," he said.

Mr Trump also criticised Ms Merkel for letting Germany admit undocumented migrants enter the country, insinuating that this posed a security risk.

"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from," Mr Trump said, adding he had "great respect" for the chancellor.

Ms Merkel took flak at home after her open­ door policy aimed at desperate Syrian refugees brought 890,000 asylum seekers to Europe's biggest economy in 2015, contributing to the rise of an anti ­migrant movement.

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But in 2016, that figure dropped back sharply, to 280,000 arrivals the government said last Wednesday.

Separately, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, described the interview as "a colour piece" and he accused interviewer Mr Gove as not an "impartial or, indeed, disinterested reporter".

He said the Government looked forward to the inauguration of Mr Trump, and he said it was important to continue the "special relationship" between Ireland and Washington.

Doonbeg

Mr Trump has cited planning difficulties at his golf course in Doonbeg in Co Clare as an example of EU bureaucracy.

"I own a big property in Ireland, magnificent property called Doonbeg. What happened is I went for an approval to do this massive, beautiful expansion - that was when I was a developer, now I couldn't care less about it ... but I learnt a lot because ... they were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built. I found it to be a very unpleasant experience.

Trump's Doonbeg property

"To get the approvals from the EU would have taken years.

I don't think that's good for a country like Ireland.

"So you know what I did? I said forget it, I'm not gonna build it."

Mr Trump extended a hand to Russia, which has been hit by a string of sanctions under his predecessor Barack Obama over Moscow's involvement in Ukraine, the Syrian war and for alleged cyber attacks to influence the US election.

"Let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia," Mr Trump said in remarks carried by The Times.

The US president ­elect suggested a deal in which nuclear arsenals would be reduced and sanctions against Moscow would be eased, but gave no details.

"Russia's hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit," said the president elect, who has previously expressed admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Washington's European allies imposed sanctions against Russia over Ukraine in 2014.

Those measures were renewed on 19 December. ­

NATO 'obsolete'­

In comments set to cause further consternation among eastern European NATO countries nervous about Moscow following Russia's annexation of Crimea and involvement in Ukraine, Mr Trump said NATO was "obsolete".

"I said a long time ago that NATO had problems," Mr Trump said.

"Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago," he said.

"Number two, the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay."

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump said he would think twice about helping NATO allies if the United States were not "reasonably reimbursed" for the costs of defending them.

After Mr Trump's victory, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had been a bedrock of transatlantic security for "almost 70 years" and was especially needed at a time of new challenges.

Flanagan welcomes expected 'clarity' from May

Mr Flanagan has welcomed the fact that Ms May would provide "clarity" this week on Britain's intentions regarding its future relationship with the EU.

However, he declined to say whether Downing Street had given the Irish government any warning that the British prime minister would be signalling a 'hard' Brexit, with Britain leaving both the EU single market and the customs union.

Speaking on the margins of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Mr Flanagan said: "We're a mere few weeks away now from the timescale for the invoking of Article 50 and I think it's important we know the shape of the negotiation framework.

"It would appear that Theresa May is going to signal a departure away from the single market, maybe perhaps as well from the European customs union.  But it's important that we wait and see."

Mr Flanagan repeated that there was a "specific and unique" circumstance regarding the island of Ireland and he said that the Assembly elections heightened the stakes once the Brexit negotiations got underway.