The veteran German politician said both the UK and EU will suffer from the split and the reality of life outside the bloc will soon prompt Britain to re-apply for membership. In a swipe at Brexiteers who campaigned on taking back control from Brussels, Mr Brok said the EU is never given credit for the work it does. And he blamed “old-fashioned nationalism” as one of the reasons behind the UK’s decision to quit the bloc.
Mr Brok, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the Leave vote as a perfect storm of populism fuelled by ideas of British exceptionalism and an opposition which wants out of the EU to implement its left wing polices.
He told Austrian newspaper Der Standard: “It’s a mix of old-fashioned nationalism with the notion of global Britain, pure populism, and a Labour Party that believes it can reintroduce old socialism in Britain without an EU.
“The damage to Great Britain is great, also for us.
“I assume that the United Kingdom will be back in ten years to apply for EU membership.”
Brussels has said it would happily see the UK rejoin the bloc after Brexit, but Britain would need to re-apply like any other non-member state.
Readmission could mean having to accept the euro as joining the Schengen common travel area.
In addition to serving as Brexit coordinator for Jean-Claude Juncker’s European People’s Party, Mr Brok also sits on the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, meaning he wields a great deal of influence.
He acknowledged a rise in right-wing populist parties across the bloc and said their increase in support is partly driven by anti-EU rhetoric which downplays assistance provided by Brussels and exaggerates the influence of the European Commission.
“That’s the key point. We paid bitterly for this with Brexit under Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016,” Mr Brok said.
“Unfortunately, governments do not declare that they act in the common European and national interests.
“They never tell at home what they have been doing at EU level. Only the stories that the bureaucrats of Brussels make decisions they didn’t agree to, and so on.
“That’s the core problem.”
The German MEP has clashed with Brexiteer Nigel Farage in the European Parliament but insisted the former Ukip leader respected democracy.
Asked what influence Mr Farage and Ukip had on Brexit, Mr Brok said: “At first he was not taken seriously.
“You also have to distinguish between him and the right-wing nationalists.
“Farage questioned the European Union, but not democracy and the rule of law.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.