Two veterans of European politics have warned that the EU can do little to save Britain from the consequences of a self-inflicted hard Brexit. Speaking to Handelsblatt in an exclusive joint interview, Joschka Fischer, a former German foreign minister, and Peter Mandelson, the former European trade commissioner, said that while they hoped to see Britain remain within the European single market, this seemed “highly unrealistic” under Prime Minister Theresa May.
The two men were leading figures of European liberalism in recent decades, deeply committed to the European project. Mr. Mandelson was a close ally of British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, while Mr. Fischer, as leader of the German Green party, helped bring it into the political mainstream. Discussing Brexit over lunch in a Berlin restaurant, their shared forebodings were clear, although Mr. Mandelson remained slightly more optimistic.
Both expressed concern over the tense exchanges between London and Brussels ahead of formal talks on British withdrawal from the European Union, which are due to begin next month. On the British side, Mr. Mandelson blamed British nationalist sentiment and a xenophobic press during an election campaign.