May promises a "better Britain"

In her inaugural speech Britain's new prime minister Theresa May promised to make her country more just and more successful. It would play a "bold new positive role" outside the EU, she said. Europe's commentators discuss how May should lead the United Kingdom out of the EU.

Open/close all quotes
Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

May has understood the Brexit message

In her inaugural speech May pledged to fight for more social justice in the country. The Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper sees this as a good sign:

“After the Brexit vote May seems to have understood the message from the many voters who are tired of being forgotten and neglected by the political establishment. The protesters voted to exit the EU first and foremost out of a desire to get their own back on London. But unfortunately they hit Brussels instead and they themselves will be the ones to suffer most. May delivered a speech this week in which she said she would fight social injustice. Her words sounded more like Labour than Tory rhetoric and they certainly give cause for hope.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

British must now decide what form Brexit should take

The new prime minister should use the period before the negotiations with the EU start to conduct a debate in the UK on what precise form the Brexit should take, NRC Handelsblad advises:

“The country chose to leave, but there was no possibility in this in/out referendum to decide the question of what kind of relationship the British now want to have with the EU and the rest of the world. … Where should the balance between free trade and limiting immigration lie? … May's swift appointment has deprived the British of the chance to debate different forms of Brexit. It would be clever if May sought a way to launch this debate with the British public before the negotiations begin. Her intention not to set the Article 50 process in motion before the turn of the year is therefore understandable - provided she doesn't leave Brussels in a state of uncertainty for too long.”

New Statesman (GB) /

UK can survive with federalism

Only by introducing a federalist system can Theresa May prevent the disintegration of the United Kingdom in the aftermath of Brexit, the New Statesman argues:

“The status quo cannot hold, and nor should it. Devising a new federal arrangement that is fit for purpose is surely as important as agreeing to a new, post-Brexit settlement between the UK and the European Union.… Many of the world’s multinational states have broken apart, from Czechoslovakia to Yugoslavia. Spain, which is also a kingdom, has been destabilised by independence movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Belgium is little more than a failing pseudo-state. Against this backdrop, preventing the disintegration of the UK is perhaps the most significant of the challenges confronting Ms May as she grapples with the consequences of David Cameron’s epic failure.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Make way for a serious British lady

It's high time a capable and serious woman ousted the attention-craving politicians and took charge in Britain, Neatkarīgā believes:

“The days of clown politicians are finally over, and a time of calm is coming. This aristocratic, cool, intelligent woman is the complete opposite of Johnson and Farage. ... With Theresa May as prime minister, Britain will have a woman leader for the second time in its history after Margaret Thatcher. ... She has a headmistress style of leadership. As soon as she starts speaking it's clear she is a strong personality who knows how to make herself understood. She maintains a cool distance between herself and her audience, rather than fostering a false sense of familiarity.”

The Scotsman (GB) /

May must get to work straight away

May has a long to-do list that she can only get through with iron determination, The Scotsman comments:

“Ms May has made it clear she believes that the country needs strong leadership and she can provide it. So far she has shown that by making it perfectly clear that her belief is that the referendum result must be recognised and adhered to. … But Ms May must show strong leadership when it comes to getting on with bringing the country back together and dealing with the economic and political fallout from the referendum. The fact is that under our system parties pick their leaders and therefore the winning party picks the prime minister. There is no need for her to go to the country to seek her own mandate. The last thing Britain needs at this point is to be immersed in the uncertainty of a general election.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

London's new difficult woman

Theresa May's tough bearing reminds La Vanguardia columnist Màrius Carol of another powerful woman in Europe:

“This lady is known to be more of a manager than a politician. This is why a well-known conservative columnist said that putting her in charge of the UK when the country is preparing to leave the EU was like making a bank director referee in a boxing match between two heavyweights. In any case she had been home secretary for six years, a record in her country because no one else has managed to hold out in this difficult job for so long in the last 50 years. May is being compared with Merkel because like her she has a reputation for being tough, she's the daughter of a clergyman and she has no children. She also has a similar understanding of how to be charming. Only yesterday she said that EU president Juncker would be the next one to find out that she is a 'bloody difficult' woman.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

EU must be cooperative

May is the ideal person to lead the negotiations with the EU, De Telegraaf comments:

“The fact that she belonged to the Remain camp makes her an acceptable negotiating partner. Apart from that, May has already said that she will respect the results of the referendum. And she has ample experience of leadership, which will prove necessary in the protracted negotiations. In other words: May could be the ideal candidate to appease the deeply divided United Kingdom. But for this she could do with a helping hand from the EU. With their intransigent words, some European leaders and politicians are doing all they can to drive the Brits even further away from the EU. You don't reach an agreement by threatening exiting members with hell and damnation.”

The Independent (GB) /

May needs mandate of general election

The fact that Theresa May was chosen by Tory MPs and not the general public could be a stumbling block for the future prime minister and her party, The Independent believes:

“When party leaders fail after being chosen by a ballot of members, it is the fault of the grassroots in choosing a dead duck. When elected prime ministers fail at the job, the country backed the wrong horse. But when a PM-in-waiting is handed the job on a platter - even in the most spectacularly convoluted leadership contest modern politics has ever witnessed - and then fails, it is always the fault of the party. That is the lesson from the demise of Brown. So now there’s only one way Theresa May can get the mandate she craves and protect the party she has served: she must call an immediate general election.”