EU and UK brace for talks

Now that the Brexit process has formally begun the EU and the UK are positioning themselves for the upcoming negotiations. London has adopted a more compromising tone in its most recent communications. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has expressed willingness to talk about future payments to the EU and a free trade agreement. How much will both sides lose in the negotiations?

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The Sunday Times (GB) /

EU better off without the Brits

The prospect of tough Brexit negotiations with far-reaching consequences will serve as a warning to other EU member states, columnist Niall Ferguson writes in The Sunday Times.

“Contrary to last year's theory that Britain would be the first of many dominoes to fall out of the EU, the precise opposite is happening. Contemplating Britain's predicament, continental voters are backing away from full-blown secession from Europe. I predict there will be no Nexit, Frexit, Grexit or any other form of exit. Quite the opposite. For the EU is now freed from what has long been the principal obstacle to further integration: us. It is easy to forget Britain was always a thorn in the side of the European federalists, most obviously during the Maastricht negotiations.”

Slate (FR) /

Europe's fans losing the battle

Slate, on the other hand, sees the centrifugal forces in the EU growing even stronger with Brexit:

“The EU is collapsing because of Brexit and becoming the object of profound and widespread disaffection. Some believe that Europe is a fiasco because its construction has failed to create more prosperity and bring about a convergence of the different countries. For others, Europe is nothing but an instrument of capital, of the rich. … The last remaining Europhiles continue to think that these points of criticism are wrong and that despite its shortcomings Europe is indispensable to counter empires. But they are losing the battle of ideas and are at a disadvantage intellectually, politically and in the media.”

Observador (PT) /

London has every right to secede

It would be a bad idea to try to punish the UK in the negotiations, the online paper Observador comments in concern:

“Europe's political class is displaying the courage and resolve vis-à-vis the British that it lacked vis-à-vis Putin in Russia and Erdoğan in Turkey. Does it really believe that it will prevent further exits from the EU by punishing the UK? Merkel and Hollande made it clear last week that the Brexit can only be a litigious divorce, bitter and protracted, and never the sensible start of a new relationship that Theresa May proposed. For Europe, the sequence seems clear: first separation then reconciliation. But this is the wrong approach. Exit from the EU is a right that is enshrined in the treaties.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Security is non-negotiable

Prime Minister May clearly sees Britain's contribution to international security as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations, political scientist Rem Korteweg comments in NRC Handelsblad and warns of the consequences:

“Cooperation on defence is also in the interests of the British, among other things because the UK is already contributing substantially to two ongoing EU missions. ... Secondly it is in Britain's interests in order to remain involved in the developments in the area of security, above all because there are problems on Europe's external borders and there are doubts about the extent to which US President Donald Trump will support Nato. ... Britain's contribution to Europe's security must not become a bargaining chip. When you start using barriers and tanks as bargaining chips, everyone loses out.”

Avgi (GR) /

Athens never had such an offer

The Brexit process prompts columnist Giannis Kibouropoulos to wonder why Greece was never given the option of an "orderly Grexit" in the Greek paper Avgi:

“The Commission's famous plan for Brexit - it is said to cover hundreds of pages, Juncker even talked of a thousand, and there was mention of 3,000 pages recently - has remained the ultimate secret for almost two years. No one has seen it, no one who has talked of it has unveiled it. … The entire Brexit process has nothing to do with the 'immediate death' with which an entire country was blackmailed into compliance with the help of fake news in the summer of 2015 [after the Greek referendum]. Somehow Brexit is exposing the mechanism of lies and deception that the powerful of the EU use to manipulate Europe's societies.”

Le Soir (BE) /

EU will emerge stronger

The Brexit negotiations could in fact lead to a strengthening of the downsized EU, Le Soir believes:

“EU Council President Donald Tusk has found a paradoxical reason to rejoice: 'Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before.' That remains to be seen. Nevertheless it is very probable that the tough negotiations ahead will strengthen the solidarity among those who remain vis-à-vis the demands of the one who is leaving. The European Union has no other interest than 'to be stronger', as Mrs May, for her part, wishes for Britain. These objectives will sometimes be incompatible. You want a brighter future without us? Then we'll concentrate on ours. Without you, and sometimes against you if need be.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

How Henry VIII is aiding Brexit

Brexit Minister David Davis unveiled the Great Repeal Bill on Thursday. This piece of legislation is to give the government the power to transpose thousands of EU regulations into UK law without the British parliament's approval - a relapse to times long forgotten, Corriere della Sera pointedly comments:

“The British government is citing the so-called 'Henry VIII powers' to change the country's legislation without a single law having to be put to debate in parliament. … Because the problem lies in the more than 12,000 European regulations that must now be converted into British laws. The government will cite the Henry VIII clauses, the Statute of Proclamations of 1539 which gave the king the power to pass laws by decree and bypass parliament. One of the main slogans of the Brexiteers was that the Westminster parliament would regain its full sovereignty. … Now it is the government that is willing to override the MPs.”

Diena (LV) /

British economy will get back on track

The British economy will not suffer as a result of the country leaving the EU, Diena believes:

“One suspects that the apocalyptic warnings about the British economy heading for collapse after Brexit may be far from the truth. London is already reactivating earlier ties with former trade partners, developing active economic expansion in Asia, including its financial sector, and has promised to sign a free trade agreement with its American cousins right after Brexit. As a result, short-term gains may well compensate for the losses incurred by Brexit.”

Daily Mail (GB) /

London has the better cards

The remaining EU member states have far more to lose in the Brexit negotiations than the UK does, the Daily Mail writes optimistically:

“The UK enters the talks in a better position than most dared hope. Confounding Project Fear, the economy is in robust shape, while countries such as India, the US and Canada are queuing up to do trade deals with us. ... Then there's our strongest card - the fact our partners (particularly Germany) sell far more to us than we sell to them. So they need us more than we need them. Indeed, whatever the unaccountable eurocracy may want, it would be madness for the leaders of those 27 democracies to put their own voters' jobs at risk by erecting barriers to our hugely lucrative market.”

Público (PT) /

Folly of the century

Journalist Diogo Queiroz de Andrade makes his thoughts on Brexit very clear in Público:

“The voluntary severing of the ties of a political union with one's natural partners will go down in the annals of history as one of the biggest political follies of this century. The United Kingdom is leaving the EU without a strategy, without a vision or a model for the years to come. To sum up the historical positioning of a nation with the battle cry: 'We've had enough of migrants' is so absurd that it hurts. And worse is to come: if Scotland does leave the UK it would be the ultimate irony. Naturally England will survive and remain a major power. But it will be less relevant than it is today and it will have a lot less influence in the world.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

May stepping on the gas before the plunge

La Vanguardia uses a strong metaphor to describe the disastrous course adopted by May, a former Bremainer:

“Power has the same effect as some liquors which make you drunk just by reading the label. So when David Cameron tended his resignation after losing the referendum, his home secretary stepped forward to take his place. She devoured the Iron Lady's memoirs overnight and decided to become a woman of stainless steel, even to the point of opting for a hard Brexit. Which is basically a way of saying: if we're going to crash anyway, let's accelerate so that at least they'll say our hands didn't tremble. … The prime minister has passed an expansionist budget so that the disastrous effects of the exit aren't immediately noticeable. But in the medium term we will see that she didn't just sign the exit from Europe, but also her own political suicide.”

The Washington Post (US) /

More populist than Trump

The radical break with the EU that the British prime minister seems to be aiming for is more in the style of a politician like Donald Trump, The Washington Post points out:

“Where the United States is led by a flamboyant caudillo, a populist perhaps more in style than in his consequences, Britain is experiencing the reverse phenomenon. Theresa May, the po-faced prime minister, is earnest, methodical, cautious and unimaginative: She is the anti-Trump. But the referendum mandate, hardened by her ploddingly literal interpretation of it, is populism undiluted. Britain will take back control of its borders in order, presumably, to clamp down on foreigners. ... It will probably leave the European Single Market, one of the deepest and most successful experiments in globalization.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Brexit based on lies

This is not the first time that Britain has made a disastrous decision based on false facts, journalist Joris Luyendijk writes in NRC Handelsblad:

“Many parallels have been drawn between the Brexit and the Iraq War. In fact both political decisions were 'sold' through lies and manipulation, while sceptics were labelled unpatriotic and defeatist. ... Britain is now blindly leaving the EU in just as irresponsible and pointless a manner as that in which the Americans and British invaded Iraq in 2003. ... In Iraq, the population paid the price. Now it will be the EU citizens in the UK, the Brits in the EU and above all the poor souls who thought their Brexit votes would benefit their country and themselves. It will be interesting to observe just how stiff these people's upper lips will remain when they discover not long from now how badly deceived they have been.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Peace in Europe under threat

With the Brexit, Europe could revert to the days of armed conflict, Večernji list fears:

“The Scots could leave the UK quicker than it can leave the EU, and the same goes for Northern Ireland. The Brexit could mean the end of the United Kingdom. But the potential danger for the EU is no less acute, no matter how positive all the declarations - such as the one signed at the summit in Rome - may sound. The EU is a huge project based on the cooperation and integration of states that in the past practically always resolved their differences through conflicts and wars. The Brexit is a turning point, and in the worst case it could mean the end of peace in Europe and a return to the days of conflict and confrontation. Donald Tusk is perfectly right to say that since yesterday all we can do is try to limit the damage.”

La Stampa (IT) /

All sides will lose out

Europe will now slide into its worst crisis since World War II, La Stampe predicts:

“Leaving Europe is a step into the void without a safety net for the United Kingdom. The EU is one of Britain's main trading partners, an almost inexhaustible source of manpower and brainpower and an indispensable prop in the tricky game of international foreign policy. … For its part the EU will not emerge from this saga as the victor. The failure of its political reforms, the degrading economic situation in countries like Greece and the dreadful spectacle of the refugee policy fiasco were the main reasons behind the British people's decision to say no to Europe. Without the UK the EU will find it even more difficult to create an economic bloc that can keep pace with the US and China.”

The Times (GB) /

A test of endurance for the UK

Withstanding the pressure from Bremainers and Brexiteers in her own country will be Theresa May's biggest problem as she begins the Brexit negotiations with the EU, writes the Times:

“The truth is that Mrs May faces a set of negotiations in this country that will be every bit as difficult as those she must have with the EU. Already she is locked into a dangerous battle of wills with Nicola Sturgeon over Scottish independence, giving a hollow tone to her claim yesterday that Brexit would make a 'more united Britain'. There will also be consequences for Northern Ireland but the implications for the Union are only the start of the prime minister's difficulties. Even after their victory, the Conservative Eurosceptics still see every compromise with Brussels as treachery.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

Desire for revenge is out of place

With Britain, one of the most attractive countries in the EU is leaving the Union, Echo24 complains, and warns against the urge to take revenge:

“In particular the treaty on the new partnership with London will be the first major test of whether Europe can learn from its mistakes. Of whether it is capable of solving the current problems in a rational way, without any thoughts of punishment, revenge or deterrence. Basically what is at stake here is the economy and security. It is in Europe's interests that trade with London should continue to be as free as possible. If all parties agree, they can also reach an accord on financial services. London towers above all other European financial capitals. But the exchange of intelligence information must also continue to be as intense as it has been up to now in the fight against terrorism. ... If the negotiations are successful the EU could gain in self-confidence, preventing other attractive countries from deciding to leave.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Departure of an ally for free trade

The Brexit will have major repercussions for all the EU member states, Dagens Nyheter explains:

“'No deal is better than a bad deal,' says Theresa May, but that's just a propaganda slogan. If the UK abandons the EU without a deal it will create legal and economic uncertainty. Even if the economy has done quite well since the referendum, the pound has fallen and inflation has gone up. And the major risks lie in the long-term effects. Britain was a good ally for Sweden regarding free markets and trade. It is an irony of fate that the British, perhaps the most vocal supporters of the free market, are now leaving it. ... Brexit will come at a price not just for the British but for the EU as a whole. It is in their mutual interest to make sure that the problem is solved as smoothly as possible.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Create flexible forms of EU partnership

In view of the start of the Brexit negotiations the EU should find a new form of partnership with countries like Switzerland, Turkey and even Russia, writes Die Presse:

“The Brexit negotiations ultimately offer the opportunity to create a new, variable system of association. The expansion of the Union has already reached its limits, and it is therefore necessary to develop a new, flexible form of partnership that binds these neighbouring countries to the EU according to their maturity, desire for collaboration and clout. It would be a good idea to develop a multi-tiered system offering various degrees of participation in the single market, from very limited participation to full integration. In this system the financial side of the membership contribution could also be based on a sliding scale.”