Can May's Brexit strategy work?

With a month to go to the snap election in Britain, Europe's press focuses on how the vote will influence Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit strategy.

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BNS (LT) /

A strengthened May for a softer Brexit

If May emerges in a stronger position from the election it could pave the way for a softer Brexit, writes British journalist Edward Lucas in BNS:

“A convincing victory would give the prime minister a strong mandate - not in the negotiations with the EU, but in the confrontation with her colleagues who demand a hard line. And against the nasty anti-European tabloids when it comes to answering all kinds of questions, for example about the rights of EU citizens, the role of the European Court of Justice and the bill the UK will receive for its exit. In short: the stronger May's victory, the softer the Brexit could turn out to be.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Complacent UK on road to perdition

The prime minister and the British elite are overestimating Britain's strengths in a way that will only harm the country, the Guardian writes:

“Most of the British elite lives in London, Europe's only truly global city, and this seems to seduce them into believing that Britain is more important and powerful than it really is, and its economy more dynamic. ... Another key reason for British complacency over the impact of Brexit is that much of the country's elite buys into the idea of the EU as a sclerotic economic failure. The EU faces serious challenges, but it is far from the British caricature of it as protectionist, insular and economically illiberal. ... Britain is heading for humiliation. The country's already mediocre economic record is set to worsen further. It will be alienated from its closest allies - the rest of the EU - and have little international influence.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

No deal is also a solution

The much-discussed Brexit dinner between May and Juncker last week gives a foretaste of how many crises have yet to be faced in the Brexit negotiations, the Daily Telegraph believes, and calls on the British prime minister to stick to her tough stance:

“Mrs May needs to hold her nerve here and ... - be a 'bloody difficult woman' as she said yesterday. The official UK position is that an agreement is wanted; but the shenanigans of the past few days shows that it would be wise to prepare for failure. The big mistake David Cameron made when he tried to renegotiate Britain's position was that everyone knew he was not ready to walk away from the negotiating table ... Mrs May has said no deal is better than a bad deal so she needs to prepare now for crashing out of the EU without one. Leaving our EU counterparts in no doubt that we are serious is the best way to get a good deal.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Britain can no longer deny reality

At the EU summit on Saturday the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis moved the British flag aside in order to speak with journalists. A symbolic gesture, Adevărul comments:

“The disillusion has long reached all those who thought populist slogans were as easy to put into practice as referendums, and all those who made false promises in order to benefit politically from the [Brexit] vote. ... Refusing to guarantee the rights of Europeans living in Britain while at the same time having access to the customs union and the European markets is a stance the EU will not accept. Sooner or later populist politicians and demagogues will have to face up to the facts they can no longer avoid or conceal. Otherwise there could be consequences for hundreds of millions of people. Iohannis's pushing aside the British flag was no doubt not meant as a political gesture, nevertheless it well illustrates today's harsh reality and provides a very concrete description of the times we live in.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Tough times for cherry pickers

The Brexit negotiations won't be a walk in the park for the UK and any special requests will be rejected, The Irish Times predicts:

“Unusually, the EU's response has been simple, firm, coherent and unified. The UK must be worse off after it leaves. There will be no sectoral approach to free trade, no cherry picking of any kind. The rights of citizens are central to the EU's sense of itself and must be protected. ... If there is to be a free trade agreement it will not be like – it will be inferior to – the one the UK has at the moment: that's the single market. So, if there is to be a negotiated settlement it will revolve around the issue of how much harm is to be inflicted on the UK economy. Seen in this light, it is easy to see how the negotiations are likely to be brutal, nasty and potentially very short.”

De Standaard (BE) /

EU must protect itself

The EU has no choice but to take a tough line in the Brexit negotiations, writes political scientist Hendrik Vos in his column in De Standaard:

“This is not about resentment or bitterness; the very essence of the EU is at stake here. After all, the British want to be spared the trouble of complying with European rules. … But the EU can't possibly accept the British being able to compete with our companies here without obeying our rules. This is not the Wild West where anything goes, but a place where rules apply and protection is provided. So the EU has no choice. It must be ruthless in the trade talks. May has another option: she can change her mind. If she promises that the UK will stick to European rules, like Norway or Switzerland, many things could stay the same.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

London and the EU need a mediator

May is right to reject the EU's conditions for the negotiations, The Daily Telegraph observes, and proposes a way out of the conflict:

“Mrs May is insisting on what she thought was the EU position - that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. She is right to stick to her guns on this. ... It was always a danger that the unelected Commission would institutionalise the Brexit process in Brussels; now it is armed with a mandate for talks that will be hard to unpick. One idea worth considering is whether a well-respected non-European political figure could be invited to offer advice and, if necessary, mediate. Without an independent intermediary there is a risk of serious misunderstandings causing unnecessary long-term harm to relations with our EU members.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Turkey apparently more important than Britain

The EU wants Britain out as quickly as possible yet with Turkey it is patiently prolonging the negotiation process, Die Welt complains:

“The Brits are out, period. From the EU's point of view the Brexit was defined as a clean cut even before David Cameron had the chance to resign. The dealings with Turkey highlight how unusual that is. If after the unappetising campaign of lies a majority there sends a strong message that they don't see their country as part of Europe, it means that Europe must not abandon the defeated minority, that geopolitics demands trade-offs, and that Turkey won't suddenly disappear from the map. That hasn't happened with Britain either. Certainly, the Brits are still convinced of the global significance of their island in the cold sea, but the rest of Europe less so.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Unity unlikely to last long

There are good reasons to doubt that the announced united stance will be maintained throughout the negotiations, Deutschlandfunk comments:

“Because instead of the EU 27 individual states will soon come into play, each pursuing its own particular interests above all else, so that despite all the guidelines they will be far more willing to make peculiar compromises because that suits their own interests and protects their trade relations, and therefore in the end jobs. The British know this game. They've always been champions at pushing through their own interests with changing coalitions, because the grandiloquent declarations made in advance seldom have anything to do with the naked truth at the negotiating table, where the participants play hardball to secure their own advantages.”

The Independent (GB) /

Less and less enthusiasm for exit

According to a recent survey a majority of Brits think the Brexit is a mistake. That will make things all the more difficult for PM Theresa May in negotiations with the EU, The Independent believes:

“When Theresa May called her opportunistic general election, she claimed that the public was getting behind Brexit. She just needed an endorsement from voters to stop the rotters in Westminster from denying the will of the people. ... Those who oppose it can take heart from these results. They clearly show that this isn't over. Not by a long shot. And while May's opposition may appear weak and divided for now, that will not last forever. Any mandate she secures will be conditional on her proving she can make a success of Brexit. In other words, she's relying on a fairytale. That's not a good place to be.”