Brexit negotiations: EU strong, London weak?
Just under a year after the British voted to leave the EU the Brexit negotiations have begun in Brussels. Weakened after the general elections, the British government will be more open to a softer and more humane Brexit, commentators believe, putting their trust in the negotiators' bargaining skills.
A more liberal Brexit
The opponents of a hard Brexit such as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond have gained influence as a result of the parliamentary elections, The Independent writes in delight:
“It may not be possible to stop, delay or reverse Brexit, but the balance has shifted in favour of a Brexit that prioritises prosperity over cutting immigration. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, took advantage of the weakness of the Prime Minister who wanted to sack him to set out the changed priorities in his Mansion House speech this morning. 'While we seek to manage migration, we do not seek to shut it down,' he said. ... For all the pomp, ceremony and post-election confusion, this Queen's Speech [on Wednesday] marks a shift in the balance of power on Brexit, in favour of an open economy and against isolationism. This can only be good news.”
Citizens' rights take priority
The satisfactory start of the Brexit negotiations is a hopeful sign, Helsingin Sanomat believes:
“The EU's chief negotiator, the former French EU commissioner Michel Barnier, wisely refrained from any swaggering even though David Davis, the British minister responsible for the Brexit, came to the negotiating table in a significantly weaker position. One thing that testifies to this unequal balance of power is that Britain gave up its bid to negotiate the exit terms at the same time as the post-Brexit terms right at the start. ... It's necessary to first clarify the status of the citizens of the EU and the UK. Because the rights of millions of people are at stake.”
Solidarity fund for Brexit victims
The government in Dublin and the EU must take swift action to prevent the border regions between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from suffering from the Brexit, the Irish Independent warns, calling for the creation of a solidarity fund:
“A huge upgrade of the roads system within the North is needed to ensure that Donegal and the greater north-west are not marooned by Brexit. Realistically, this must be actively pushed by the Dublin Government. But there is also a strong case to be made for special funding from Brussels. This brings us neatly to the burning question of a 'Brexit fund' to help offset the deleterious effects on citizens in many countries of the departure of the second biggest economy in the EU.”
Transition phase would prevent radical break
The extended transition period London is calling for is a basic prerequisite for a peaceful and constructive Brexit, Il Sole 24 Ore believes:
“Many entrepreneurs, commentators and advisors who have the blessing of the moderate (and resurrected) chancellor of the exchequer are hitting the nail on the head when they insist that the first goal of the negotiators must be to seek a transitional phase so as to extend the very short period between the start of negotiations and the exit defined by the rules of Article 50. … The priority remains to prevent a break, with all its consequences. London would be the main beneficiary, but it would certainly be a mistake to believe that its 27 (ex-) partners wouldn't also benefit from a longer transition phase.”
Everything at stake for the Tories
The Brexit negotiations begin at a time when the UK is in a state of total confusion, De Volkskrant points out:
“Prime Minister Theresa May has no leeway after the election: she will be tolerated by the Brexiteers but as soon as she moves in the direction of a milder Brexit there will be a coup. At the same time she will have to listen to her Northern Irish partner, who is for Brexit but wants to stay in the customs union in the hope that this will prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Moreover May is under pressure to work together with Labour, but the opposition party has no standpoint whatsoever on Brexit. … Everything is at stake for the Conservative Party. If Brexit goes wrong it will spend the ensuing years withering away in the opposition.”
Will Brexit come to nothing?
For Upsala Nya Tidning the Brexit is no longer a sure thing after the recent election:
“What happens if the forces that are against a hard exit are successful? There is a model for orientation, the Norwegian. Norway is not a member of the EU but it has comprehensive agreements that give the country access to the single market. … Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are also part of this larger economic community (the European Economic Area), but don't have the possibilities to influence decisions that EU membership confers. However, this raises the question of why the UK should bother leaving at all and giving up all its influence. In view of all this there are strong arguments for a new referendum - and that could produce different results to the previous one.”
London facing a revitalised EU
The Guardian sees political and economic uncertainty taking hold in the UK while things are looking up for the rest of the EU:
“For all the headlines about a populist movement eating away at the EU's foundations, it seems all the shockwaves the continent has felt in recent years have brought a renewed sense of belonging, and an appetite for better, if not more, integration. ... Just as Kohl and Mitterrand seized the opportunities that history presented to them, Merkel and Macron are, in different circumstances, identifying their path towards a common European endeavour. After a decade of crisis, Europe may now be pulling out of it. More British awareness of this might help avert bad choices.”