A year after Leave: how far along is Brexit?

Britain and the EU will start the second round of Brexit negotiations today, Monday. For the first time concrete issues such as financial demands and the future of EU nationals in Britain will be dealt with. A glance at Europe's op-eds conveys the impression that a year after Britain voted to leave much still remains to be resolved.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

London and Brussels should negotiate Remain

After the parliamentary elections negotiations on Britain remaining in the EU must not be ruled out, former British prime minister Tony Blair explains in La Repubblica:

“Large numbers of people voted to stop a Hard Brexit and rejected explicitly the mandate Theresa May was demanding. … Rational consideration of the options would sensibly include the option of negotiating for Britain to stay within a Europe itself prepared to reform and meet us half way. … The Macron victory changes the political dynamics of Europe. The members of the Euro zone will integrate economic decision-making. Inevitably, therefore, Europe will comprise an inner and outer circle. The European leaders, certainly from my discussions, are willing to consider changes to accommodate Britain, including around freedom of movement. Yet this option is excluded.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Complications everywhere

Brexit is turning out to be more complicated than expected, Jutarnji list notes:

“The European regulations were repealed by law. Then Labour came along with six demands (one of them that the European Convention on Human Rights should still apply), after which Scotland and Northern Ireland demanded a clear statement on which of the repealed regulations would affect them. … A Brexiteer said that withdrawal from Euratom would be madness, but if you leave the EU you automatically leave Euratom. Then trading in isotopes will become more complicated and expensive. Easyjet on Friday registered a company in Vienna which will serve the European market. The banks are leaving the City and heading for Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam; law firms and insurances are heading for Dublin.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Easyjet soon in Vienna? Cold comfort

The fact that Easyjet will be managing its European operations from Vienna in future is no cause for celebration, Salzburger Nachrichten points out:

“Those who are happy that Brexit has prompted a couple of companies or an EU institution to move to Austria haven't understood that in the long term this may prove to be a bogus bonus. Not only will Britain's exit from the EU cost net contributors like Austria money and potentially also exports to the island, but far worse and as yet barely discussed is the fact that with Brexit the informal power structures in the Union will shift. … The losses for Austria after Brexit are likely to be greater than any gains to be derived from a few airline offices setting up shop at Vienna International Airport.”

LSM (LV) /

EU getting into top form

The EU is being surprisingly consistent in its stance vis-à-vis Britain, the web portal of public broadcaster LSM writes approvingly:

“Normally the EU only acts 'post factum' but this time Europe is actually thinking about its future after Brexit. There's a discussion about closing the gap in the EU budget with agricultural subsidies. And the position of the EU on the issue of citizens' rights will be stringent and inflexible. There is also a discussion about the role of the EU in the world and its relations with the US. And certain actions and positions are also being demanded of the British. And not in the distant future but now, in order to reduce future uncertainty.”

Blog EUROPP (GB) /

British government completely out of its depth

The British government's poor management of the negotiations over the last year has destroyed any chance of a good Brexit deal, former EU negotiator Steve Bullock writes in Blog Europp:

“The unwillingness to guarantee citizens' rights was bad, but the threat to bargain over security cooperation was a moment of appalling moral weakness. The EU27's leaders very much want a deal, but the government's approach has made any desire to look for solutions that suit the UK evaporate. Why bother when they don't appear to want a deal anyway?... In my view, the chances of this government getting any deal, let alone a good one, in only 21 months, are minimal. ... The level of complexity is too much for the UK's Brexit negotiators, their preparations too poor, and the messaging too self-defeating.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A lost year

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung sees the year that has passed since the Brexit referendum as wasted since the decisive question of the UK's future is no closer to being resolved:

“Symptomatic of this was the way the politicians fed the voters nothing but platitudes during the election campaign. And the election result itself - with none of the parties gaining an absolute majority - failed to produce any kind of mandate, least of all as regards what the exit from the EU should look like. The prevailing mood can therefore be described as a deep sense of insecurity. Hardly ever in recent British history has there been so much uncertainty about which path the country should take on an issue as important as this.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

The Brexodus has already begun

Il Sole 24 Ore describes the start of an exodus from Britain prompted by uncertainty over the Brexit:

“The dream of London is fading in discussions among friends, at pubs and at work. All of a sudden the desire to leave Elizabeth's kingdom is growing now that the populist wave is receding on the continent, economic growth is back and the pound is falling. ... After decades the wind seems to have turned and is now blowing from the UK across the continent. The British government has been a disappointment, the uncertainty is exhausting, and the advance guard of the nowheres is beginning to move even before the banks do, keen to explore the Macron effect or the new vitality of other cities that have overcome the crisis.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Now it's time to woo Polish migrants

Poland must seize the opportunity represented by the growing number of Poles who will soon be leaving Britain, Rzeczpospolita urges:

“If at least some of the more than 900,000 Poles come back to Poland, it will improve the situation on our personnel-starved labour market and help maintain our four-percent economic growth rate. For that reason the government should create the best possible conditions for their return, for example by helping them to find jobs and housing. ... It would be terrible if our politicians didn't take advantage of the opportunity provided by the Brexodus and lure our countrymen who leave Britain back to Poland.”

El País (ES) /

A democracy must be able to change its mind

British historian Timothy Garton Ash voices the hope that the British will have a change of heart on the Brexit in El País:

“A soft Brexit seems the most likely scenario. But in that case, why all the fuss? So we British Europeans should gather all our strength to say, at the moment when the half-baked negotiation result is presented to parliament: 'This is the worst of both worlds, neither having our cake nor eating it. Why settle for second-best, associate membership, with many clear disadvantages and few advantages, when you could just stay and have the real thing?' After all, as Brexit secretary David Davis observed a few years ago, 'if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy'.”