Does London want a soft Brexit now?
Britain has proposed a temporary customs union for the period after Brexit. According to the plan, trade with its European neighbours would remain unchanged for a transitional phase of up to three years. Some commentators are relieved that London is finally coming to its senses. Others warn against being too soft on the British.
Political victory for Hammond
A transition phase will at least lessen the appalling economic repercussions of Brexit, the Guardian comments approvingly:
“Precisely what this will mean in practice is unclear, but it represents a political victory for the chancellor, Philip Hammond, in his efforts to save the government from the prime minister's insane readiness to take the UK over a March 2019 cliff edge with the EU rather than confront the Daily Mail. It means Mrs May's earlier claim that no deal with the EU is better than a bad deal is now in the dustbin of history.”
A gradual return to reason
The suggestion of a temporary customs union is a step in the right direction, writes Helsingin Sanomat with a sigh of relief:
“At last we have an objective that can be discussed. After leaving, Britain wants to trade with the EU for at least three years on the basis of a customs agreement so that the current situation remains intact as long as possible. We can interpret this as a sign that the British government is gradually coming to its senses and embracing a soft Brexit. ... Britain no longer seems to be insisting on its former advantages - because customs agreements are not as good a solution for trade as free access to the domestic market for EU members. Britain, however, wants to base the customs union on bilateral trade agreements. But this is unlikely to work.”
Hard Brexit is dead
El País is also happy about the latest developments:
“This is the official death certificate for the hard Brexit. The proof that it is no longer the ever-weaker May who defines London's fundamental position but the ever stronger [chancellor] Hammond. And above all the clear admission that a drastic break would be likely to trigger a major crisis. … The first reactions from Europe have been appropriate: it reached out its hand to a London that has returned to realism; it remains firm on the position that the final status will be discussed only once the basics on the key questions of migration and the costs of the divorce have been settled. ... Without losing sight of the fact that it is impossible to be inside and outside the EU at the same time.”
Don't make too many concessions to British
As much as it may sympathise with the British the EU needs to put its own needs first, warns Hospodářské noviny:
“It comes as no great surprise that British businesses are putting the government under pressure with their ideas. They simply want to delay the start of the period of uncertainty. But what is good for the British is not necessarily good for the EU. Brussels has different priorities. For example its main concern now should be to negotiate the future functioning of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. … Nor has there been any progress on the question of Britain's financial obligations towards the EU. … Making too many compromises to the British would be very bad for European Union cohesion. They made their own bed and now they must lie in it.”