Brexit showdown deferred

The EU heads of state and government failed to reach an agreement in the Brexit row with the UK at the summit in Brussels. They have now proposed an extension of the transition phase that starts after Brexit in March 2019. Not all observers are convinced that this is the best solution.

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The Sun (GB) /

Leave as fast as we can

The Sun rejects the idea of a prolonged transition period after the Brexit:

“We would be in the farcical position of voting to Leave in June 2016, yet still bound by Brussels rules until December 2021 at the earliest. Which means continuing free movement, another £9billion of public money tipped into EU coffers and no say over any of it. The Irish border problem is an overhyped stunt. The EU admits it would never build one even in a No Deal. Nor would we. … Unless she can give a date when we will leave the EU and ALL its major institutions she cannot claim to have fulfilled the referendum vote.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Postponement not a cure-all

A longer transition period is not necessarily good news for companies, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“The whole point of a transition period is to make it easier for firms to adjust to a new regime. Businesses can only plan reliably if they know the new regime and when it will start. The option of extending the transition period entails the risk of the talks being as unproductive as before Brexit. In addition there would be constant uncertainty about when and how the phase will actually end. Both problems will only get bigger if there's no deadline for the end of the transition right from the start. Small and medium-sized businesses in particular won't be able to prepare for all eventualities.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Prepare for no-deal scenario

A no-deal Brexit has become distinctly more likely after the failure of the talks at the EU summit, warns De Tijd:

“In Britain Theresa May is now being depicted as a queen left standing all alone on the chess board. The game is lost but still not officially over. And the king can only move one square at a time, which is painfully symbolic of the hopelessness of the whole situation. The no-deal Brexit moved closer again this week. Belgian companies that haven't yet put together a plan for how to deal with the shock of a plunging pound or new rules for exports outside the EU better make sure they're well prepared.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Brits don't want to hear the truth

Britain lacks voices of reason, Luuk van Middelaar, a columnist and professor of European law, complains in NRC Handelsblad:

“The British (or rather the English) leading class is to blame for the illusions of more power and wealth outside the EU having fallen on fertile ground. Since 1960 the country has suffered from post-imperial hubris and it lacks authoritative figures who act as spokespersons on the balance of power that exists in 2018. The dilemma for Europe: if we tell the British, we'll only fuel their resentment. If we let them find out for themselves, with a big crash, than we'll also get the blame.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

More time needed for negotiations

A wait-and-see attitude is the only option open to Europe at present, writes Corriere della Sera's London correspondent Luigi Ippolito:

“The Brexit is caught in a quagmire and the risk of a 'No Deal' grows from day to day. Unless, that is, the decision is taken to freeze everything. ... A perspective that has become increasingly likely since yesterday, when Theresa May came to Brussels more or less empty-handed and without any new proposals that could produce a breakthrough in the negotiations. ... Hence the idea of prolonging the transitional phase after the Brexit until the end of 2021. This would ensure that everything remains as it is for almost three years until a satisfactory solution is found. The most impatient players in London will grumble, but this may be the only solution.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Blind Brexit wouldn't get us anywhere

In a guest commentary published by La Tribune de Genève and other media, former British prime minister Tony Blair and ex deputy prime ministers Nick Cleff and Michael Heseltine warn of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit:

“Getting the British out of the EU and into the transitional period with the minimum of fuss and disruption might seem like a worthwhile goal, but it will not settle the Brexit question. It is crucial to remember that while a withdrawal agreement will address the Irish border, citizens' rights and the financial settlement for leaving the EU, a vague political declaration on the future will leave our UK/EU economic relations, and many other issues, unsolved. This would send a dangerous signal to the destructive populists inside the EU and to those who wished Europe ill.”

The Guardian (GB) /

May paying price for playing up to Eurosceptics

Because May has failed to forge alliances with pro-European forces, she'll have a hard time pushing a Brexit agreement through the House of Commons, The Guardian fears:

“She could, in particular, have tried to win round the SNP by pledging to devolve EU competences to Holyrood. And she could have tried to reach agreements with Labour on the customs union, Northern Ireland and employment rules. Instead, she allowed herself to become the hostage of incompetent and lazy rightwingers in her own party and the puppet of a sectarian DUP.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Northern Ireland issue threatens whole deal

Večernji list explains why Theresa May will have a hard time convincing her own ministers to go along with her plan for Brexit:

“The opponents of the Chequers plan don't like the fact that they can't see a clear path out of the customs union, of which Britain will remain a member during the transition period until 2020, but which it wants to exit. They fear that this will never happen unless the exit from the customs union in 2021 is clearly defined now. They also don't like the fact that Northern Ireland remaining in the single market means that different rules will apply in this part of the United Kingdom. Prime Minister May continues to insist that the integrity of her country must be preserved, and that if necessary she is willing to leave the EU without a deal to ensure it.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Brexit in name only

The only scenario Theresa May could get away with goes by the name "Brino", writes London correspondent Enrico Franceschini in Le Soir:

“An agreement that remains as vague as possible and in which everyone can find what they're looking for. Rather than a Brexit this would be a 'Brino', a 'Brexit in name only', as a columnist in London recently called it. In this way they could keep discussing what the exit from the EU really implies until December 2020, or in other words for the duration of the two transition years already foreseen and perhaps even long afterwards.”

The Independent (GB) /

Compromise still possible

The Independent, on the other hand, has not given up all hope of a proper agreement and calls on all participants to work towards a compromise:

“One of the casualties of the Brexit issue is calm and reasoned debate. Politics are about compromise. Common sense says the government should seek an agreement that is broadly acceptable to most of the 48 per cent who voted to remain as well as to most of the 52 per cent who wished to leave. Common sense would also maintain that such a compromise would be the long-term self-interest of the EU. During the past few days there have been increasing signs that such an agreement, inevitably an imperfect one, is within reach.”