Brexit deal sparks government crisis

After pushing the Brexit plan through her cabinet it is far from certain that Theresa May will succeed in getting the House of Commons to approve the deal. Several ministers and state secretaries, including Brexit Minister Dominic Raab, have stepped down, and Brexit hardliners are calling for a vote of no confidence against May. Journalists examine the tug of war in which the PM, the parliament and the people are now immersed.

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La Razón (ES) /

Between a rock and a hard stance

Things are getting tight for May and her Brexit deal, La Razón observes:

“Almost two years after the referendum that dictated the divorce between the United Kingdom and the European Union the British government is confronting two hard realities it hadn't reckoned with: the stoic unity of the EU member states and the tenacity of the Eurosceptic Conservatives, who are determined to fulfil the spirit and content of the referendum. In the midst of it all stands Prime Minister Theresa May, whose political future as well as that of the Brexit deal are hanging by a thread.”

Die Presse (AT) /

All just a game for the political elite

The Brexit hardliners won't have to suffer the consequences of their actions, Die Presse criticises:

“They're behaving like spoiled brats for whom the fate of the nation and their fellow citizens is just a lark, an intellectual game in a snobbish debating club. ... The elitist Brexit fanatics won't care about the real impact on the prosperity and life plans of millions of their fellow citizens. They have already made provisions for themselves: Rees-Mogg [who is pushing for a vote of no confidence against May] quietly founded a second investment company in Ireland a few months ago so he can continue to speculate in the single market. Boris Johnson famously composed two different newspaper commentaries for the day after the Brexit referendum: one for the EU and one against it. As stated above, it's all just a game: as long as you get your own sheep out of the cold.”

Malta Today (MT) /

Too soon to write May off

Political scientist Rob Pettitt explains in Malta Today why Theresa May may be able to hold on as head of government despite the rebellion in her party:

“Despite extensive criticism of her approach to Brexit, none of the big beasts in the Brexit camp have overtly challenged her for the leadership, and the letters to the chair of the 1922 Committee are so far tantalisingly short of the magic 48 needed to trigger a challenge. If and when the number does reach 48 it is entirely likely that May would win a vote of confidence unless someone is willing to lead the charge as a would-be alternative leader - which seems unlikely given the nature of the job right now. This strongly suggests that no one else thinks they could do better.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

British would have been better off with Cameron

Before the Brexit vote the EU made wide-ranging concessions to then prime minister David Cameron in a bid to keep Britain in the EU. The British would have been far better off with that deal than with the one it has for Brexit now, notes economist and EU expert Roberto Somella in Huffington Post Italia:

“If we look at the 2016 agreement between Cameron and Tusk we see that the UK would have had the option never to have to join the Eurozone, it wouldn't have had to pay a single cent for bailouts of other countries, it would have guaranteed its right to stay in the single market, secured the City as a financial hub and been able to block any undesirable legislative initiatives. ... What initially looked like a compromise has actually become a success for Michel Barnier and his colleagues in Brussels.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

This Brexit needs a new referendum

Now that the British know exactly what they are in for with Brexit there's only one real option, Aamulehti believes:

“If the British were reasonable they'd sit down, read the 600-page Brexit document from beginning to end, discuss the situation on the basis of the new facts and hold a second Brexit vote. ... The campaign before the first Brexit referendum was full of vagaries and panic-mongering. Now the people have a better idea - at least in theory - of the consequences and the costs of exiting the Union. So the matter should be put to vote once more. Britain is taking a momentous decision so it would be a good idea to think about it at least once more - if not twice. If the majority remains in favour of leaving the EU then at least the decision will have been reviewed and confirmed.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

We can't always get what we want

For the British side there is no real alternative to the compromise Theresa May is now presenting, columnist Tom Harris writes in The Daily Telegraph:

“It's about time we drew this long, seemingly interminable process to a conclusion. And Theresa May's deal with the EU seems to provide the best way to do that. … We can't always get what we want. That isn't an admission of failure, it's an acceptance of reality. … There is no such thing as a perfect deal, for either side. And there is only one deal on the table. The two alternatives - a 'no deal' Brexit and a second referendum - would only lead, respectively, to economic harm and political civil war.”

Público (PT) /

Against all reason

Theresa May now faces the far more difficult task of getting the deal through parliament. Teresa de Sousa, the Brussels correspondent for Público, laments the prime minister's lack of planning:

“Her motto is: 'All or nothing'. It's a plan that no one really likes: neither the extremists within her own party nor those who are ready to fight to the bitter end for the United Kingdom to remain in the EU. It's hard to understand how the British government and its political class could get themselves into such a situation - with the future of 60 billion people at stake and practically without a clearly defined plan, without clearly defined goals and without a consistent national negotiating strategy.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Thanks for the entertainment!

Bert Wagendorp, columnist for De Volkskrant, is delighted by Brexit's entertainment factor:

“An excellent result, at least for the EU. The eternal spoilsports are out but under control, exports remain intact and to top it off there's a pretty sum of money too. For the former rulers of the seas this is a drama. All the clamour about Brexit for nothing. They have exchanged membership for obedience - congratulations! ... But here comes a spoiler: the Brexit spectacle is far from over. It continues tomorrow in the House of Commons. Ministers will resign and MP's will rebel. They will accuse May of treason. The Northern Irish will throw a spanner in the works, and Boris will try to stab May in the back. This will be great fun.”

Kurier (AT) /

Anti-Brexit majority going unheeded

The Brexit is being treated as a given even though a majority of British citizens now want to stay in the EU according to the polls, Kurier criticises:

“David Cameron called the Brexit referendum although there wasn't any real need for it. ... Fears ran deep as the votes were counted: hardly anyone had reckoned with the result (51.9 percent for the Brexit). The only reason for this outcome was that above all the young didn't believe this could happen and consequently didn't vote. Now more and more young people are reaching voting age - and fear a future outside Europe. Now, with every new opinion poll, they are growing more vocal - yet no one wants to listen. Despite the fact that the 'demos' in 'democracy' really means 'the people'. Of course, if Theresa May if held another vote, no matter what reason she gave, she'd be dead politically. That's realpolitik - which as it happens often has little to do with reality.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

The showdown begins

For Prime Minister May the battle is only just beginning, London correspondent Bettina Schulz predicts in Zeit Online:

“First of all she must convince her cabinet of the merits of the proposed treaty. That won't be easy. ... For weeks now resistance to a version of the treaty dictated by the EU has been clearly expressed both in cabinet and parliament. In the coming hours May will face even more criticism, resignation threats and attacks. But time is running out for an alternative. The closer we move to the March 2019 deadline, the less likely it becomes that another treaty could be worked out, and the more absurd it would be to exchange Theresa May for a hardliner as prime minister. And the less time there is, the more difficult it will be to organise a second referendum before March 2019.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

May has two trump cards

The British prime minister has two very convincing arguments for approving the Brexit deal, NRC Handelsblad explains:

“She will try to convince the Brexiteers that this is down to a choice between what in their eyes is a bad Brexit or a socialist in Downing Street 10. ... She will point out to the Tories that the Conservatives spent 13 years in the opposition after John Major lost against Tony Blair. ... At the same time she will point to the clock. Time is running out. The longer the House of Commons demurs, the more likely a no-deal Brexit becomes. In that case the British parliament will be taken a deliberate decision to hurt the country. ... Do the politicians, both Labour and Conservatives, want to have to explain to their supporters why they approved this? May will ask.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Tories united against bogeyman Corbyn

In the end even those Conservatives who are most critical of the deal will approve it, Corriere della Sera's London correspondent Luigi Ippolito believes:

“There is a great sense of unease in the government ranks. Ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson has explicitly called for a mutiny. ... But even if there are a few renegades the prime minister will most likely manage to hit the home stretch. The situation would be very different if it came to a general rebellion. But that's an unlikely scenario, because the alternative would be a no-deal Brexit or a government crisis with the risk of snap elections and a potential victory for Jeremy Corbyn. A bogeyman who has the power to unite all the Conservatives.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Ignominious retreat from world stage

Commenting in The Irish Independent columnist Frank Coughlan finds the conduct of British politicians in the Brexit process shocking and incomprehensible:

“But what followed the referendum is even more perplexing than the result itself. How could a nation, once boasting an empire on which the sun never set, conspire to negotiate its exit so haplessly? Much of it, I know, is down to a civil war among obnoxious Tory ultras, many of whom are independently wealthy and regard this simply as ideological semantics. But that doesn't explain the incompetence and arrogance at the core of Britain's retreat from the world.”