Is May's departure a tragedy?

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will step aside as Conservative leader on 7 June, meaning that her days as prime minister are also numbered. The announcement came after she made another unsuccessful attempt to secure support for her Brexit deal. Her Conservative Party suffered a crushing defeat in the European elections yesterday. Europe's press discusses May's responsibility for events as they unfold.

Open/close all quotes (DE) /

Like a defective robot

May only has herself to blame for her failure and doesn't deserve pity, writes London correspondent Annette Dittert on

“Yes, she faced an impossible task right from the outset. But the way May went about fulfililng this task has dramatically worsened the situation in Britain. At the very latest since the spectacular failure of her deal in December her stubborn clinging to it has been a pointless running down of the clock, without vision or direction. ... Times like these require political leaders who can unite their country with their humility, charm and powers of persuasion. May possessed none of these qualities. Instead she kept on endlessly repeating the same mantra like a defective robot, until finally her party cut off the power.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

May was just doing her job

It wouldn't have harmed May the fighter to show a little more humanity, Keskisuomalainen writes:

“Brexit hasn't worked out and May is certainly not the only one to blame for that. ... Against her will she became the prime minister whose task it was to lead Britain out of the EU. She tackled her job tenaciously - sometimes to the point of pigheadedness. Her speech ended in tears and brought out her tender side. Many would have liked it if May, with her typical British reserve, had revealed this human, emotional side much earlier.”

The Observer (GB) /

Successor won't have things any easier

May's departure will hardly bring the hoped-for breakthrough in the Brexit process, The Observer comments:

“[Any successor] will have to try to resolve Brexit without any personal contract with the electorate or gamble on changing the parliamentary maths by triggering an early election that could turn them into the briefest prime minister of modern times. Even if he or she can engineer some kind of renegotiation with the EU - a huge if - they will not return with anything palpably superior to that achieved by Mrs May. This will betray the expectations of their members. … After three years of escalating chaos and national humiliation under Theresa May, a lot of Tories seem to have convinced themselves that anyone else has to be an improvement. This is but the latest of their delusions.”

The Economist (GB) /

Johnson could give Brexit new momentum

The declared enemy of the EU Boris Johnson may be able to get the stalled Brexit process back on track if he becomes May's successor, The Economist writes:

“She has no cards left to play. A change of leader might give new momentum to talks in Westminster, which have stalled in the past few weeks, despite the EU's urging of Britain to get on with it. Boris Johnson, the favourite among the Conservative Party members who will choose the next leader, represents a dangerous gamble for the country. But he may be more capable than Mrs May of the political and ideological flexibility that will be required to get Britain out of the trap in which it has placed itself.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Brexit saga far from over

May is not responsible for all the problems, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung stresses:

“You can blame May for many things. ... But the basic dilemma is not her fault, but the result of the fact that in 2016 a majority of voters voted to leave the EU while a solid majority of MPs want the country to remain in the union. This contradictory state of affairs is responsible for the paralysis that May has been uable to resolve. If Boris Johnson, the figurehead of the Brexiteers, succeeds her as Tory leader and prime minister, he will face the very same situation. For Europeans, the government crisis in London means above all one thing: the Brexit saga is still far from over.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Revolution devouring its children

Brexit was, is and will remain the property of the Tories, Die Presse stresses:

“The list of its godfathers is long: David Cameron, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg - the only fire-raiser who isn't a Conservative is called Nigel Farage. And even he learned his political trade with the Tories. It was the Tories' Europe obsession that led them to throw all the principles of conservatism overboard and start a revolution. And revolutions, as we all know from history, firstly can't be managed through coalitions and secondly they devour their own children. First it was David Cameron, now it's Theresa May. Others will follow.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

The deal is dead

Theresa May must resign, the Tages-Anzeiger stresses:

“May tried on Tuesday to sell what she called a 'new deal' in the House of Commons. Knowing full well that this deal was dead on arrival and remains dead. ... In view of the majority situation in parliament, the different factions within the Tory and Labour parties, and the two opposed camps in the country, it is questionable whether this Brexit ever really had a chance of being implemented. You can accuse May of many things, but not of not having fought to the bitter end. Now she must go, and leave her party, which has played a key role in her failure, to its own resources. ”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

PM can only lose

The British prime minister faces a dilemma, Helsingin Sanomat comments:

“The basic points of the Brexit agreement can't be changed. That was agreed on in the negotiations with the EU. According to the Union this is the best agreement that can be had. Yes, it can be embellished somewhat to make it more palatable. But as soon as you make concessions to one group the other will get angry. May's offer on Tuesday was immediately rejected. Some Conservatives who had previously voted for the agreement have now voted against it in reaction to the promise for a new referendum. The Labour Party, in turn, doesn't want to support May in her endeavours no matter what she offers. So nothing has changed.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

A hopeless situation

British politics has reached a dead end, Svenska Dagbladet concludes:

“For May discussing a second referendum is an option, but it hardly seems plausible. And the anger within her own party at the mere thought of such a scenario is enormous. Early elections also seem unrealistic, even if they could pave the way for a compromise with Labour. ... So currently none of the involved parties seems to have an exit strategy. Britain can't leave the EU, Theresa May doesn't appear to be capable of resigning, and the opposition doesn't have the courage to say farewell to its left-wing populism. ... One can well imagine what Queen Victoria would have had to say about all this: 'We are not amused.'”

Financial Times (GB) /

Don't leave the field to the hardliners

The Financial Times explains why a cross-party alliance against a disorderly Brexit is now essential:

“The expected victory of Nigel Farage's Brexit party, with its ringing calls for a no-deal departure, may convince many Conservative MPs and party members the best way to revive their fortunes is to elect a hard Brexiter as leader. … Ultimately, however, despite their failure so far to find a consensus on a Brexit option, it may fall to moderate MPs on all sides to maintain sanity. They need to ensure the parliamentary majority against a no-deal departure holds firm - and be ready to prevent any hardline new Tory prime minister from leading the country off the cliff.”