Von der Leyen in London: first Brexit showdown

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited British Prime Minister Johnson in London for the first time on Wednesday. She announced that Brussels would not be able to compromise on key issues in the negotiations on the Brexit framework conditions. Commentators discuss the goals of both sides as they enter the talks - and who has the upper hand.

Open/close all quotes
Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Britain has the upper hand

Anyone who thinks the worst is over in the Brexit drama is wrong, the Süddeutsche Zeitung warns:

“The negotiations on future relations will be much tougher than those on the Brexit agreement. In terms of economic power the EU still has the upper hand. Politically, however, the balance of power will shift dramatically. With Boris Johnson the UK now has a prime minister who wields more power than any Downing Street resident has had for a long time. The Commission president, meanwhile, will have a much harder time of things than her predecessor. For now, the EU countries are able to maintain their unity. But as soon as the question of a post-Brexit free trade agreement arises their various different interests will come to the fore. Johnson knows his old friends in the EU very well. He'll put them to the test and try to divide the Union.”

Blog David McWilliams (IE) /

Johnson not interested in a hard Brexit

The British prime minister will take a pragmatic approach to talks with the EU, economist David McWilliams writes in his blog:

“Johnson will be reluctant to risk the economic impact of trade barriers with the EU, especially as he intends to borrow hugely to satisfy his new constituency in the north of England. His previous form suggests he will opt for a Brexit in name only. This means close(ish) alignment with the EU. Trade talks come down to power. Johnson needed to sound nationalistic ahead of last month’s UK general election, but, now that he has won, pragmatism should reign. With his parliamentary majority he will be able to whip the party behind whatever strategy makes most sense for the economy.”