Before the Brexit negotiations: EU under pressure

After Britain's exit from the EU, both sides are positioning themselves for talks on a trade agreement. Boris Johnson has said that London does not want to commit in writing to certain standards. For her part, Ursula von der Leyen has stressed that there is no such thing as a "free ride to the single market". Commentators discuss what stance the EU should adopt.

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Die Presse (AT) /

Acid test for the new Commission

Now it will become clear whether the EU is really "capable of world politics", explains Die Presse:

“[Ursula von der Leyen] outlined her vision for Europe in 2050 before the European Parliament: 'It will be a digital world power. It will take a leading role in resolving the big issues of world politics.' Well said. And von der Leyen certainly reflects the ambitions of the heads of state and government. For it was they who set her up as their figurehead. But to wield power wisely also means building clever alliances for what von der Leyen calls the 'geopolitical' Commission. And the very first and most important alliance is the one with the democratic, liberal nuclear power 30 kilometres off its own coast.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A frightened Brussels

The British are distancing themselves from the EU for good reason, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung observes:

“The centralist power politicians in Brussels are banking on Brexit failing so as to deter EU-critical member countries from following suit. That's not the argument of a strong and self-confident Union, but of an alliance that fears for its own future. Why doesn't Brussels accept the challenge posed by an independent UK that has yet to find out whether it will become stronger or weaker in the competition between systems? Why doesn't the EU observe Britain's experiment with interest, so it can learn from it and become stronger and more attractive in the process? Because the EU leadership doesn't have faith in its own strength or attractiveness. London is right to oppose the muscle-flexing of such a frightened Union.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

The EU lacks a utopia

Columnist Ferruccio de Bortoli also sees the Brexit as testimony to a failure of the EU. In Corriere del Ticino he writes:

“The middle class, weakened in its social role, and the working classes threatened by the relocation of production and competition from immigrants have a strong and understandable nostalgia for the past. ... It would be a big mistake to attribute this change of mood - which is not only to be observed in the UK but to some extent in all Western democracies - merely to the wealth of false information circulating on the Internet and the unscrupulous use of social networks. Brexit teaches us that even in the networked world there is a need to dream, to cling to a utopia. And this is exactly what the European federalist idea so sorely lacks today.”

Azonnali (HU) /

Not necessarily the last exit

The Brexit won't blur the fault lines within the EU, Azonnali believes:

“Many EU friends hoped that Britain's withdrawal would lead to a more cohesive EU. Such a trend has not been observed,however: the dividing lines have remained, but now others can take over the role of London, which always blocked centralism - for example Vienna or The Hague. ... Meanwhile Paris sees the chance to take over the leadership - in a Napoleonic step - of an EU that it would rather downsize than expand. European politics are shaped by the same interests and differences as before London's withdrawal. No matter how unimaginable it seems today, it is by no means certain that Brexit was the last exit.”