European media: Brexit hurdles still lie ahead

By BBC Monitoring
The world through its media

  • Published
Newspaper front pagesImage source, BBC Monitoring

Cabinet approval of the Brexit deal gains huge attention in the European newspapers, many of which went to press before Thursday morning's resignations from the British government.

While most applaud Theresa May for securing her ministers' backing in the teeth of fierce argument, many newspapers anticipated the latest events by saying significant obstacles still barred her way forward.

'You must be joking'

"So the Brexit deal is over the line?" asks the Irish Examiner. "You must be joking. Everything relies on what happens in Britain and Northern Ireland, meaning the white smoke from Downing Street last night could just as easily be found tomorrow to be muffling, blinding fog."

Image source, The Irish Times
Image caption,
The Irish Times says the UK "will be worse off and will have less significant clout and influence"

The Irish Times declares that Theresa May has "taken the leap". It says that the difficulty for her is that wherever this ends up, "the UK will be worse off and will have less significant clout and influence. But that, unfortunately, is the inevitability of Brexit".

Hurdles ahead

The prime minister "wrested a deal from the EU and laboriously channelled it through her cabinet", says Germany's left-liberal weekly Der Spiegel, under the headline "Another near escape."

"It could have been worse for Theresa May. But the biggest hurdle is still ahead for the British prime minister," it says.

That thought is echoed in centre-right daily Die Welt, which warns that despite cabinet backing, the divorce deal "is still at risk".

Resistance in both the Conservative Party and Parliament is enormous, the paper says, under the headline "The real Brexit hurdle for Theresa May is yet to come."

'Brittle and unclear'

Someone at De Telegraaf in the Netherlands appears to have actually read the text of the deal.

"After Brexit, little will change" pronounces the popular centre-right daily, noting that "there will be a transitional period of 21 months until late December 2020".

Image source, De Telegraaf
Image caption,
De Telegraaf says "the nightmare scenario of a hard Brexit has not disappeared"

"During that time, an agreement has to be made between the EU and the UK, but this period can be extended if necessary," it says. At the same time, "everybody in Brussels knows that the nightmare scenario of a hard Brexit, bringing chaos and economic damage, has still not disappeared".

The "Brexit deal is brittle and unclear", leading Dutch centrist daily NRC Handelsblad believes. "Mrs May could feel forced at any time to return to the negotiating table in Brussels to tweak the agreements in a final attempt to prevent political chaos in the United Kingdom", it adds.

Image source, Algemeen Dagblad
Image caption,
Algemeen Dagblad asks about the fate of EU nationals in the UK

"Even though agreements in principle have been made about the fate of EU nationals living in the UK (and vice versa), you never know what will become of those when heels start being dragged," Dutch popular daily Algemeen Dagblad says.

'Test of fire'

In Spain, the centre-right daily El Mundo says that "against all odds, Mrs May overcame an umpteenth test of fire in the past 28 months".

Image source, La Vanguardia
Image caption,
La Vanguardia says Mrs May has overcome "the first stumbling block"

"May overcomes the first stumbling block, but Brexit continues to be under question," Barcelona-based national daily La Vanguardia says.

For Austria's centre-right daily Die Presse, Mrs May has pulled off a "brave move".

"In view of the strong resistance in the cabinet against Brussels… she cleverly played it so that her opponents had neither an alternative plan nor the time to work out one."

Le Figaro in France suggests that if the cabinet meeting was tense, then the parliamentary battle to secure approval for the deal will be even tougher for Mrs May, with no majority for it so far. The centre-right daily adds that there's no majority among MPs either for a no-deal or for another referendum.

Mrs May faces many obstacles, says France's centre-left Le Monde, but she can count on "the momentum provided by cabinet approval, on the fatigue of numerous Britons and, most of all, on the fear of chaos".

A backstop lifeline?

In the Northern Irish press, the Irish News leads with the DUP's angry reaction to the agreed draft Brexit deal with the EU, which could see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.

Image source, Belfast Telegraph
Image caption,
The Belfast Telegraph sees a bright possible future for Northern Ireland

Meanwhile, in the Belfast Telegraph, Jane Morrice, a pro-European ex-European Commission chief, asks what can be salvaged from "a potential shipwreck".

"The biggest and best in these sorry circumstances must be the backstop which surely offers the best of both worlds," she says. "By possibly staying in the single market and the customs union, Northern Ireland could become the envy of the British Isles, attracting foreign direct investment from far and wide in its position as a gateway to Europe, the UK and the rest of the world. Is it any wonder Scotland wants the same lifeline?"

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.