European press bemused by UK Brexit course

An article in Belgium's De Morgen discusses Brexit Image copyright De Morgen
Image caption "In order to mask its ignorance, the British government is creating a wonderland", reads De Morgen's headline

This week, the EU press is critical of the British government's approach to Brexit, with commentators accusing it variously of confusion and of allowing Britain turn its back on the world. And some European papers see the High Court's challenge to the Brexit process as a serious setback for the British government.

In Belgium's De Morgen, economist Paul de Grauwe accuses May of sending out mixed signals, and suggests that her government still does not know what it wants from Brexit.

"To mask its ignorance, the British government is creating a wonderland," he says.


Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau describes the High Court's ruling that the formal process of leaving the European Union must be approved by parliament as "a heavy blow for May's government".

Sebastian Borger, who writes for the paper from London, says that as a result of the ruling, "the Brexit schedule is now faltering".

An article in France's Le Figaro by Anne-Laure Fremont says the High Court's decision "could have serious consequences for the continuation of the process of Britain's exit from the EU".

France's L'Express describes the ruling as a "thunderbolt from across the Channel".

Italy's business daily Il Sole 24 Ore says that "the judges of the British High Court have detonated a new bomb under the fraught separation of London from Brussels".

And the Hungarian tabloid Blikk adopts a Shakespearean take on the latest developments, with the headline "To Brexit or not to Brexit, that is the question - parliament will decide".

Sexy country?

Image copyright De Telegraaf
Image caption "To every firm their own Brexit," reads the headline in De Telegraaf

Jan Maarten Slaagter - in Dutch paper De Telegraaf - says the UK government's deal with Nissan suggests the car industry, along with the City, are "getting their own Brexit", possibly at taxpayers' expense.

"Who else? I'm glad I don't pay tax in the UK," he adds. "Brexit is turning into a mess - that much is clear already."

Image copyright La Razon
Image caption "When did the UK stop being a sexy country?" wonders Rocio Colomer in La Razon

In Spain, La Razon's international editor, Rocio Colomer, accuses Theresa May of giving in to a "nationalism" that threatens the UK as an "international centre for attracting talent, diversity and business".

"Not only economic prosperity is at stake, but also the UK's role in the international order," she says, and wonders: "When did the UK stop being a sexy country?"


La Vanguardia's London correspondent Rafael Ramos says reported plans to make foreigners pay for health care in the UK suggests Britain has "turned the page" on its tradition of internationalism and hospitality towards refugees.

"Since Brexit, the UK appears to be the most unfriendly Western state in the world," he says.

Image copyright Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

A more benign view of Brexit emerges from comment pages in some German papers.

In Sueddeutsche Zeitung, economists Wilhelm Kohler and Gernot Mueller query the apparent EU consensus that the UK must accept freedom of movement to retain single market access.

They argue that there is no need to treat the EU single market's "four freedoms" - of goods, capital, services and people - as "indivisible" apart from a desire to "punish the British for their decision" out of "political calculus".

'The party continues'

News that the British economy appears to have avoided a Brexit shock for the time being leads Rainer Hank - business editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung - to question continental predictions of economic disaster - both short- and long-term - and xenophobic populism for the UK.

"The party in London continues - and nobody should cry or feel ashamed about that," he writes, arguing that is yet to be seen whether Brexiteers' vision of reconciling "open markets, open societies and national sovereignty" really is doomed to failure.

But in Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza, commentator Patrycja Maciejewicz warns that full effects of Brexit on the British economy still have not been felt, and that Britain will suffer from its export weakness and the likely loss of EU passporting rights for the City.

"The hardest still lies ahead", she says. "This is not some miscalculation by economists. Brexit simply hasn't happened yet."

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.

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