European press debates post-Brexit alternatives

Combo picture of online publications about Brexit
Image caption European media continue discussing Brexit's economic consequences

Newspaper commentators are debating whether other European countries can exploit any business flight from London as the process of the UK leaving the European Union begins.

'Cutting the flesh'

In a week when the forthcoming presidential election dominates the media, France's centre-left Le Monde still manages extensive coverage of Brexit developments.

Its British correspondent Eric Albert is gloomy about the chances of an investment-led recovery after a visit to the northeast, where he saw high-tech jobs at one firm migrating to its subsidiary in Stuttgart. 

He says "any recovery plan will be limited" by Britain's straitened economic circumstances.

In Austria, Karl Gaulhoer of Die Presse thinks the British government is cooking up a "perfect recipe for a lose-lose Brexit".

Image copyright Die Presse
Image caption Austria's Die Presse: Brexit "is cutting into Britain's economic flesh"

He dismisses the "few hundred jobs" Facebook is creating in London and the incentives to the Nissan carmaker, saying a quick visit to the City of London shows people "slowly packing their bags".

"Brexit certainly weakens the EU politically, but this self-declared divorce battle is cutting into Britain's economic flesh".

'Chance for France'

Le Monde's economics reporter Isabelle Chaperon thinks this could be good news for France, as the country's Strategic Investment Council this week saw more interest from financial and IT companies than usual.

A representative of the Indian computer firm Infosys that employs far more people in Britain than France told her that, since the Brexit vote, they are now looking at Marseilles as an African business hub.

Other business analysts told Le Monde that there is a chance for Paris to become a "strong alternative to London" - as long as France liberalises its tax regime.

Nonetheless, the director of French Square, a French business incubator, told conservative Le Figaro that London remains the key city for start-ups.

Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption France's Le Figaro: "London's French businesses aren't scared of Brexit"

"London is an essential step for a start-up, often the first before tackling the US market, but also a test in what is a particularly competitive international market," said Charles Van Overmeire. 

The French Catholic paper La Croix puts Theresa May on its front page to flag up an article on whether the British prime minister is turning her back on the free-market consensus in favour of state intervention and immigration controls.

It concludes that the conflicts in the government over hard or soft Brexit options explain Mrs May's "sometimes erratic decisions", and that in the end "she may be so absorbed by Brexit that she will not have time for other matters". 

'Tax war'

German papers pursue Mrs May's pledge to have the lowest corporate taxes among the G20 countries, especially after she came in for stern criticism from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Centre-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung saw this as part of an industrial and investment strategy aimed at making post-Brexit Britain attractive to investors in the "robotics, artificial intelligence and industrial biotechnology fields". 

Image copyright Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Image caption Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "May wants the lowest G20 corporate tax"

But Bastian Brinkmann of the centre-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung is less phlegmatic, accusing Mrs May of "declaring a tax war that will drag the rest of the EU into the abyss, just as most countries have come to their senses and are making an effort to fight tax evasion".

While many commentators point to confusion in London over Brexit, the paper's Brussels correspondent Daniel Broessler sees little sign of anything but "scrambling" in the approach to Brexit of the remaining EU states.

It is clear that "all leads converge on Michel Barnier", the Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, but Mr Broessler says EU member states are unhappy with being "merely informed through the sherpa system" of what is going on, and that the role of the European Parliament in the process has not yet been clarified.

'Competing visions'

In Italy, Antonio Armellini of Corriere della Sera also sees continuing problems with British and EU demands on the freedom of the movement of financial services and labour, seeing them as reflections of "competing visions - Britain's trading bloc, and the European Union's political project".

"Germany's Angela Merkel doesn't want confrontation but, in a difficult election year, cannot afford to abandon EU orthodoxy," he says, while the Central European Visegrad Group "has no hesitation when it comes to the fundamental freedom of movement".

Image copyright Corriere Della Sera
Image caption Italy's Corriere della Sera: "The ever harder path to Brexit talks"

Jedrzej Bielecki in Poland's Rzeczpospolita also thinks Mrs May "cannot reconcile" migration limits and full access to the single market.

He is convinced that the EU will not relent on these points, "because if it weakens the single market, nothing will remain of integration".

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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