European press foresees 'hard Brexit'

Combo picture of online articles about Brexit
Image caption European media dissect Michel Barnier's first news conference

European newspapers see the danger of a "hard Brexit" for Britain, without easy access to the single market, in Michel Barnier's tone at his first news conference as chief EU Brexit negotiator this week.

They also highlight the fragility of the British government's Brexit timetable, given the Supreme Court deliberations on whether parliament needs to approve the triggering of Article 50.

'Hard Brexit threat'

Jean-Jacques Mevel of France's Le Figaro sees Mr Barnier demanding a "change of tone" from Britain, and suspects that the "threat of a hard Brexit is emerging" from an EU "frustrated at the lack of a precise British roadmap".

Like many other reporters, he links Mr Barnier's comments with calls by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch head of the EU finance ministers' Eurogroup, for Britain to "adopt a different attitude" if it wants a "soft" Brexit.

Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption Le Figaro: "Europe demands a change of British tone"

Cecile Ducourtieux of France's Le Monde agrees that EU negotiators are frustrated with "Britain's great confusion over Brexit", hence Mr Barnier's warning that "time is running out".

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sees the EU "forcing the pace" of Britain's exit at a time when Prime Minister Theresa May is already under pressure from anti-Brexit rebels in her own party, and Christian Gouerou of Ouest-France cautions EU leaders that Britain "may not be in a strong position at the moment, but it could be formidable in the actual negotiations".

Image copyright Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Image caption Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "EU forces Brexit pace"

Italy's La Repubblica says Mr Barnier's remarks were an "invitation to Britain both to speed up the process and clarify its position", and that his performance "confirms predictions that Britain will face a pretty tough negotiator". 

Maciej Czarnecki of Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza says German Chancellor Angela Merkel's comments to her party conference that Britain could not "cherry pick" the four basic freedoms of the EU were "in the same vein" as Mr Barnier's. 

He adds that the 18-month timetable also "puts Britain up against the wall", especially as ministers were counting on at least two years.

Image copyright Gazeta Wyborcza
Image caption Gazeta Wyborcza says Mr Barnier "sets Brexit conditions"

But Turin's La Stampa says forthcoming elections in France, Germany and The Netherlands means that "many European leaders are worried that the actual negotiations could be reduced to just one year", rather than Mr Barnier's 18 months.

Claudi Perez of Spain's El Pais also thinks Mr Barnier gave notice of  a "looming hard Brexit".

He deems this understandable as an "easy exit would be tasty bait for openly anti-European parties in next year's three crucial elections in Holland, France - especially France - and Germany". 

'Gina Miller's ordeal'

The Supreme Court hearing is widely reported, with much speculation as to whether it could further delay the Brexit timetable.

This is certainly the view of Balazs Bacskai on Hungary's pro-government news website He says the Supreme Court could "endanger Brexit", especially as discipline among Tory MPs "is not as strong as in Hungary".

Many European newspapers comment on the heated tone of the debate over the Supreme Court.

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Image caption Hungary's asks "is Brexit in danger?"

Le Monde's Philippe Bernard says the "fate of Brexit lies in the hands" of the eleven judges, and contrasts the "muted atmosphere" in the court with the pro-Brexit press "letting rip" over the judges' alleged "europhilia, sexuality, and even the price of their homes".

Florentin Collomp of Le Figaro believes the Brexit referendum awakened "chauvinist hysteria", leading to Gina Miller, who initiated the case against the government over Article 50, having to arrive at court "flanked by bodyguards". 

Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption Le Figaro: "Brexit vote stokes nationalism and chauvinist hysteria"

France's leftwing Liberation also focuses on the "ordeal of Gina Miller" in an interview, in which she rails against the "vicious xenophobic campaign" in the tabloid press against her. Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung agrees that "emotions are boiling over" as "newspapers are also hounding judges".

Germany's top-selling tabloid Bild devotes an admiring profile to "self-styled adrenaline junkie" Gina Miller, saying she "hasn't run out of surprises yet... and it is only a matter of time before the 'Black Widow' strikes again".

Image copyright Bild
Image caption Bild: "'Black Widow' slams on Brexit brakes"

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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