Brexit view from the continent

Yesterday, the papers were full of news of Teresa May’s fruitless attempt to break the negotiating stance of the EU regarding Brexit. Or at least, the UK papers were full of that news. Continental papers, not so much. It was a fascinating real-time example of the wildly divergent view that different people, cultures, and governments can have of the same event.

When the Brexit vote hit in June 2016, it was front page news everywhere in Europe. It continued to be front page news as the ramifications were explored and as the UK invoked Article 50, which activated an unstoppable two-year clock.

With the clock now counting down the final months, the UK continues to be consumed with Brexit, both in its government and its news coverage. Over here on the continent, however, interest in Brexit has declined on a daily basis. The EU has plenty of things to be concerned about: the migration issue, Italy’s financial stability, the alarming assault on democratic norms in Hungary and Poland. And of course, every country has its own internal concerns. Brexit is considered regrettable and costly, but it is not by any means the top news, and hasn’t been for a long time.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has fought a running battle in her own cabinet between hard Brexiteers who crave no deal at all (also called “crashing out”) and the moderates who are horrified at the towering economic, environmental, and social costs of that. Her solution was a proposal called Chequers, which made absolutely no one happy — not the hardliners, not the moderates, and not the EU negotiator, whose stance has been unchanged since this whole thing started. So the process has been something like this:

EU: We will not accept a deal that alters A, B, C, or D, any of which would undermine the integrity of our union. We will negotiate on the other items.

UK: We want to change A and B.

EU: No. A, B, C, and D are non-negotiable.

UK: What if we only change A and B a little bit?

EU: A, B, C, and D are non-negotiable.

UK: Okay, here’s this deal called Chequers. It changes A and B, but you really need to give us some political cover here.

EU: A, B, C, and D are non-negotiable.

That last bit occurred Thursday, when Theresa May went to an EU summit in Salzburg to present her Chequers plan. The EU negotiator had already dismissed the plan as unworkable months earlier, practically the day after it came out. Everyone has known the EU would not accept it.

The EU did not accept it.

The following day, the UK news was full of the “ambush” at Salzburg, saying Theresa May was “blindsided,” “humiliated,” and other choice descriptive phrases. It’s as if no one could have possibly predicted such an outcome. Except that over here on the continent, everyone predicted that outcome. How can that be an “ambush”?

Here, then, is an illustration of different views of the same event. First, a pro-Brexit British tabloid called The Sun:

Sun paper

The tommy guns are a nice touch, as is the subheader: “We can’t wait to shake ourselves free of the two-bit mobsters who run the European Union.”

The Times was more sober, but still apparently astonished:

Times Brexit

The Guardian has a roundup of all the UK front pages on Friday. They’re all along the same theme.

Meanwhile, here is the front page of one of Portugal’s largest newspapers:

Publico Brexit

The prime photo real estate goes to Portugal’s president, who was a professor of law before taking office. He was teaching one final class.

Over on the right is the news about Salzburg. The headline is: “EU says to May that her plan for Brexit is unacceptable.” And right below that is the headline, “Should it be legal? Debate joins ex-prostitutes in Lisbon.”

As you can see, it wasn’t big news.

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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2 Responses to Brexit view from the continent

  1. Liz says:

    Somehow the message given by the EU right from the first moment has been “lost in the mail” to the UK Government and Brexiteers. Those of us who want to stay in the EU, by arcane methods, intuited what the message would be even before the referendum. Some parts of England never wanted to be in the EU because they still think they are in charge of a gross and venal Empire where they sit and do nothing and the proceeds of colonialism come to them as a matter course. They never liked the EU since they could not always get their own way. I am glad to be Scottish and ashamed to be British.

    • The ones I truly feel for are the Scottish and the Northern Irish. You voted overwhelmingly to remain and yet you have no voice in the matter. And particularly in Scotland…I had the impression that the vote against independence was largely a vote for the security of remaining part of the EU. And now the rug has been pulled out from under you.

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