Europe Is Bored With BrexitBy and
Brexit talks fail to make it onto front pages across Europe
Newspaper focus hints at Europe’s real political priorities
As the U.K. finally gets down to Brexit business, the rest of Europe has already moved on.
Britain may be consumed by the political and economic fallout from voters’ decision to leave the European Union, but judging from the reaction of the main newspapers across continental Europe, their readers are far less occupied by the drama on the other side of the Channel.
The second round of negotiations under way in Brussels between Brexit Secretary David Davis and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, made few waves outside the U.K. Their encounter failed to make the front pages of many Tuesday’s editions. In fact, most papers chose to ignore it altogether.
Those that did give it some attention focused on the political confusion back in the U.K. and the weak negotiating hand of its embattled leader, Theresa May.
The spread of stories shows the wider issues vying for space in mainland Europe but also hints at the distractions facing EU leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The geopolitical reality suggests that while Brexit is the be all and end all for the British, the EU may not be bluffing when it says the bloc has plenty else on its plate, from its dealings with U.S. leader Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to a series of complicated relationships with other G-20 partners.
In Germany, Die Welt led on Tuesday with a spying dispute with Turkey that threatens to further damage the already poor relations between Berlin and Ankara. Perhaps fittingly, it carried a piece inside citing a German member of the European Parliament, Michael Theurer, as saying Merkel’s government needs to make the Brexit negotiations a bigger priority.
He suggested the creation of a “Brexit cabinet” to speed up and influence the talks and protect the German economy once the U.K. exits. For Germany’s government, the talks currently “live only a shadow existence,” he told the newspaper. The article was at the bottom of page 6.
Bild, the country’s biggest-selling paper, gave Brexit a pass, as did the altogether more serious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which instead chose to feature on its front page Turkey, Venezuela and moves in the EU Parliament to highlight what it sees as threats to democracy and the rule of law in Poland.
Business daily Handelsblatt published an editorial titled “A country in a state of emergency,” in which it decried the U.K.’s political divisions, saying they caused Britain to enter the Brexit talks “weakened and unguided.”
‘Read my lips’
Because of the U.K.’s internal wrangling, it’s “easy” for the EU to up the pressure in the talks, it said, next to a cartoon showing Davis and Barnier gnawing on knives under the caption “Read my lips.”
Across the Alps, Brexit failed to make the front pages of Italian newspapers, which were more interested in domestic politics, migrant arrivals from across the Mediterranean, and forest fires along the coast. Only the Turin newspaper La Stampa mentioned Brexit in a short article on an inside page.
French media had the latest news on domestic politics, sports and summer specials on their covers, rather than European concerns. The economic newspaper Les Echos focused on Macron’s plan for local-government reform, while Le Parisien zeroed in on the Tour de France’s highest-placed French rider, Romain Bardet.
Fires near Nice, storms in western France and a car-parts company’s decay featured elsewhere. Le Figaro was the only outlet to have the talks on its cover, albeit as the smallest item, headlined “Brexit: Brussels and London in the thick of it.”
In Spain, El Pais chose to keep the talks off the front page, instead carrying a half-page story in the international-news section on page 4 headlined “Brussels and London confirm their differences over Brexit.” El Mundo devoted a page to Brexit in its “World” section -- after a spread on Venezuela -- under the headline “Tory War.”
In Ireland, the only EU country with a land border with the U.K., Brexit remains in the headlines. “Cautious optimism in EU over progress of Brexit talks” was the lead item on the front page of the Irish Times on Tuesday.
Back in Brussels, at the EU’s heart, the Belgian press was dedicated to a political crisis in the Walloon region. The only paper to reference Brexit was the De Tijd financial daily, and then it was with a report showing how the U.K’s strawberry industry is under threat.
— With assistance by Helene Fouquet, Charles Penty, Nikos Chrysoloras, John Follain, Cormac Mullen, John Martens, and Viktoria Dendrinou