18 January 2017

There has been a flurry of commentary following Theresa May’s long-awaited Brexit speech at Lancaster House. Here is a selection of reactions from across the EU.

EU institutions

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council:

Michel Barnier, EU Lead Brexit Negotiator:

Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta, which holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, via EU Observer:

[I] did not see in the prime minister’s words, when I heard her first-hand, [as] the sort of declaration of war that some media are depicting it was.

Guy Verhofstadt, European Parliament Negotiator on Brexit:


Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister:

Volker Treier, head of German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) trade division, via Reuters:

There now will be less investment from German companies in Britain.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, via the Financial Times:

She proceeded with remarkable skill. Almost unnoticed, she accustomed the British to a total farewell of Brussels. Whether this is sufficient to lead the country into the uncertain post-Brexit era without social upheavals and without political setbacks will be assessed later.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, via the Financial Times:

It’s sad to see that, for the Brits, the EU per se has no political value any more. So trade figures, tariffs, customs duties will have to determine the right balance between sovereignty and connectedness to the EU…. That’s neither malicious nor vengeful; it’s simply a precondition for self-preservation. Whoever leaves the club must feel the disadvantages — otherwise there’s no hope for the attractiveness of the EU.

Die Welt’s frontpage:


Le Monde:

On the most important point concerning customs barriers to UK exports to the EU, Mrs May seems to want to have her cake and eat it.

Le Figaro, via Eurotopics:

In implementing a strategy of rupture and in showing that she can carry it through, Theresa May is in fact demonstrating the powerlessness of the EU… By failing to dissuade one of its main member states from leaving it, the EU has suffered its biggest – and perhaps definitive – failure.

Florian Philippot, Vice President of the Front National, via Twitter:

Bravo Theresa May, who respects her people with a loud and clear Brexit. French independence soon!


Enda Kenny, Irish Taoiseach, via The Irish Times:

The fact that this may not be concluded [within the Article 50 timeline means] there will have to be a process of transition.

The Irish Government, via the Press Association:

Very aware of the potential economic opportunities that may arise for Ireland… The alignment between our concerns regarding the economy and trade and the UK objective of the UK to have a close, and friction-free, economic and trading relationship with the EU, including with Ireland is also very important.


Konrad Szymański, Poland’s Europe Minister via Jakub Krupa and Radio Zet:


Norway’s Aftenposten via BBC News:

A clear rejection of a Norwegian-type involvement in the [EU] internal market.


La Repubblica:

“Brexit: London raises its wall – Out of the EU and the common market.

Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, via ANSA:

The United Kingdom is set to leave the Union but not Europe, there are European forums that must make us stay united on security matters.


Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister via HLN:

I prefer a loyal and intelligent Brexit which focuses on the expectations of citizens… The UK is the fourth biggest customer of Belgium and its sixth biggest supplier. We should avoid uncertainty at all cost.


Bert Koenders, Dutch Foreign Minister, via Elsevier:

It’s good that PM May has provided the first design of Brexit and that the UK wants a good and constructive relationship with the EU. We share this desire.


El País:

[Theresa] May has moved from expressing a weak and shame-faced europeanism…to shameful xenophobic nationalism.

Czech Republic

Tomas Prouza, Czech State Secretary for European Affairs:


Petteri Orpo, Finnish finance Minister:


Magdalena Andersson, Swedish Minister for Finance, via Sveriges Radio:

‘Hard Brexit’ could have a negative impact on the Swedish economy, and turning the UK into a tax haven is “against the Brits’ own interests… This risks negatively impacting opportunities to trade.