13 December 2018

On December 12, Prime Minister Theresa May won a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party  by 200 to 117 votes, and called for the UK Parliament to unite behind her Brexit deal, which should be put to a ‘meaningful vote’ in the House of Commons in January 2019.

In Europe, the main reaction to UK domestic events was that this victory is only a temporary success for the Prime Minister. Most papers note that the main challenge remains to make the necessary changes to the Brexit deal in order to receive a sufficient level of support from MPs in the UK.

Below is an overview of what some of the EU27 media had to say:

France 🇫🇷

An editorial in centre-left daily Le Monde goes with the headline “Why nothing goes as planned,” and notes, “If Brexit was evident, the Commons would have already gone on Christmas recess. But it’s not, because the EU today is largely a creation of London: single market, free trade, enlargement. It serves British interests in a world where the exercise of real sovereignty makes Europeans unite.”

Another article in Le Monde writes May was “comforted after winning the confidence of Conservative MPs.”

Centre-right daily Le Figaro says Theresa May “saved her skin,” but warns that this “relief… does not change the arithmetic of the [Parliament’s] hostility towards the deal.”

Elsewhere, business newspaper Les Echos assesses the European Council Summit, warning that EU leaders’ plans for Eurozone and migration reforms might be “taken hostage” by a Brexit going “increasingly out of control.”


Germany 🇩🇪

German newspaper Die Zeit writes that after “Wednesday’s vote, one thing is clear: no matter what Theresa May achieves, she will not satisfy her critics,” adding, “Perhaps May can see that the only plan that would command a majority in her party is a Norway-style agreement. It would convince the DUP and the Scottish SNP, potentially numerous Labour MPs if the Norway model is an option combined with a EU customs union.”

In the centre-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, an article argues, “May’s victory by 200 to 117 votes in the leadership challenge is a disastrous result given the tight parliamentary majority of the Tories.”

Meanwhile, business paper Handesblatt says, “May won the no confidence vote, but her situation remains unaltered and difficult.” It further explains,

If the [Brexit] deal falls in parliament in January, the scenarios of new elections and a second referendum would return. One thing is certain: Wednesday’s no confidence vote is not the last cliffhanger in the Brexit drama.

Belgium 🇧🇪

Financial daily De Tijd argues, “Theresa May remains, Brexit chaos too,” and says that despite the victory in the confidence vote, neither May’s authority nor the success of her Brexit deal will increase.

Elsewhere, French-language daily Le Soir notes, “Theresa May is saved, but nothing is solved.”


Austria 🇦🇹

For Austrian daily Die Presse, “There is no pragmatic reason for the Tory, Labour and other groups’ willingness to remove May before Brexit is concluded. The only reason is self-righteousness and desire to be in power.” The paper adds,

Theresa May might have made many mistakes. But she wants nothing more than a sensible solution that will not damage the UK and endanger peace in Northern Ireland. Is that a legitimate reason to want to destroy her politically?

Italy 🇮🇹

Corriere Della Sera names December 12 as “the most dramatic in May’s career,” adding, “While it is true that May survived Wednesday’s challenge, it is also true that she came out further weakened, and that her premiership now has an expiration date.”

Il Sole 24 Ore writes that Brexit first “brought Theresa May on the cliff edge, but then saved her.” The article adds that while May was able to overcome yet another challenge, she still has a long path ahead and the “road towards Brexit is full of obstacles.”

Ireland 🇮🇪

In the Irish Times, the focus is on May’s compromise with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The paper states,

May’s commitment to find a solution the DUP can accept could set her on a course that makes a deal with the EU impossible. Or it could simply be the latest in the long trail of broken promises that has littered her premiership from the day she entered Downing Street.

An Irish Independent editorial discusses the Irish backstop issue in Brexit negotiations. It argues, “Because of the constitutional implications for the UK, it was inevitable that there would be strong opposition from across the spectrum of British politics to the backstop,” adding, “Those who came up with the backstop misread British politics and the British, placing a demand on the table that could end up bringing about that which it was designed to prevent.”

Switzerland 🇨🇭

The centre-left Tagesanzeiger writes, “British politics surprises the world every day. The vote on May’s leadership launched by Brexit hardliners opened a new scene of bitter confrontation rather than finally leading to solutions. So deeply is Brexit in Conservatives’ hearts, that Europe’s most successful political force threatens to be shattered to pieces.” It adds, “The fear of moderate Tories against a leadership vacuum and May’s promise to give the lead before the next election helped her through this vote of no confidence. However, it was not a good result for her.”

Spain 🇪🇸

Centre-left national daily El Pais notes that May “did her job and has no responsibility for the construction of the Brexit problem. Nothing can undo the problem: a second referendum would open more questions than it resolves.” The paper adds, “Brexit is bad in and of itself, but the referendum was worse and that is why having a second one is bad. The current failure should demonstrate how toxic this formula is to resolve particularly divisive problems.”

Another El Pais article suggests that “May’s postponement of the vote on the deal shows that her vulnerability is substantive, despite winning the motion of no confidence.” It adds that although “cosmetic and reassuring clarifications can be made to the Withdrawal Agreement” in upcoming meeetings,” new legal obligations will not be added.

Greece 🇬🇷

“The British have made the same mistakes as the Greeks, but they lack flexibility,” notes Greek newspaper Kathimerini. It also writes, “Flexibility and improvisation is part of the Greek routine, but the greater predictability and strong British institutions have made the British unable to cope with instability. The British drama speaks to the systematic failure of the West.”