Europe

European media see few options in 'Brexit poker'

European newspapers
Image caption Some European papers see more momentum towards a second referendum

European media have described the postponement of the Brexit vote in Westminster variously as Theresa May's "circus trick" or "Brexit poker".

Although the UK prime minister may have averted a government crisis, most commentators now think a second referendum is becoming an increasingly likely option.

'Circus trick'

There was "outrage, jokes and scorn in Parliament" as Theresa May cancelled the Brexit vote, Der Spiegel says, in what it describes as a "circus trick". The news weekly is sure that the EU "remains uncompromising - it does not want to renegotiate".

Image copyright Bild
Image caption Germany's Bild: "Merkel hosts May at crisis meeting"

The Bild tabloid turns to Mrs May's dash to Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeing it as the "latest round in the opaque game of Brexit poker".

The centre-right daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is no more impressed with the "chaos around Britain's exit", dubbing the vote postponement as inevitable given that the government was facing "sure defeat".

Image copyright Sueddeutsche Zeitung
Image caption Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung: 'PM applies the emergency brakes'

The centre-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung says her "emergency stop" will have gained Mrs May little room for manoeuvre, and the centre-right Die Welt sees her remaining options as "all-out confrontation" with her own Conservative Party or a second referendum to choose "my deal, no deal, or no Brexit".

'Written by the Marx Brothers'

The Brexit story gets top billing in the Irish press, with the Irish Independent saying the failed vote on the deal "smacks of desperation".

The paper sees Mrs May's trip to Europe as a "forlorn final bet... as delaying things further in the hope of some 11th-hour concession from the EU is simply delusional after 18 months of negotiations".

Like many European papers, the Irish Independent says the choice now boils down to another referendum or a general election - "Brexit needs to be resolved".

The Irish Times' Harry McGee says the backstop arrangement for the Irish border means there will be "no forward motion for Theresa May" on her European tour, after the "shambles" of the vote postponement.

Image copyright The Irish Times
Image caption The Irish Times foresees a 'surreal' future

His colleague Fintan O'Toole mocks the whole Brexit process as looking like it was "written by the Marx Brothers", and might leave Britain facing the prospect of being "an equal to mighty Liechtenstein" in the European Free Trade Association - not to mention the "surreal" prospect of giving the tiny principality a "say on what happens with the Irish border".

'Symbolic gesture'

"France is preparing for various Brexit scenarios," says the French centre-left daily Le Monde, reminding readers that it is not only Britain that faces uncertainty over the stalled deal.

Its correspondent Philippe Bernard sees an "increased risk of a hard Brexit" and a "largely gloomy future for Theresa May, who has revealed her weakness."

The France Inter public broadcaster, on the other hand, sees "momentum building for a second referendum if deadlock continues".

Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption France's Le Figaro says Mrs May seeks further EU talks

Anne Rovan, the Brussels correspondent of France's centre-right Le Figaro, says the "weary" European Commission could be prepared to make a "symbolic gesture" to help Mrs May, but everything still comes down to the "famous Irish border backstop".

'Social anger'

In Italy's liberal La Stampa, Michele Valensise also likens Brexit to a poker game, and reminds readers that, with all the drama in London, "it is easy to forget about the other contracting party, the 27 EU countries, whose patience has its limits."

He warns that it would be a "fatal error to have any illusions about the EU's readiness to re-launch talks".

Image copyright La Repubblica
Image caption Italy's Repubblica says Mrs May is 'back for talks with Brussels'

Antonello Guerrera in La Repubblica thinks what Theresa May is looking for in Europe is "one line to emphasise that the backstop will be temporary", even though "this is the one point on which the EU has never budged an inch".

He too sees a hard Brexit or second referendum as the only options, but fears that the latter "could trigger social anger in a UK where chaos already appears endless".

Image copyright De Telegraaf
Image caption Dutch daily De Telegraaf: 'Give the British people a chance to turn back Brexit'

The liberal Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen openly calls for a second referendum in the centre-right De Telegraaf daily, specifying that "reversing Brexit should be the focus".

"The future relationship between the EU and the UK is too important to leave to a generation of politicians who have placed their personal and party interests above the national interest," he writes.

'Disastrous elections'

Jos de Greef of Belgium's VRT public broadcaster thinks party politics will prevail.

He says Mrs May "appears to have tied her fate to an orderly Brexit with an agreement", and expects her to quit in the event of failure and let a "real Brexiteer" crash Britain out of the EU - in order to "avoid early, and possibly disastrous elections".

Some commentators wonder which European politicians might be able to help Mrs May out.

Image copyright Evenimentul Zilei
Image caption Romania's Evenimentul Zilei sees Chancellor Merkel as the 'ace up Theresa May's sleeve'

Cristian Tănase in Romania's Evenimentul Zilei tabloid sees Chancellor Merkel as the "ace up Theresa May's sleeve" in terms of seeking concessions, while Poland's media highlight comments by Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, one of the few public voices urging the EU to adopt a "degree of flexibility in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit - the worst-case scenario".

He told reporters this would affect the million or so Poles "who work and live in Britain," Radio Poland says.

Lars Geerts, the political correspondent of the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, says that persuading Prime Minister Mark Rutte to offer concessions would "prompt others to follow", but in practice holds out little hope of this.

"Rutte doesn't have much more to offer May than a cup of tea and a croissant," as last week he said that Britain "will really not get anything better" than the current deal.

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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