Europe papers see Brexit uncertainty bleed into December vote

By BBC Monitoring
The world through its media

  • Published
Headlines from European newspapers
Image caption,
Brexit uncertainty and absurdity carries on, with Czech newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes featuring Mr Bean

Boris Johnson's Halloween deadline for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) is passing. But the latest deferment of a Brexit decision is being regarded with no less dread by commentators around Europe.

Few think the outcome of the upcoming winter general election can be predicted and several say Mr Johnson should not take victory for granted.

The long Brexit has certainly taken a toll on the image of the UK in Europe.

Some of the most expressive comments on it over the past year have cast it as farce and tragi-comedy. But the humour and mockery are also accompanied by utterances of fatigue and exasperation.

Continuing nightmare?

"Nothing is off the table in this profoundly divided country that is tired of Brexit," says France's Le Monde. "The nightmare would be if, on 13 December, the British woke up with a new 'hung parliament'."

Image source, Gazeta Wyborcza
Image caption,
Unpredictability is becoming the only certainty, says this Polish newspaper

"[Mr] Johnson's Conservatives are well ahead of the Labour party. But unlike Labour, the Tories have no chance of being supported by another party as a minority government," notes the German magazine Spiegel.

"Unpredictability is becoming the only stable characteristic of British politics," says Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza.

Image caption,
The "Brexit crisis ... remains stagnant" says this Spanish daily

Election with 'only one question'

"In reality, it will be a referendum with only one question: if and how to leave the EU," says Italy's Il Giornale.

"The UK will go to polls to unblock Brexit," Spain's El Confidencial agrees, adding: "Boris Johnson has reached his goal on the fourth try."

But while several commentators believe Mr Johnson has an advantageous position in the polls, a few also think he has taken quite a gamble.

Hungary's financial daily Napi wonders if he has "put his head under the guillotine". "A hazardous game of chance has started," says a headline.

And the consequences are not just in terms of policy or trade, some point out.

"Boris Johnson bets on confrontation and thereby takes the ultimate risk," says Die Welt in Germany: "It will get dirty."

A Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commentary agrees. "Brexit has torn open political-cultural divides that cannot easily be patched with money or good words," it says.

'Flying Brexit circus'

Over the last year the abiding view of Brexit from commentators has been one of a grotesque situation.

There have been frequent references to well-known exemplars of absurd British humour - from Mr Bean to Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Mentions of circuses in general were abundant in early 2018 as then-Prime Minister Theresa May struggled to push her deal through Parliament and was eventually forced to request a first extension to Brexit.

Image source, Suddeutsche Zeitung
Image caption,
Mrs May "took her brutal defeat stoically", Süddeutsche Zeitung said in January, after her deal was voted down in parliament

They have also applied to characterisations of Mr Johnson. "Boris may be a cynical clown, but it did not take him long to show that something has changed when he is at the helm," Italy's La Repubblica said earlier this month.

Image caption,
The funny man of Europe? Italy's Corriere della Sera describes Brexit as a "circus that humiliates London"

As negotiations have run on, papers have also referred to Brexit as a tedious melodrama, with comparisons to a Shakespearean tragedy and a never-ending soap opera.

Some have been less genteel. "British management of Brexit is both a Shakespearean tragedy and and industrial accident," said one commentator in Le Monde in March.

Slovak daily Hospodarske Noviny last December said, more starkly: "Brexit is like herpes. Just because there are no blisters does not mean the disease has gone away."

Image caption,
"Brexit is as stubborn as herpes," says this Slovak daily

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.