Brexit Britain from Abroad: One Year On, the World Laughs at Deluded UK

Hinting at a Breturn

In an interview with Die Welt newspaper, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel offered what was essentially an invitation for the UK to change its mind.

"It would naturally be best if Britain didn't leave at all," Gabriel said. "It doesn't look like that at the moment, but we want to keep the door open for the British.

Those sentiments were echoed in an interview with the same publication by Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator. But he also hinted that even should there be a British change of heart, there would be no return to the current status quo.

"The path is open for the British to change their minds and become part of the European Union again," Verhofstadt told Welt. "But they'll find a different EU than the one they left, an EU with no special wishes, concessions and unnecessary complexity, but with more powers for Europe."

Deutsche Welle

Brexit Meets Reality

As Brexit negotiations finally get underway, there's quite a bit of confusion. Despite British PM Theresa May's insistence that "Brexit means Brexit," for many it isn't clear at all what it actually means. Nevertheless, reality is imposing itself here, as it becomes apparent that there aren't very many ways to implement Brexit.

Apart from the so-called "cliff-edge" Brexit scenario -- where there's no deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom on legal arrangements in place when Britain automatically exits the EU on March 30th, 2019 (which would risk trade happening on the World Trade Organization's terms, including tariffs) -- there really only seems to be one version of Brexit that the UK government can realistically pursue. And that's a carefully negotiated exit, with the UK ultimately leaving the customs union and the single market.

As the debate rages on, all suggestions to "moderate" this kind of Brexit are being revealed as undesirable and unrealistic on closer inspection.

Pierre Cleppe, CNN

A Laughing Stock

Already prices are rising in the shops, already inflation is on the up. Investors are holding back. Economic growth has slowed. And that’s before the Brexit negotiations have even begun. With her unnecessary general election, Prime Minister Theresa May has already squandered an eighth of the time available for them. How on earth an undertaking as complex as Brexit is supposed to be agreed in the time remaining is a mystery.

Great Britain will end up leaving its most important trading partner and will be left weaker in every respect. It would make economic sense to stay in the single market and the customs union, but that would mean being subject to regulations over which Britain no longer had any say. It would be better to have stayed in the EU in the first place. So the government now needs to develop a plan that is both politically acceptable and brings the fewest possible economic disadvantages. It’s a question of damage limitation, nothing more; yet even now there are still politicians strutting around Westminster smugly trumpeting that it will be the EU that comes off worst if it doesn’t toe the line.

The EU is going to be dealing with a government that has no idea what kind of Brexit it wants, led by an unrealistic politician whose days are numbered; and a party in which old trenches are being opened up again: moderate Tories are currently hoping to be able to bring about a softer exit after all, but the hardliners in the party – among them more than a few pigheadedly obstinate ideologues – are already threatening rebellion. An epic battle lies ahead, and it will paralyse the government.

Christian Zaschke, Sueddeutsche Zeitung

Negotiations With No End In Sight

The EU seems to be ahead regarding the process so far. Despite the UK’s insistence to start negotiations on all issues in parallel, the negotiators will now initially focus on the UK’s exit bill, the rights of EU citizens in Britain and those of UK residents in the EU. The tricky situation of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be addressed separately by the two deputy chief negotiators. Only then will the future economic relationship between the UK and the EU be discussed.

Disentangling Britain from the EU will be far more complex given that the country’s trade in goods and services is completely integrated with the European bloc. It will have huge ramifications for automotive and other manufacturing industries, which are integral parts of the EU supply chain and vice versa. The City of London fears for its right to clear euro-denominated transactions. Thousands of employees in the financial industry will potentially have to be relocated to financial centers in the EU. Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin and Luxembourg have great expectations of expanding their reach. Big institutions such as Deutsche Bank have a big headache, because they need a clear time horizon in which to decide if they need to move people and systems — something that cannot happen overnight.

Meanwhile, “Remainers” and “Leavers” are locked in verbal battles within the UK, while the EU negotiators have not seen a clear road map from the UK government.

Unless the two sides start talking to each other rather than declaring their own visions unilaterally, the negotiations are a train-wreck waiting to happen.

Cornelia Meyer, Arab News

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