EU papers react with fury to Theresa May’s Brexit speech
Leading the chorus of criticism was Spain’s top newspaper El Pais, which accused the prime minister of embracing a “shameful, xenophobic nationalism,” after years as a shy Europhile in David Cameron’s government.
The end of free movement for EU citizens under a ‘hard Brexit’ was dubbed a “legally impossible, morally perverse and politically unfeasible” requirement in an editorial published Wednesday morning.
“Everything in May’s speech grated,” it added. “The promise of a ‘positive’ agreement is fallacious. It is not positive to spurn European citizens or discriminate against residents. Nor does it make sense to threaten Europeans with whom she will have to negotiate over the next two years.”
El Pais went as far as saying May was lying when she promised an “extremist Brexit” would bring together the nations of the United Kingdom, a position the paper says goes against Scottish and Irish nationalists’ warnings.
In Germany, May was also harshly judged. The front page of Die Welt newspaper showed May over the words “little Britain – Prime Minister Theresa May leads Great Britain into isolation.”
The highly regarded Welt 24 news website, in turn, described the speech as a “little concealed threat.”
In an opinion piece for Focus magazine, economist Michael Heise claims: “Theresa May nourishes a dangerous illusion.”
He said the hope of keeping the British economy growing while outside the Single Market is simply “unrealistic.”
The Spiegel, meanwhile, titled its coverage of the speech as a mock tantrum: “I want, I want, I want.”
Italian La Repubblica also spoke of a “threatening” message to the EU, and a Brexit that is not just hard but “tough.”
Portugal’s Publico sees May as “one of those English – and there were always many, even among the elites – who look at the rest of Europe and see only the differences.”
In her promises of British trade greatness, Portuguese historian Bruno Reis saw only “nostalgia for Empire times.”
Only the French press seemed to be more concerned with US President-elect Donald Trump than with May’s controversial speech, despite disputes between the UK and France currently unfolding over border controls at the Channel Tunnel and at the port of Calais.
Le Monde led with the slightly tongue-in-cheek headline: “Theresa May challenges European ‘friends.’”