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EUROPE

‘Three weeks to find a miracle’: Europe reacts to yet more Brexit chaos

From Madrid to Rome, via Berlin, Amsterdam and Prague, the headlines across Europe summed up the feeling of despair with the Brexit process with Le Monde calling it a "Shakespearean tragedy".

'Three weeks to find a miracle': Europe reacts to yet more Brexit chaos
File photo: Stephane De Sakutin/AFP.

As the EU Council granted the British government a three week respite to get the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement approved by British MPs, headlines in EU news sites did not stack their odds on this happening.

“Theresa May's last chance: She has just under three weeks to find herself a miracle,” wrote Antonello Guerrera in a commentary piece in Rome-based daily Repubblica. 

French daily Le Monde wrote that Brexit was causing “a regime crisis” in the UK. The Paris-based daily compared the Brexit saga to a “Shakespearean tragedy.” Le Figaro daily called the EU's Brexit extension, which comes with the caveat that the UK must approve the Withdrawal Agreement, “a formidable trap” set by the EU27. 

Le Monde did however find time to pay tribute to the way the British were reacting to the crisis – with the self-deprecating humour they are known for.

“Confronted with an absurd political spectacle, they cling to their local specialty, black humour,” wrote Le Monde.

German media were equally drama-orientated. “The EU takes directorial control in Brexit drama,” was the headline in German online news site Spiegel Online. Munich-based daily Süddeutshce Zeitung ran with a more a conciliatory tone with its headline “Brexit chaos initially averted.”

'History will judge'

The daily noted new optimism from key EU figures that the deal could still be approved by the UK parliament: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it “was an intense but successful evening”;  EU Council President Tusk said he “optimistic” and Eu Commission President Juncker was cited as “hopeful” that the deal could still pass through the House of Commons, according to the daily. 

The general consensus in the German media was that the brief extension to Article 50 granted by the EU would only defer any Brexit chaos. “The EU gives Britain a reprieve and thus defuses the Brexit crisis – for the time being,” commented German news portal Handelsblatt. 

The view from Spain wasn't dissimilar. Spanish daily El Pais ran with the view of the Iberian country's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. “We are at a critical moment in the construction of Europe. History will judge what will happen in the coming weeks,” PM Sanchez told the Madrid-based daily. 

El Pais also noted that whatever mess comes, there will be enough toilet paper in the UK to clean up, reporting that German firm WEPA – a key supplier to the UK market – has stockpiled 600 tonnes of toilet paper at its UK warehouses in preparation for a no-deal. 

'A storm is coming'

“The prime minister has invested almost all her political prestige in guaranteeing the outcome of the referendum, and sail Brexit into harbour. The problem is that the British ship is not in port, but in the middle of the sea. And there's a storm coming,” wrote Erik de la Reguera in an analysis piece in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. 

READ ALSO: Sweden fast-tracks citizenship applications from Brits

“The future of Brexit lies in the hands of 10 Northern Irish people,” wrote Spanish-daily El Confidencial in an analysis piece, focusing on how Theresa May will need DUP votes to approve the deal at a third time of asking. 

“Think of the future of your country. Approve this deal,” said the Czech Republic's billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis, addressing British MPs, according to a report in Czech broadsheet Hospodarske Noviny. 

“EU gives the British two extra weeks to get out of Brexit chaos,” wrote Dutch financial news site Het Financieelle Dagblad. 

READ ALSO: Cancel Brexit petition passes TWO MILLION signatures

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BREXIT

‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK. 

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