The House of Commons has once again succeeded in offering up “a quite extraordinary spectacle of disorder, indecision and division”, said France’s Libération, as European media struggled to do justice to Westminster’s Brexit chaos.
There were “tears, a resignation, insults” and even “bare bottoms glued to glass”, the paper said, when – after a long debate interrupted by naked climate protesters – MPs “once more rejected all available options for a way out of the impasse”.
Le Monde was even more apocalyptic. “The wholesale slaughter of Brexit continues,” the paper said. Parliament, having dreamed of succeeding where Theresa May had failed, “displayed its disunity, its impotence, even its irresponsibility”.
So what next? “In this devastated landscape,” the paper said, “the prime minister’s options are limited and all – excepting a miraculous fourth-round vote in favour of her deal – present mortal dangers for her government, herself or for the country”.
Should May be tempted by a no-deal Brexit, “an economic catastrophe but the goal of her more extremist ministers, the moderates in the government would resign, exposing her to a vote of confidence and the country to general elections”, it said.
“Should, on the other hand, she try to find a compromise around a ‘soft Brexit’ that would leave Britain in closer proximity to the EU, the pro-Brexit hardliners in her team will walk out, with comparable consequences.”
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the idea that the prime minister’s thrice-defeated deal could go to a fourth vote had “a certain grotesque quality, but it shows how great Britain’s current helplessness is. This game, somewhere between paralysis and a political nervous breakdown, cannot go on for ever.”
At the moment, the paper said, “the divisions in the UK, among both voters and politicians, are so great that the country is digging itself further and further into a hole, making a mockery of itself to half the world. Brexit has torn the country in two, or at the very least laid bare its turmoil.”
Die Zeit said time was “seriously starting to run out for an orderly Brexit”. There was “currently little indication that a new vote on the prime minister’s exit deal would succeed”. In addition, the paper reminded its readers, “a fourth vote will depend on whether the Speaker, John Bercow, permits it”.
In the Netherlands, De Volkskrant said the “jubilation in the lower house when it took control of the Brexit agenda was as great as the despair when it emerged there was, once more, no majority for an alternative Brexit”.
The time had come, the paper said, for May “to pin her colours to the mast and lay her poor hand on the table. If she opts for no deal, she loses her pro-Europeans and the government collapses; ditto with a soft Brexit, except it would be the hardliners who go. Or she could dodge the choice and call new elections.”
Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter said that realistically, the prime minister’s options had now narrowed to two: “Gamble everything on yet another parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, or on new elections”, while El País in Spain saidparliament had again shown it was “far easier to defeat Theresa May’s Brexit plan than to find an alternative”.
It saw the likeliest options as reduced to “a request to the EU for a longer extension, of up to one year, to allow Britain to calmly seek a solution, or letting the deadlines pass and sending the country, next April 12, to a disorderly Brexit”.
Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza said that “despite Monday’s fiasco, the parliamentary process has not yet been completely exhausted. On Wednesday, there will be a ‘final phase’ of votes by MPs. Who knows, perhaps that will provide an answer.”