Newspapers across Europe are scrutinising what just happened in the latest Brexit story twist and weighing up likely consequences for the European Union.
“The fog over London’s government district just will not clear,” says Germany’s Tagesspiegel, calling the House of Commons voting last night “nothing less than the biggest political crisis on the island since World War II” and declaring that “those responsible, especially Theresa May, are unable to implement the choice the British made in June 2016”.
“Two months before Brexit, it seems as if she wants to now challenge the EU to a game of chicken : whoever blinks first loses,” the daily says.
Another German publication, Der Spiegel, sees furious lobbying from Spain to put the question of Gibraltar back on the table should the Withdrawal Agreement be reopened.
“If the British now demand further concessions on the Irish question, the Spaniards would probably bring the British overseas territory back into play – as before. And other EU countries could make new demands, such as the fishing rights in British waters.”
Spain’s El Pais says reopening the deal at this stage is a nightmare scenario for Brussels. “The European Union has run into one of the most feared Brexit scenarios at only 60 days before the deadline set for UK’s departure from the EU.”
It puts the EU in a difficult position – exposing itself to a no-deal Brexit or ” accepting a very delicate renegotiation that could open a Pandora’s Box “, the paper says.
In an editorial, The Irish Times warns that the ongoing stalemate between London and Brussels raises the risk of what both want to avoid: ” a damaging no-deal exit “.
“It appeared up to recently that Theresa May accepted the need for the backstop guarantees. Her volte face, ironically, only underlines the need for a legally operable backstop guarantee.”
In France – where President Macron has already delivered a resounding “Non” to any backstop unpicking – Le Figaro says last night’s House of Commons vote was ” a way of throwing the ball back in the Europeans’ court to push them up against the wall , so close to the fatal date of 29 March they give in”.
Over in the Netherlands, De Volkskrant is scathing about the warring factions inside the House of Commons.
“The MPs are unable to agree about much and were making more noise than the proponents and opponents of Brexit who were protesting outside . The Scots do not want a Brexit at all, Labour wants to keep one leg in the EU, the Brexiteers want to go into battle against the EU like Don Quixote, and the Northern Irish unionists want to drag as much money out of London as possible.”
Italy’s Corriere della Sera paints a truly bleak picture. “Brexit is not to be delayed and the spectre of London’s no-deal, catastrophic exit from the EU is getting closer . If no way out is found at this point, Great Britain will fall into the abyss on 29 March.”
Romania’s Evenimentul Zilei refers angrily to what it sees as the knock-on effect for EU citizens living in the UK.
“We are facing the second moment of British political obduracy combined with stubbornnessand the constraints of a minority government that is exported to the entire European Union, British citizens in the EU and Europeans in the UK,” it seethes.