Boris Johnson’s surprisingly strong victory in Britain’s election dominated the home pages of European media outlets on Friday, with most welcoming the end of months of political gridlock while warning there was no automatic clarity on Brexit.
While Britain’s vote results dropped after most print edition deadlines, news websites focused on the daunting prospect of negotiating Britain’s exit from the bloc on January 31 and then a new trade deal.
“Johnson triumphs, but at what price?” asked Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Evoking the prospect of a chaotic final stretch to Brexit, it said that “for the United Kingdom, this new era is likely to be much less promising than announced by the pro-leave propagandists.”
The newspaper added: “In a world of fierce geopolitical competition between great powers, isolated actions don’t always pay dividends.”
The Berlin daily Tagespiegel said Johnson must now decide what kind of country Britain wants to be in the long term.
“If he listens to the radical elements of his party, he risks decoupling completely from the continent and turning his country into a tax haven — many Tories dream of a ‘Singapore on the Thames’,” it said.
“The actual wrangling with the EU is only just beginning,” stated Finland’s Ilta-Sanomat, forecasting that “now the mess begins.”
In the Netherlands, De Volkskrant acknowledged the British vote is a “huge relief” for Johnson while also raising a new challenge of “how to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom” even as he negotiates Brexit.
“The real work starts now,” it said.
For France’s Le Monde, the prospect of revived Scottish separatist impulses, and even calls to reunite the island of Ireland now that it will be isolated from the rest of Britain, “risks making Boris Johnson, the Brexit prime minister, also the one of a divided kingdom.”
But Le Monde also called the vote a failure for the EU: “This time, Europe has truly lost the United Kingdom.”
“It’s now up to Europeans to make the right choice: maintain a maximum of ties with its neighbours,” it said.
Jean Quatremer, a veteran Brussels correspondent for France’s Liberation, said Johnson’s victory held another important lesson for Europe.
“Finally we will no longer hear certain European officials or Eurocrats in Brussels sagely claim that Brexit won’t happen, that the British are ‘pragmatic’ and we’ll all still be able to keep speaking English. For that, thank you @BorisJohnson,” he wrote on Twitter.
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