Tom Goodenough

How the world’s papers reacted to May’s Brexit vote defeat

How the world's papers reacted to May's Brexit vote defeat
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Theresa May appears as a dodo on the front page of today's Sun. Unfortunately for the beleaguered Prime Minister, the verdict isn't much better in the foreign press. Last night's disastrous night in the Commons makes the front pages of newspapers around the world.

The New York Times describes the Prime Minister’s defeat as ‘bruising’ and the paper says last night’s result ‘underscores how comprehensively Mrs. May has failed to hold consensus behind any single vision of how to exit the European Union’. For the Times, the PM largely has herself to blame for making history by notching up the largest defeat for a government in modern British political history: ‘her failure to convey any convincing vision of Britain’s future outside the European Union has allowed painful divisions in the country to deepen’.

May’s disastrous night also makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal, which says the scale of the defeat ‘raises new uncertainty ahead of Britain’s EU exit date’. The WSJ says that despite May’s desperate attempts to win support for her deal in the last few weeks, these efforts came ‘too little, too late’. The paper summaries the conundrum facing the Tories and the government, concluding that 'any renegotiated deal is unlikely to pass Parliament…unless the changes are legally binding, a step EU governments have been reluctant to concede’.

Unsurprisingly, the Brexit vote makes the front pages of many of the European papers. Le Figaro leads with a picture of Theresa May standing at the despatch box last night. It says that the ‘severe defeat…plunges Brexit into the unknown’:

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine says that when the withdrawal agreement was wrapped up, Michel Barnier’s work appeared to be done. Not now, the paper says, describing how the EU’s chief negotiator spoke for many MEPs when he said yesterday that May’s Brexit plan ‘was the "best compromise" possible’. ‘The ball is therefore now in the field of the British’, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine which runs its coverage under the headline: ‘London calling?’

But while the paper’s coverage is hardly positive for the PM, it is marginally better than the paper’s city rival, the Frankfurter Rundschau. It leads with a picture of a British icon. Unfortunately for the PM, it's a picture of Mr Bean. The German broadsheet also borrows from another famous British figure in its summary of events in the Commons, quoting from Shakespeare's Hamlet in its headline: ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.’

Spain’s El Pais dedicates much of its front page to events in the Commons. The paper says that despite the best efforts of one of the government’s leading lights – the attorney general Geoffrey Cox – it all amounted to little for the PM. ‘Parliament wanted to put an end to this agony and to enter the next phase of this long process’, says El Pais. But the paper says that May is not the only one in difficulty: the Labour leader 'has received a poisoned gift from Parliament': deciding what to do next.