Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: The EU is in the grip of chaos

What the papers say: The EU is in the grip of chaos
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Donald Tusk’s jibe that Britain was no longer attempting to have its cake and eat it in Brexit talks was a clear dig at the Foreign Secretary. But now the EU is guilty of adopting the same approach, according to the Sun. Michel Barnier said yesterday that ‘he wants all his demands met’ on various issues, and also ‘wants a monstrous exit bung from Britain’. Theresa May has reportedly received the backing of her Cabinet to up this payment to £40bn. Yet this ‘won’t nearly suffice’ for the EU, says the Sun. And even if Brussels does agree, what will we get in return? ‘A trade deal which would still shackle us forever to Brussels’ rules,’ the paper says, as it urges in its editorial for the government to resist caving in to Brussels’ demands. For all the talk of Britain being in a weak position, ‘it’s the EU that’s in the grip of chaos’, argues the paper.

The Daily Telegraph agrees. ‘European politicians who took delight in Theresa May’s difficulties’ earlier this summer after her snap election disaster are having to eat their words following the collapse of coalition talks in Germany. Where once Angela Merkel looked all powerful, her failure to ‘cobble together a coalition’ shows clearly that her 'power is waning’. Britain had hoped Merkel could be the key to finding a way through Brexit talks and, in doing so, ‘help engineer the mutually beneficial agreement that the EU’s political leaders must see is in their interests’. Now, that looks less likely: ‘It now looks like she will be preoccupied elsewhere, if she survives at all’.

Germany’s ‘unpredictable…political scene’ makes it obvious the EU is going to ‘struggle’ to deal with other issues, according to the Guardian. Emmanuel Macron’s dream of a ’strong Franco-German “engine”’ no longer looks certain; and this ‘uncertainty will divert attention’ away from Brexit, too, says the Guardian. The impact of Merkel’s declining power could also have even wider ramifications. The German chancellor has been the key to ‘finding solutions – whether with Turkey on migration or on Russia sanctions over Ukraine’. With Merkel, and the Germans distracted, solving these issues could become even harder, concludes the paper.

The Times makes much the same point. Angela Merkel’s ‘days are numbered’, and this is ’bad news for Europe’. Merkel’s departure would leave Macron ‘flapping in the wind’, and ‘uncertainty’ in Germany also ‘hampers Britain, Spain and Italy’.

While the FT says the decline in Merkel’s power shows that those in the British government ‘who hoped — probably unrealistically — that Ms Merkel would help to bang European heads together to secure a compromise Brexit deal’, must opt for a rethink. Germany’s political crisis will inevitably be a ‘cause for anxiety’ for those trying to thrash out a Brexit deal. One possible answer to Germany’s political problems is a new election early in the year, with the hope that this would finally deliver a decisive result. But Merkel should be careful with this option: a new election ‘might not change the results’ enough. Her least worst option is to kick-start coalition talks now, concludes the FT.