Business

UK media say Brexit is becoming a catastrophe

Posted November 12, 2018 9:26 a.m. EST

— "Deadlocked," "Titanic," "Failing," and "Life support." If you believe the British media, the United Kingdom is heading for a Brexit catastrophe.

Rising political tensions around what seems like the impossible task of negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union were displayed in dramatic fashion in the British media over the weekend and on Monday.

Prime Minister Theresa May has been scrambling to clinch a deal by the end of this month. But she's facing fierce political headwinds at home and in the European Union.

Most of the media scorn was directed at May, who faces an open call for her cabinet to rise up in mutiny and EU rejection of her latest attempt to break the deadlock in the divorce talks.

Metaphors were all the rage with the Sun, which has been in favor of Brexit. One piece by its political editor likened May to the captain of the Titanic. It cited a cabinet insider describing May as "a ship's captain who can see an iceberg ahead but won't change course, even when members of the crew leap overboard."

Meanwhile, Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh called her a pilot who has "locked the cabin door" and is sending everyone down together.

Boris Johnson: 'Stage a mutiny'

The Daily Telegraph, which also pushed for Brexit during the 2016 referendum, led its Monday print edition with former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson calling on the Cabinet to "stage a mutiny."

May, he claimed, was "on the verge of surrender" to the European Union. Sunday's edition of the newsaper wasn't much more favorable to May, with members of parliament quoted as saying they would "block May's Brexit plan" even if she can convince her cabinet to back it.

Much of the focus this weekend was on Jo Johnson, Boris' brother and an opponent of Brexit, who quit as a government minister over May's plans on Friday and called Britain to hold a second referendum.

Two publications on opposite sides of the Brexit debate, the Observer and the Daily Express, quoted Johnson as saying the United Kingdom faces "vassalage or chaos" under May's plan, and that she is "handing power to the EU."

Theresa May has '48 hours'

The Daily Mail, which had been known as a staunch supporter of Brexit until a slight softening in its line following a recent change in editors, declared that May had "48 hours" in the "divorce battle" to save the "failing Brexit talks."

Otherwise she would have to start preparing the country to crash out of the European Union without a deal.

One of the papers considered more balanced in its Brexit coverage, the Sunday Times, was similarly gloomy. It said May's Brexit deal was crashing as Europe "turns off life support" and that four of her anti-Brexit ministers were on the "verge of quitting."

The anti-Brexit Guardian called May's plan "under siege" from her own party, and it quoted Labour Party members who said a second referendum could happen.

Labour's Brexit policy, agreed at their party conference in September, is for all options to remain on the table, including a second referendum. Yet last week, party leader Jeremy Corbyn gave an interview to Der Spiegel declaring that Brexit could not be stopped.

The more measured Financial Times said Brussels and euroskeptics in May's Conservative party were turning "up the heat" and that her government was facing a "fresh political headache."

The government tried to downplay talk of chaos on Monday. A spokesperson for May said there was nothing to suggest that other cabinet ministers were considering resigning from their positions over May's Brexit plans.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told European government ministers Monday that intense negotiations were continuing but no deal had been reached yet.