16/01/2019 7:31 PM IST | Updated 16/01/2019 7:33 PM IST

How Europe Reacted To Theresa May's Brexit Deal Vote Defeat

The question on most of the continent's front pages was: "what's next?"

It might be comforting to imagine that only Britain is paying attention to the Brexit chaos right now, cocooned in our own mess.

But in fact, its epic confusion and uncertainty is very visible to the rest of the world, including its soon-to-be ex-EU partners, and on Wednesday international front pages were covered with the latest Brexit news. 

After Theresa May suffered a crushing and historic defeat of her Brexit deal, and with the government now facing a no confidence vote, declarations of defeat took centre stage across Europe, with many asking: what next? 

Here’s what the continent had to say


German chancellor Angela Merkel is optimistic that we “still have time to negotiate” – but added that the ball is in the PM’s court.

Der Spiegel echoes Merkel’s hopefulness: 

Der Spiegel

While Der Taggespiegel summarised events as “Britain faces Brexit chaos”. 

Der Taggespiegel

A dispatch from HuffPost Germany’s Leonhard Landes...

“To sum up the mood here in Germany: The rejection of May’s Brexit deal was expected, but people in Germany were still shocked by the result of the vote. Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on Twitter: ‘This is a bitter day for Europe’.

“Everyone keeps wondering how the United Kingdom could possibly break the deadlock Theresa May has steered parliament into. Calls for a second referendum are getting louder as the chance of No Deal is rising.”


Newspaper Le Figaro reflects: “After May’s severe defeat in Parliament, Brexit dives into the unknown”.

Meanwhile, Le Monde is running a live Q&A on Brexit as it asks: “What happens next?”

Le Monde

From France, Le HuffPost’s Geoffroy Clavel paints the mood: “France’s message to the UK: ‘Do what you want but hurry up’.”

“Usually cautious when it comes to commenting on Brexit, the French government has openly expressed its impatience after Westminster’s rejection of the European Agreement, ruling out new negotiations and saying it is now only up to the British political class to get out of this quagmire.

“New vote in Parliament, new referendum? ‘It’s not up to us to tell the British what to do, what we can tell them is ‘hurry up!’ because March 29th is tomorrow,’ warned the European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau on Wednesday.”


Spain’s ABC lead on “Prisoners of Brexit”, pointing to a divided country and little time to come up with an alternative deal.


While national title El PaÍs announced: “May’s crushing defeat sharpened the Brexit crisis”. 

El País

The newspaper described an alarming situation. “Uncertainty, bitterness, resentment”, read one of its editorials, predicting how Theresa May can still suffer new losses as the paper’s Lluís Bassets declared “more defeats can still arrive”.

HuffPost Spain’s Laura Riestra said: “Spain is one of the EU countries that has the closest ties with the UK, so the way MPs have rejected the PM’s Brexit deal is in every front page.

“All of them focus on the historic margin of the rejection, while looking ahead to the no-confidence vote.”

The Netherlands

Theresa May’s face features prominently on The Netherlands’ AD, above the caption “Defeated”. 


While the Dutch News website takes a local angle, with the country’s foreign minister dashing hopes that the EU will be flexible on tweaking the deal. 

Dutch News

The European Council

Pointing to the elephant in the room, Donald Tusk subtly suggests we should cancel Brexit altogether:

A spokesman for the European Council president added that the remaining EU leaders will be prepared for a disorderly Brexit as the risk has “increased”.

“We regret the outcome of the vote, and urge the UK Government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible.

“The EU27 will remain united and responsible as we have been throughout the entire process and will seek to reduce the damage caused by Brexit.

“We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario. The risk of a disorderly exit has increased with this vote and, while we do not want this to happen, we will be prepared for it.


Belgium’s De Standaard simply asks: “What now, Britain?” 

De Standaard

Key figures in Europe

Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier chimed in, saying it’s time for the UK to decide the next steps, although asked whether he trusted Theresa May, well:

Guy Verhofstadt & Antonio Tajani

While Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani both stressed the importance of securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK, as well as Britons living in the EU.


In Greece, HuffPost’s Galatia Vourvouli writes: “It’s now official: British MPs want an EU divorce on their own terms - and who could blame them for that? They want it all and they want it now. A divorce, however, is rarely a simple affair. Especially if it involves a former empire, used in shaping everything on its own terms.

“Leaving the European team means leaving certain privileges behind and it looks like the British people are realising what exactly is at stake a little too late - two and a half years after they voted for Brexit. A second referendum might be their only chance to think again.”


Meanwhile, in Italy, former prime minister Matteo Renzi asks: “How many lies did populists tell to win the referendum?”