Truss resignation: European press blames Brexit for UK political ‘insanity’

Conservative Party ‘drained of all substance and competence’

Six years on from the Brexit referendum, European observers have become used to Westminster meltdowns — but many see in the latest cataclysm the inevitable finale of a project that was always divorced from reality.

“Listened to, perhaps; understood, not really,” said Le Monde of Liz Truss on the news of her resignation. “A terrible orator who could do little more than repeat ‘growth, growth, growth’, seemingly impervious to criticism ... she was rejected by both the public and her own party.”

For Libération, there was “decidedly something rancid in the Tories’ tea”. Sonia Delesalle-Stolper said the British government and the Conservative party “seem on a path to total self-destruction”. Along with most European commentators, the paper’s former London correspondent looked beyond the superficial spectacle. “In four months, the country will have had four chancellors, two interior ministers, and soon two prime ministers,” she observed.

After a succession of “implausible scenes” in parliament and No 10, “who will be Liz Truss’s successor?” the paper asked. “That’s the really big question. Because Brexit, and its chief architect Boris Johnson, have drained the Conservative party of all substance and competence.”


Le Monde also saw the decision to leave the EU as the ultimate origin of the UK’s current crisis. “Since the referendum, British governments have demonstrated, with ever greater talent, that Brexit only takes the UK further away from the promised land of recovered sovereignty and untrammelled freedom,” wrote Sylvain Kahn.

“‘Take back control!’, they all said. But the British are a very long way from doing that. No other EU member is in such a state ... Since Brexit, Britain’s Conservative leaders have worked tirelessly to prove that EU membership was very far from the problem.”

Annette Dittert, the London correspondent for the German public broadcaster ARD, was another who trained her sights unerringly on the decision to leave. Truss was “now the third Conservative leader, after Theresa May and Boris Johnson, to fail to deliver on Brexit promises”, she noted.

When they look, future historians would find the roots of British politics’ “current insanity” in 2016, Dittert said. “Firstly, because Brexit has damaged the UK economy so lastingly that any extra market uncertainty leads to far greater turbulence than ever before.

“Secondly, because Brexit and the inherent magical thinking of a sovereign UK that can go its own way in the globalised 21st-century world, detached from international developments, marked the beginning of the end of rational thinking on the island.”

Truss’s “dramatic failure”, Dittert concluded, “could now spell the end of that wishful thinking — the beginning of something of a British turning point”.

In Die Zeit, Bettina Schulz also argued Truss’s political demise could be a key moment. “The extreme ideological project of the neoliberal group within the Conservative party has failed,” perhaps heralding “one of the most important turning points in the country since the Brexit vote in 2016”, she said.

Jochen Buchsteiner took the same line in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Despite Brexit, there are limits to what a British government can do,” he said. “Policies that are — as a veteran Tory put it — ‘irrational nonsense’ remain unenforceable even after Brexit.”

In a comment article titled “And Britain broke” in Spain’s El País, Ángel Ubide said the UK’s long tradition of “bureaucratic and diplomatic efficiency, and the advantage of a universal language” had given it “an aura of credibility”.

But he continued: “Everything has its limit. The pro-Brexit coalition captured the British political establishment in 2016, and has slowly eroded that credibility until, as almost always happens, it suddenly ran out.”

La Vanguardia’s London correspondent, Rafael Ramos, waxed philosophical. “In literature and art, absurdism is the tendency to avoid the constraints of the logical, shun experience and reality, and give oneself over to the irrational and the arbitrary,” he wrote. “In politics, this is what we’re seeing in the UK.”

El Confidencial’s Celia Maza was blunter still, suggesting the UK was once again in danger of becoming “the sick man of Europe”, while Denmark’s Politiken described an atmosphere of “chaos and panic”.

In Italy — to whose habitual political chaos the Economist this week compared the UK’s — Corriere della Sera concluded that however “this saga” ended, Britain’s credibility had collapsed.

Luigi Ippolito wrote that the debacle — compared by some commentators to the Suez crisis and the end of Britain’s imperial ambitions — “has unmasked the post-Brexit illusion of being a totally sovereign nation that can ignore international realities. No one is an island any more.” - Guardian