The long-awaited draft deal has reopened old wounds in Britain and turned the nation into Westminster-watchers, as news of the prime minister’s demise seems imminent.
But, watching from a safe distance, what does the rest of Europe think of the unfolding turmoil?
We have taken the temperature and it’s decidedly chilly.
The French newspaper Le Figaro notes “a total impasse”, with its leader column observing there is “no majority for the accord on the table, no majority for a no-deal accord, no majority for a new referendum”.
Le Monde has a more colourful description of events, saying the PM “is eating her hat while completely forgetting her own boundaries”, by which it means “not leaving the customs union, denying the jurisdiction of the EU Court, obtaining the right to negotiate free trade agreements with the rest of the world alone etc”.
France’s Liberation laments the “farce of Brexit”, which it says was “sold to the British by a gang of irresponsible nationalists, is coming to a (provisional) conclusion as clownish as the antics of one of its most virulent advocates, Boris Johnson”.
Geoffrey Clavel, a HuffPost France journalist, has summed up the mood across the Channel.
The soap opera of the dislocation of Theresa May’s government has been studied with a polite silence by the French authorities.
Who is responsible for this cacophony? For now, Theresa May is relatively spared by French critics. The former socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal even expressed kind words for the “courage” of the prime minister, lamenting in the name of feminine solidarity the “spectacle of the pseudo-virile outbidding of some [male]” British politicians.
Whatever may be the decision of the British Parliament, the French government has traced an uncompromising line: “It must be clear that we are not going to re-negotiate in full” the agreement reached between London and the chief negotiator of the EU Michel Barnier.
The El Pais newspaper had a cutting take, calling the draft Brexit deal the cumulation of “an internal, tribal confrontation between the British themselves”.
The leader column goes on: “From now on [the British government] will no longer be able to shield themselves behind impossible demands, or blame Brussels’ bureaucracy for problems.
“From now on, UK leaders must make their own decisions: either support a soft Brexit, which May seems resigned to and which would make up for so many tribulations, or have parliament deny her a confidence vote, which would trigger early elections.”
If the UK slides into chaos, nobody will be able to blame Europe for seeking rupture, or to use it as a scapegoat for their own mistakes. The EU has already shown a willingness to sign an agreement that it is not thrilled about.
If that excerpt gives the impression El Pais blames the current Conservative government for the mess, read on: “This could result in a victory by the indecisive and ambiguous Labour Party.”
It concludes: “No deal would be disruptive, and thus always a worse option that any deal at all, even a mediocre one.
“If, instead, the UK slides into chaos, nobody will be able to blame Europe for seeking rupture, or to use it as a scapegoat for their own mistakes. The EU has already shown a willingness to sign an agreement that it is not thrilled about.”
— El País in English (@elpaisinenglish) November 16, 2018
The Spanish paper ABC has an equally unforgiving view on May’s administration, predicting a no-deal Brexit outcome.
May securing the backing of her Cabinet was a “Pyrrhic victory”, says columnist Ramón Pérez-Maura, before he tore into ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab for resigning.
He said: “In that labyrinth of bastard egos and intentions, the most absurd of all resignations on Thursday morning is the minister for Brexit, Dominic Raab, who is the one who knew the text that was approved in the Cabinet on Wednesday.”
He adds that the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party saw Europe as “a throwaway weapon among party families”.
“A weapon that David Cameron used calling a referendum and that will end up destroying that formation for decades,” he added. “The resignations that we saw yesterday in the Government are the advance of what we will see in the House of Commons. And with that scenario in view, it does not seem risky to bet that there will be a Brexit without agreement.”
Antonis Fourlis, Editor in chief of HuffPost Greece, shared a very different point of view from Athens.
For almost every Greek, the term Brexit is a constant reminder of Grexit, the sad adventure we went through in 2015 – which is not over yet. Most of us are very curious about the outcome of the negotiations between the British government and the EU and are watching the whole process quite closely. We are not sure exactly how Brexit will affect our everyday lives – but we are certain that it could cause quite an “earthquake” in European football.
The cost of living and studying in the UK is very high for the average Greek family and those who can afford it are now faced with fears about the future. The UK was always a ”safe choice″ but now looks like a serious risk.
No doubt, Brexit might affect many Greeks inside the country and abroad, far more than Theresa May and other politicians can imagine.
The Greek newspaper Kathimerini, meanwhile, said the draft agreement was full of “creative ambiguity”, before adding that the hard Brexit threat to the Northern Ireland border was a real threat.
The leader column reads: “But as the circle is not squared, Brexit’s futility threatens to undermine the harmonious commercial, political and social coexistence between fellowmen and neighbouring peoples.”
Italy’s Repubblica sees “a psychological war of attrition” taking place in Westminster over Brexit. “The problem is, in the meantime, everything may tumble down.”
It also puts the blame for the Brexit campaign at the door of the right-wing press, and notes a turnaround on Britain’s front pages.
Their leader column reads: “After the Brexit victory in the referendum the title of the Sun was the epic “Independence Day”, the day of independence. Now, the harsh reality has made things much more complicated, and therefore on the front pages the readers found themselves ‘We are in the Brexs**t’.
Il Foglia, meanwhile, said the deal had “more holes than cheese” for British citizens living on the continent.
Angela Mauro, HuffPost Italy journalist, had a stunning dispatch from Rome.
The chaos around Brexit leaves the Italian populist government without words.
In these days, the Italian government itself is in the middle of a big fight with Brussels over the Italian budget law, which has been rejected by the European Commission, a step that seems to lead to European sanctions against Italy. That’s why in Rome the prime minister Conte and the two vice prime ministers Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini prefer to keep silent on Brexit.
The chaos in London rings a bell in Italy: challenging the EU did not lead to positive results in the long period. Two years ago, both Lega and Movimento cinquestelle celebrated the Brexit victory at the British referendum as a challenge to the EU. Now they have nothing to celebrate.
Die Welt said publishing the Withdrawal Agreement “has plunged Britain into a deep political crisis” and the impact on Brexit was not clear.
“Theresa May said on Wednesday that the decision would be between her deal, a no deal or no Brexit. Barely twelve hours later, it is completely unclear what this decision will look like in the end.”
The paper also notes: “In the event of a May crash, her successor would most likely become a hard Brexit representative given the conservative Tory base.”
Germany’s Die Zeit, meanwhile, says: “May knows it is risky to want to topple her” because “there is no majority for a hard Brexit either in the party or the parliament”.
Elsewhere in Europe, Belgian broadcaster VRT heard from economist Paul de Grauwe who said it is “unprecedented for a country to inflict so much damage on itself”.
And in Demark, the Copenhagen Post leader reads: “Many Brits have been unhappy with their countries’ EU-membership for decades – at least on paper. But what will the effects of Brexit be on British citizens living in EU countries like Denmark? Well nobody really knows.
“Theresa May insists that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ;no deal is better than a bad deal’. But so far Brexit seems more of a clueless Brexit than anything else.”