Article 50: The world reacts to Brexit

Foreign press give Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk and the EU a gloomy reception

Theresa May signs the Article 50 letter
Theresa May signs the letter triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty
(Image credit: Chris Furlong/Getty Images)

This week saw Theresa May present European Council President Donald Tusk with a six-page "divorce" letter triggering Article 50 and officially beginning the Brexit countdown – a move greeted overwhelmingly with disappointment and frustration from the world's press.

According to left-wing French daily Liberation, May's letter, with its repeated insistence on a "deep and special relationship", was "more conciliatory" than her previous bullish rhetoric

However, it adds, a Eurosceptic press and hardcore Brexiters means the UK is "caught up in a fantasy of a return to the glory of a colonial Empire" and "one cannot hide the fear" that they will try to scupper negotiations.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

History will decide whether voting for Brexit was "foolishness" or "a bold act", says German daily newspaper Die Welt.

It mourns the end of the "strategic logic" it says brought European nations together while weighing up the impact for the bloc, saying that while Europe has coped with other crises, none has been as serious as Brexit.

Centre-right French daily Le Monde says May's phrasing was "almost sickly", but that at its heart was "utterly blatant blackmail".

In the US, the New Yorker struggled to accept the letter, which was "filled with so many false claims, so much cant, and so many examples of wishful thinking that it is hard to know where to begin".

The Prime Minister's vow to represent "every person" in the UK was "blatantly false" when the young, the college-educated, and the outward-looking all rejected, and still reject, Brexit", claimed the magazine.

"Many of them regard it as a willful act of self-destruction, and future historians will surely agree with them."

The New York Times says that Britain, "a nation famous for calmly carrying on", has done so – although for all the reassurance that those recession warnings over leaving the EU have not proved correct, "nothing has actually happened yet".

Adriana Cerretelli, in Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, writes that Brexit "reflects the British obsession with regaining national sovereignty and defending its own insular identity on every level".

The EU and its "undeniable flaws" must certainly accept a portion of the blame for its unpopularity in the UK, she says, but at the heart of the referendum result was a "confused desire" to undo the choice made more than 40 years ago.

Confusion was also the watchword for Belgian daily Le Soir, which asked: "How will the UK be 'stronger' facing the world's powers alone? Or 'fairer' abandoning a slew of rights and the values which guarantee them?"

Once no longer part of the EU family, the UK will "worry about these questions alone", it says, adding: "From now on, it is 'us' and 'them'."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.