‘Disgrace’: world’s press react to Truss resignation and UK political turmoil
Liz Truss’s resignation after just 45 days in office has made waves across Europe and beyond, with commentators and politicians alike questioning how Britain could have fallen so far, so fast – and with most blaming Brexit.
“Prime minister’s departure plunges Britain into profound and unprecedented political crisis,” was the headline in Le Monde, noting that next Friday Britain “should learn the name of its third Conservative prime minister in three months”.
Even that was not guaranteed, the paper’s London correspondent said, since the Tory party, “weakened by internal divisions, an absence of ideas and a lack of fresh faces after 12 years in power” may prove incapable of agreeing on a candidate.
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“Will the Conservatives, for once, manage to rise above their own partisan interests and choose a leader who will defend those of the whole country?” Cécile Ducourtieux asked. Nothing, most observers reckoned, was less certain.
“The party is [soon to be] on its fifth prime minister in six years,” said the Dutch daily De Volkskrant. “That pretty much sums up the UK’s instability since the Brexit referendum. The Tories seem out for the count – but they still have a large majority.”
For Süddeutsche Zeitung, that could prove a problem. There was a real risk, it said, that the next PM “will also not allow an honest debate on Brexit, which is urgently needed – nothing is paralysing the UK so much as the fatal consequences of leaving the EU”.
Brexit was singled out as the main cause of the country’s political crisis – and a significant factor in its economic woes.
“Since 23 June 2016, the Conservative party has been engaged in a high-powered exercise of self-destruction,” wrote Libération. “Six years on, the party’s record is lamentable. But things are even worse for the country, whose reputation abroad has been trashed, and for the British people, neglected by politicians’ egotism and a Brexit ideology devoid of all substance, who are now paying a heavy economic price.”
Brexit, agreed the French commentator Marion van Renterghem, had created a “parallel reality” in which politicians, having “promised miracles” after Britain left the EU, could neither deliver them nor admit Brexit was itself a key reason why.
In Germany, Die Welt also traced Britain’s political crisis back to 2016. “Since then, the honourable palace of Westminster has become a madhouse,” it said, noting that Britain will have had as many prime ministers in six years as Germany has had chancellors in the past five decades.
“British politics has developed a self-destructive centrifugal force that should serve as a chilling example to those who still tout easy solutions to our challenges,” the paper argued. There was still no “convincing explanation” of what “real Brexit” looks like.
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“The truth is that the Tory party’s Brexit ideology is simply hollow. It is a handful of clever slogans that, unfortunately for the Great British nation, have hung around for far too long. Liz Truss’s spectacular failure is the clearest example of this.”
Another German daily, the business-oriented Handelsblatt, noted that economically, Britain was far from alone in suffering, “like all major industrial nations, from external shocks from the energy markets and global supply chains”.
But again, Brexit had “severely impacted the country’s economic shock absorbers”, it said. “The huge fall in trade the the UK’s former EU partners of around 20% speaks volumes: the divorce from the EU was the biggest mistake in recent British history.”
In Spain’s El Mundo, José Ignacio Torreblanca agreed. “The Conservative Brexiters were deeply convinced that, free of the bureaucratic shackles of Brussels, the UK would flourish as the great financial capital of the free world”, he wrote. “But the steroid-pumped Singapore floating in the Atlantic the Conservatives dreamed of has proved to be not merely a chimera, but also an incredibly dangerous venture.”
For Claudi Pérez, writing in El País, Truss’s short-lived administration offered lessons to politicians and voters in Spain and beyond. “Truss and her UK are merely the tip of the iceberg of a worrying phenomenon: the gradual erosion of democratic norms leading to democratic collapses that are the fruit of a growing malaise,” he wrote.
“‘God separated the UK from Europe, and there must have been a reason why,’ Margaret Thatcher once said. With disciples like Truss, blessed be the Lord.”
La Vanguardia’s editor, Jordi Juan, said Boris Johnson and Truss had comprehensively trashed the reputations of both their party and their country. “The image the British government projects today is plain ridiculous,” he wrote. “Its citizens do not deserve it.” Britain’s Conservative could make no more mistakes: “Let’s be clear: the British people don’t deserve another prime minister like this.”
Beyond Europe, India Today’s Nandini Singh said the British prime minister’s short tenure was “marred by failed promises and dashed hopes”, while the Washington Post summed up her tenure as “a disastrous series of self-inflicted wounds which turned into a political death spiral”, saying the country “looks increasingly like an isolated Atlantic island state” instead of an international player.
Tom Rachman at Canada’s Globe and Mail said Britain’s political “disgrace” was “the culmination of six woeful years sparked by the vote for Brexit, which hastened the decline of a major power while thrusting dunces and charlatans into command”.
“Britain cannot simply vote this mess off the island,” he wrote. “Britain must summon courage now, and view itself honestly. Government by lettuce, it turns out, leads only to the compost heap.”
Among the politicians, the former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull cut straight to the point. “At the moment the place looks like a shambles. It is very sad,” he said at a conference in Sydney on Friday.
“I think what she did was so mad,” Turnbull added in reference to Truss’s mini-budget that crashed the markets and triggered a domestic financial crisis. “I was just staggered. I knew Boris was wild and woolly but Liz Truss appeared to be a more sensible person, but turned out to be even crazier.”
Additional reporting by Sam Jones in Madrid and Samantha Lock in Sydney