European media covered Saturday’s mammoth anti-Brexit demonstration in London with ill-concealed relish, before turning to reports of Theresa May’s imminent departure – and, in some cases, a first draft of her political obituary.
“Historic demonstration in London for a second vote,” was Le Monde’s headline, above an extensive report from its London correspondent noting that more than a million people had taken to the streets “in a country where protest is not the norm”.
The paper praised the crowd as “calm but determined, a sea of European blue … with not a single policeman in sight, but not a single incident either”. Compared with previous anti-Brexit marches, this one, it said, was “rather more about the failings of Theresa May’s government, and rather less about Europe”.
Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Libération, too, noted the “peaceful and good-natured” mood. “And what if, after all, life was simpler than Brexit?” the paper asked. “What if it was a poster that made thousands laugh, a picnic on a crowded patch of grass, dogs and babies draped in European flags, and a carnival atmosphere on a Saturday in spring?”
But beneath the joyful surface, it said, flowed “altogether more sinister currents”, with conservative commentators talking of a betrayal of democracy, MPs unable to go home for the weekend because of fears for their safety, and the woman responsible for the online petition to revoke article 50 also facing death threats.
Germany’s Die Zeit said the demonstration’s timing was perfect, coming as it did “at the end of one of the most dramatic weeks in British politics in many years … May’s negotiations with the EU have failed, she has lost control of the Brexit process, and the danger of a no-deal Brexit looms”.
The paper highlighted a recent YouGov poll indicating support for Brexit was falling even among leave voters, said the UK economy was “already experiencing difficulties”, and suggested “chaotic scenes during MPs’ Brexit debates have finally robbed many voters of all confidence that the government has things under control”.
Like many European papers, De Volkskrant in the Netherlands picked up UK reports that May was in difficulty. “It is, as far as her ministers are concerned, no longer a question of whether she should go, but when,” the paper said. “Under her, Downing Street has become a bunker.”
The paper said May “lacks the communication skills, the capacity for creative thinking and the political flexibility to make a success of Brexit”.
Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images
It added: “She speaks mostly in platitudes: ‘Brexit means Brexit’, ‘strong and stable’, ‘smooth and orderly’.”
But above all, the paper concluded: “Brexit was, for her, a way to control immigration. This was a red line that ruled out other options in the negotiations and led, inevitably, to the present impasse.”
Spain’s El País said Britain’s politicians had “still not found a solution to Brexit, almost three years after the referendum”, prompting hundreds of thousands to take to the streets in London to protest “against Brexit, the failure of MPs to reach a decision and, mainly, to demand a new referendum”.
The paper translated – with contextual notes where needed – the march’s 20 best placards, from “Even Arsenal are still in Europe” through “Pulling out doesn’t work – just ask my parents” and “Less Farage, more fromage” to “I’m incandescent with rage – but I’m British, so I’m just holding up a sign”.
Reports of the UK’s meltdown reached well beyond Europe, with the press in Venezuela – itself hardly a stranger to political chaos – also covering Saturday’s Put it to the People march extensively in its Sunday editions.