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WHAT’S NEW(S) – 08/01/2021

WHAT’S NEW(S) – 08/01/2021

Brexit got real 

Only a few days before 2020 came to an end, the last-minute Brexit breakthrough grabbed the headlines of all European newspapers. Today we’ll look back on how European newspapers described this remarkable event. Was the deal perceived as a win on both sides of the Channel? 

You'll find the script below:

Well with a deal finally being reached, both sides were able to claim that they had been able to avoid a ‘worst case scenario’. Most EU newspapers, however, described the 1259-page agreement as being poor. ‘This is the tough Brexit that Boris Johnson had in mind’, stated Dutch newspaper NRC. Charlie Cooper even stated in Politico the closing of the deal was a moment of triumph for the British PM. Even if this moment of victory might not last very long. Le Monde predicts the worst is still to come for the UK. Britain is not facing ´an economic collapse but a slow erosion´, writes Eric Albert. German journalist Kevin Hagen also believes the postponed chaos is only a distortion. He argues in newspaper Der Spiegel that the rest of the bloc is too reluctant and quiet now that Britain is actually leaving. What the EU should do now is stand firm, to avoid Brexit becoming a success story for populists spreading fake-news, he states.

And what did the newspapers on the other side of the channel write about the outcome?

Johnson’s claim for victory was echoed by various popular newspapers such as the Sunday Telegraph, that interviewed the PM about his ‘success story’. The Guardian also mentioned the Victory Cry from Downing Street, but also added that Brexit will mean significant costs to businesses, exporters, and UK nationals. Not all British newspapers seemed to be too worried about the ‘economic erosion’ predicted by the EU. Yay UK! Was the headline of the popular newspaper the Sun, that wrote the UK economy is now the 5th largest in the world, and the Brexit deal could even boost it with 6.1%. It also predicts Britain will have a 23 percent better performance than France by 2035.

I see, some optimism in the tabloids. And another important question was added to Brexit-related news this week: What will happen in Scotland?

Yes indeed. Even though the UK can be relieved about the fact that the last-minute deal will avoid major border issues and conflicts, for Johnson, ‘the sky is not less cloudy with the current rise of Scottish independence’, states Arnaud de la Grange in Le Figaro. Scottish separatists are waiting impatiently for their turn’ writes Le Monde. Even before the UK could celebrate the start of 2021, Scotland was already shouting out to the EU it would come back, stated Dutch newspaper AD.

Now that the deal is sealed, we can expect more news in the upcoming months on the actual consequences of Brexit and perhaps a possible Scottish return.

But besides Brexit, there was also some other events that made the press in EU countries this first week of 2021. What else was news in Europe this week, starting with Germany ?

The positive news about the kick-off of the vaccination programme in the last week of 2020 - was partly overshadowed this first week, when Angela Merkel announced an extension of the strict lockdown. Not only will the current rules be extended to January 31st, there will also be a travel limit in the regions with the highest number of cases. Besides this sad news, newspapers are slowly starting to predict what will happen at the national elections in September this year, with the most important question being: What might happen when Merkel is gone?

And how about Spain?

In Spain the speed of vaccination in the different autonomous communities has made the deadlines during the first week of the year. Asturias, for example, has used 100% of the doses received, whereas Madrid has only managed to administer 3.2% of the doses received. All this in the middle of an open war between Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the community of Madrid and the government, who has been surprisingly blamed for the speed of vaccination in the Spanish capital. On the other hand, the most commented international issue has been the decision of the European Union of no longer recognising Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, as stated in the main page of El País and El Mundo.

And what made news in the low countries in the north ?

Well, apart from the chaos at the US Capitol on Wednesday, described by AD as ‘an attack on the heart of US democracy’, The most important news in the Netherlands in this first week of the year was not the start of the vaccination campaign, but the absence of it. Most newspapers asked the question: how can it be that the Netherlands is the last EU country to start vaccinating? The country eventually kicked-off its vaccination programme on January 6th, almost two weeks later than most European countries. And if there was optimism at the first night of the campaign, many questions still remain, wrote newspaper NRC.

Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Image: Miguel Á. Padriñán