Theresa May’s ‘I’m in charge’ message she delivered to Parliament wasn’t only aimed at MPs – it was also directed at Brussels, says the Daily Telegraph. After all, there’s little doubt that Michel Barnier will have looked at Theresa May’s disastrous Tory party conference performance and have concluded ‘she is hanging onto power by her fingertips’. Surely he will have thought, says the paper, Britain’s PM is ‘not in a position to play tough’. If so, Brussels’ politicians would be wise to ‘think long and hard about what life might be like if the negotiations go wrong’. If Brexit goes wrong and the Tories are given the boot, ‘suddenly they would have a Marxist on their doorstep’ – just what other ‘centre-Right governments of Europe have been desperately fighting against’. Corbyn’s policies would do serious harm to ‘Europe’s economic stability’. They would also make it difficult to tell whether Britain would meet its defence commitments. ‘Is that really what Emmanuel Macron or Angela Merkel want?, asks the Telegraph.
The Brexit confusion continues, says the Guardian, which points out the latest difficulty of interpretation focuses on what Britain wants from a transition deal. ‘When questioned by MPs’ yesterday’, May said that a Brexit transition ‘might not amount to “full membership” of the single market’. This is a ‘caveat’ aimed at pleasing the Brexit bunch in her own party, says the paper. Yet this mixed approach cannot continue for long. Brussels has made it clear that ‘the option of being simultaneously inside and outside the rules does not exist’. This, however, is not putting off some of her Cabinet colleagues, with the likes of Liam Fox and Boris Johnson aiming to reach just such a ‘non-existent place’. ‘No wonder the EU side is frustrated’, says the Guardian. Just when it seems ‘progress was being made…the British lines have been blurred all over again.’ But whatever she does next, the Prime Minister must hold firm and ‘not allow herself to be steered’ by others intent on wrecking the Brexit process. ‘The reckless dogma that would drive us to a Brexit without a deal enjoys no majority in parliament or the country,’ concludes the Guardian: ‘It deserves no more indulgence by the prime minister.’
But the Sun takes a different approach: ‘It is time we took Brussels’ stonewalling seriously’, the paper argues, suggesting it really is now essential to prepare for a Brexit no deal. ‘Every day we dither strengthens their position,’ says the paper. Yes, we’d rather end up with a deal. But not to prepare for the alternative would be ‘disastrous’. It’s clearly Brussels’ strategy to offer Britain ‘some dodgy settlement’ assuming the country would end up taking it in its desperation at the last minute. So when Philip Hammond delivers his Budget next month, the Chancellor doesn’t only need ’dramatic new ideas to fix the country’s problems.’ He ‘must also make our Brexit fallback position a reality,’ concludes the Sun.