Across Europe’s media there was relief that a deal had finally been reached, and hope that it would mark a high tide of anti-European Union sentiment.
Italy’s Corriere della Sera described it as “a Christmas present for everyone”. At a difficult moment, in a complicated world, there is no room for hatred between friends, wrote Beppe Severgnini.
But like many others, he questioned the need for Brexit to have happened at all, pointing out how even the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, as he announced the deal, underlined enduring cultural, emotional and other attachments between the continent and Britain.
“If that’s the case, dear Bojo, wouldn’t it have been better to avoid Brexit and stay part of the family?” he asked.
France’s Le Monde saw the deal as a political victory for Johnson, who it described as an “unsinkable political machine”, if not the unqualified triumph for Britain that he claimed to have pulled off.
“His hair is more chaotic than ever, he looks wild at every appearance and seems permanently overwhelmed by events,” the paper said. “But by pulling off a trade deal with the European Union on December 24th, the British prime minister has once again shown the usefulness of pretending to be a madman.”
Johnson’s triumphalist presentation of the agreement was noted by El País, which noted that he was already bracing for criticism from those who thought the deal went too far, and others worried it did not go far enough.
“Johnson’s propagandistic efforts to extol his results can be explained not only by his character and by what is personally at stake for him – which is approximately everything – but also because he needs to break the resistance of the ultra groups (ultra-Brexiteers) and to plug territorial criticisms such as those already unleashed from Scotland.”
Spain’s El Mundo warned that criticism was certain to follow closer scrutiny of the terms of the deal, and described Brexit as hugely damaging, but welcomed an amicable separation as far better than the alternative.
“The small print remains to be seen – surely it will not satisfy anyone entirely – but the divorce will be consummated amicably after countless disagreements. And that is great news,” El Mundo said.
Germany’s business daily Handelsblatt argued that the Christmas Eve agreement would “mark the end of the Brexit movement” in the UK.
With Britain’s departure from the EU complete, the ideological impetus for anti-European sentiment would dissipate and practical realities of life on the bloc’s doorstep would lead to an organic deepening of ties.
“From now on the pendulum will swing back the other way,” wrote its London correspondent, Carsten Volkery.
“In the coming years relations between Great Britain and the EU will probably become closer and closer again. Because after all the British Isles remains stuck only 30km from France, and negotiations between neighbours never really end. Just ask Switzerland,” he added.
Der Spiegel’s Markus Becker also suggested the realities of Brexit would deal a heavy blow to the British exceptionalism that helped drive the departure from the EU.
“Many politicians and citizens in Great Britain do not perceive themselves to be Europeans among many other Europeans”, he wrote. “And Great Britain does not think of itself as one European country among many, but a very special or even chosen one.”
“Of course not all Brits think like that. But sadly they are not the ones currently in charge. That is why their country’s departure from the EU is not an unreasonable development.
“The EU will be freer to take the steps it needs to take in order to assert itself against the USA and China – because it is running out of time to do so. Great Britain, on the other hand, might need Brexit to realise how small the bit part it will play on the world stage will really be.”