France’s media have been following the UK election campaign closely and did not take long to draw their conclusions. “Boris Johnson: the liar weakening Europe,” was the splash in Le Parisien, a popular tabloid, last month.
The paper called the prime minister “Europe’s bogeyman”, a politician for whom “pretty much everything is either an empty promise, economical with the truth or a downright lie.”
Le Monde said this week that neither Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn looked particularly promising for Europe. It said the Labour leader was “a leftwing Eurosceptic who views the EU as a capitalists’ club” and had “never admitted that leaving will jeopardise all his fine promises of a radical social and economic reform”.
But the paper reserved its fiercest criticism for Johnson. “No longer the clown, the prime minister has started to show his true face,” it said. “Brutal; hungry for power; fleeing the public and awkward questions; disregarding parliament; brandishing a nationalism and an arrogance worthy of Trump.”
In its eve-of-election analysis, Libération was equally damning. The campaign had been “brutal, packed with untruths and even outright lies, bitter, devoid of substantive debate. It was also, and above all, uninspiring,” it said. Jon Henley
German media have been unusually blunt in their assessment of the level of debate and particularly scathing in their assessment of Johnson. “The country is moving into a new era,” wrote Cathrin Kahlweit in a leader for Süddeutsche Zeitung, a broadly left-leaning broadsheet. “It will become more insular, cultivate a less civil form of patriotism, inflict more harm on minorities. Necessary reforms – a new electoral law, a written constitution, better public services – are likely to be postponed.”
The centre-right broadsheet Die Welt wrote that Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” would “blow up in his face”. It added: “He keeps quiet about the fact that the hard part [of the negotiations] only starts after the withdrawal.”
Der Spiegel had a thorough look at Britain’s likely future beyond the election and came to a conclusion that runs against the tenor of the debate in the British media. “A Labour victory would be a blessing for the economy. Because in the case of a victory, Corbyn wants to negotiate a ‘soft’ Brexit deal with the EU … which should be better for the economy than Johnson’s comparatively hard Brexit.” Philip Oltermann
While Spain has endured two inconclusive general elections this year and remains in the hands of a caretaker government, it is still intrigued and appalled by the UK’s own political contortions.
In a dispatch from London, El Mundo’s UK correspondent Carlos Fresneda discerned a clear drift towards Trumpism. “Bolstered by the ballot boxes and with an absolute majority, Boris Johnson could behave like a true despot and bring about a definitive split from Europe that sees British society lurch towards the US model (after all, he was born in New York).”
The paper’s leader on Thursday morning was equally blunt. It said the UK was “fatally fractured” as a result of Brexit and had succumbed to populism more than any other EU country.
Rafael Ramos, the London correspondent for La Vanguardia, filed a report from Tony Blair’s former constituency, Sedgefield. There he found Labour’s once impregnable “red wall” looking vulnerable. “A blue tsunami is on its way and it’s being ridden by the blond menace Boris on a surfboard emblazoned with the word Brexit and done out in the colours of the union jack.” Sam Jones
The elections have largely been a muted affair in Russia, but Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the nationalist LDPR party and a loose ally of Vladimir Putin, delivered a full-throated endorsement for the Tories and Brexit on Thursday.
“I and the entire LDPR party sincerely wish you victory in the election today. With the support of people, you will quickly bring Britain out of the European Union!” tweeted Zhirinovsky, who is known for making outrageous statements.
Zhirinovsky was probably trolling, but the sentiment is real. Russia has largely welcomed the UK’s exit from the EU as proof that the European project is coming apart at the seams.
Russian TV anchors highlighted the theatrical nature of the campaign – an element somewhat lacking in Russia’s own elections. “The campaign often resembled a show, with PM Boris Johnson bringing milk to people at home, hiding from journalists’ questions in a refrigerator, and baking a pie, but mainly underlining that Brexit is a reality,” said a broadcast on the state-run Rossiya-24. Andrew Roth
“Socialism or Brexit? This is the Hamlet-like dilemma of the vote in the UK,” wrote Enrico Franceschini in La Repubblica on Thursday. “Today the tribes in which Great Britain is divided are forced to mingle to choose the lesser evil: Boris Johnson, if they want to avoid socialism; Jeremy Corbyn, if they want to avoid Brexit. Many, in both cases, will be holding their noses as they vote.”
In Corriere della Sera, Beppe Severgnini wrote about what a Labour or Conservative government could mean for the UK. With Brexit dominating, should Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg (whom Severgnini called “the sons of Thatcher”) regain power, they would be tempted to transform Britain into “a pirate ship off the coast of Europe”, he said. “It would be a serious mistake.” Angela Giuffrida
In the Netherlands, which stands to lose more than most from a hard or no-deal Brexit, NRC Handelsblad lamented a campaign “poor on substance and rich in empty rhetoric” for an election that “could change the course of Brexit, and the country”.
Hardly a single moment from the past few weeks lasted longer than the one-day news cycle, the paper said, while the debates provided no new insights beyond Johnson’s “Get Brexit done” and Corbyn’s “For the many, not the few”.
Both parties “promised more money and more investment, but avoided fundamental discussions about structural health, education and benefit reforms – or even Brexit,” it said.
Johnson “could not explain how he would negotiate a trade deal in record time or what would happen if the talks dragged on”, the paper said, while Corbyn “was silent on Brexit, aware a good election result was only possible if both leftwing big-city remainers and working-class Brexiteers in the Midlands and north vote Labour.” Jon Henley
Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet described a country hopelessly split, and in multiple directions, leaving many voters facing “an impossible choice. How is a Conservative who wants to stay in the EU supposed to vote? Or a social democrat who believes Jeremy Corbyn is a leftwing extremist?”
In Denmark, Berlingske said Britain was voting in “one of the most important elections in decades”, whose outcome would “define the UK’s exit from the EU or decide whether the country get a new referendum” and whose two protagonists “represent two radically different visions for Britain”.
“If the Conservative party wins an absolute majority, Britain can leave the EU by 31 January – but the UK must immediately start negotiating a future trade agreement,” it explained. “If Labour wins, there’ll be yet another referendum on Brexit. And if there’s no clear winner, it will be a big and serious mess.” Jon Henley