Brexit negotiations are heating up for real, but the continent is tired of reading about it

Tired of reading all about it.
Tired of reading all about it.
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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Negotiations over the UK’s divorce from the EU intensified over the weekend, as officials huddled in Brussels to make a possible compromise. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that from what the main news sites of continental Europe featured on Sunday morning. (Links below in local languages.)

In France, one of Le Monde’s top stories was the typhoon in Tokyo. Germany’s Spiegel website covered the recent synagogue attack in Halle. There was scant sign of the UK’s departure from the EU in Italy’s La Repubblica, Spain’s El Pais, or Holland’s NRC Handelsblad. An exception was Germany’s De Zeit, whose main website carried a feature about Brexit and the British city of Blackpool.

Brexit is still covered by the major news services on the European mainland, of course, but a survey of the most prominent stories on Sunday morning signaled that public and editorial interest has waned dramatically during the more than three years since the Brexit referendum.

That’s dangerous. While Brexit fatigue is inevitable, the importance of one of the EU’s biggest economies—a nuclear-armed power that also contains a key global financial hub—leaving the union shouldn’t be overlooked. Whatever form a departure takes will have a deep impact on both sides.

Brits are exhausted and frustrated by the divorce, too, but the UK’s major websites, from the Telegraph to the Guardian, dutifully carried and highlighted the story on Sunday. The BBC reported that prime minister Boris Johnson is updating his cabinet and that Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said “compromise” was inevitable. (Back in the rest of the EU, some big-league news sites like Spiegel and Les Echos were waking up to the news by the afternoon.)

There are indeed some indications that a deal could actually, maybe, be in sight, with a potential compromise over the Irish border starting to take shape, according to Bloomberg. One possible compromise suggested could reportedly include Northern Ireland leaving Europe’s customs union, technically, but the province would still be bound by the bloc’s rules and tariffs. The hope, for the British side, is that it would prevent a hard border in Ireland while still allowing the UK to strike its own deals on trade.

It’s a rare glimmer of hope. Signs of progress have been few, and many hurdles still remain. EU ambassadors are expected to meet today to discuss progress on the discussions before the European Council summit on Oct. 17-18, according to Sky News. The UK’s parliament will hold a special sitting of the House of Commons next weekend. If both sides manage to come to an agreement—which is a big if—there could be a narrow window to pass the legislation needed by the current Brexit deadline of Oct. 31.