‘Judgement day’ looms in Brexit talks

Also making headlines: Michelle Obama’s memoirs and Bavaria’s ‘young, female and Catholic’ government.

United Kingdom

Many papers covered the publishing of Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, as the Brexit deadline drew ever closer.

The Guardian said the book “reveals [her] dread of Trump and how [the news] cycle turns her stomach.” The Independent said Michelle Obama didn’t think her husband could become president because he was “a black man in America.” The Telegraph focused on her meeting with the Queen.

— The BBC news website said ministers were told “judgement day” was looming to finalize a Brexit deal.

The Guardian warned “time is running out” and said Theresa May had told the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London that talks were in the “endgame.”


German papers focused on the struggling SPD and the new government in Bavaria.

Berliner Morgenpost says SPD leader Andrea Nahles is performing a “U-turn” by dropping her party’s support for the welfare reforms known as Hartz IV. But the paper said the exact changes the SPD wanted to make, other than creating a “friendly” welfare state, in Nahles’ words, were still “unclear.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine said the SPD’s last few months had been characterized by “troubles, heavy defeats and mourning.” Now, the paper said, the party knows there must be “no more moping.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung presented the new Bavarian cabinet — a coalition of CSU and Free Voters led by Markus Söder. The paper described the regional government as “younger, female and Catholic.”


French media followed the deadly fire in California as well as developments closer to home.

FranceInfo said the forest fire in California, which has killed 42 people, was “by far the worst in the state’s history.”

Le Figaro said the government’s spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux and Equalities Secretary Marlène Schiappa defended themselves from accusations of overspending in their departments. Both Griveaux and Schiappa went on TV to denounce the figures as false.

Le Parisien covered Monday’s national education strike, but said the threat of jobs being cut only “weakly” mobilized people.

— The website of radio station France Bleu said the police were dealing with the emotional shock of losing Maggy Biskupski, who took her own life with her service weapon Monday night. She came to prominence after the 2016 Viry-Châtillon attack, when a gang of youths threw 13 Molotov cocktails at two police cars in a Paris suburb.


Italian papers were watching the deputy prime ministers closely.

La Repubblica said bishops were warning the government over its handling of the EU budget dispute.

Il Fatto Quotidiano said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini promised he would “not oblige anyone” to pay penalties under his pension reforms.

Il Giornale investigated where the other Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio might have got a press card.

‘A little lesson for Trump’ across the pond

Also making headlines: AfD expels politician over Hitler photos; Brexit deal possible ‘by Christmas.’


German papers were awash with news from across the pond, where the Democrats are poised to retake the House of Representatives and the Republicans held their Senate majority.

Frankfurter Allgemeine said the U.S. midterms were “a little lesson for Trump,” adding that the second half of his term in office will now be “more complicated.”

Welt called the election a “vote without a winner,” but said “democracy” had prevailed and predicted the coming years would be “uncomfortable” for Trump.

Bild claimed the U.S. president was getting away with “comparatively moderate losses.” It also ran an interview with Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who warned the challengers vying to replace Angela Merkel as head of the Christian Democrats against pursuing a “fundamental change of course,” claiming a majority of Germans would be against it.

Spiegel reported that the far-right Alternative for Germany has expelled a member of its group in the Berlin state parliament, Jessica Bießmann, after photos emerged of her posing in front of wine bottles that carried “Hitler labels.”


The results of the U.S. midterms also dominated headlines in France.

FranceInfo said Trump’s victory was a “lackluster” one, despite his claims of an “immense success.”

Le Parisien reported Trump was “far from being brought down” and claimed his hold over the Senate was his “true victory.”

— TV channel LCI reported that a fifth body has been found after the collapse of three apartment blocks in central Marseille on Monday.

Paris Match published a survey by Ifop that found Prime Minister Édouard Philippe was significantly more popular than President Emmanuel Macron. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon also suffered a sharp drop in popularity, according to the poll.


Donald Trump snatched the limelight in the British press too, but nobody took their eye of Brexit.

The Sun evoked the spirit of World War I by declaring the U.K. Cabinet was told a Brexit deal would be possible “by Christmas,” after a “major shift” by the EU. “Noël deal Brexit” read the headline.

The BBC, however, said Cabinet wanted to reach a deal with the EU by the end of the month. The BBC also reported on a leaked plan for how the government would sell a Brexit deal to MPs and the public.

The Telegraph said the historic “blue wave” Democrats had hoped for in the U.S. midterms had “failed to materialize.”

— The Guardian’s U.S. columnist Richard Wolffe wrote that “Donald Trump’s unchecked hold on power has come to an end.” Deep down, the President will know “his own supporters are just not that into him any more.”


The midterms made news in Italy but the media also focused on pressing domestic issues.

Rai News said Trump was “disdainful” after the results.

TgCom24 said the Senate was poised to vote on amendments to a controversial security and immigration bill Wednesday morning. The populist 5Star Movement warned the League it “expected loyalty.”

Theresa May set for ‘showdown’ with Cabinet over Brexit

Also making headlines: Gérard Collomb gets his old job back and German spy chief saga simmers on.


Most of the British papers previewed Tuesday’s highly anticipated Cabinet meeting, with Brexit expected to be the main topic of debate.

The Times said Brussels was preparing to back a compromise proposal on Ireland in a “Brexit boost” for Prime Minister Theresa May. The paper says “senior EU figures” will put forward an “independent mechanism” by which the U.K. could end a temporary customs arrangement with the bloc.

The Telegraph trailed Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting as “a showdown” after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab “privately accused Downing Street of undermining his attempts to solve the Irish border problem.”

— The Express said May’s Cabinet was demanding the PM fight back against Brussels or risk Brexit being destroyed.

— The BBC news website said May had condemned a group of people who burned a model of Grenfell Tower on a bonfire. The Evening Standard said five people were arrested over the incident.


German papers reacted to news that former spy chief Hans-Georg Maaßen had been relieved from his post at the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Deutsche Welle wrote that Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was “disappointed on a human level” to have to put Maaßen into forced temporary retirement.

T-Online agreed, saying Seehofer was visibly disappointed at having to fire his ally.

Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on a speech by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in which he suggested talks were still at an impasse over the “sensitive issue” of the border on the island of Ireland.

Der Spiegel noted that European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans is now the Socialists’ lead candidate for next year’s European election after his only rival for the role withdrew. He speaks seven languages and has the support of SPD leader Andrea Nahles, the magazine noted.


The collapse of three apartment blocks in central Marseille on Monday made the headlines.

— The website of TV channel LCI said at least 10 people were missing and two injured. The causes of the buildings’ collapse is unknown.

— Regional paper La Provence said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was “not optimistic” about finding survivors. President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “solidarity with the nation,” Monday night.

Le Parisien said Macron had annoyed business owners by suggesting they subsidize their employees’ petrol costs.

Libération reported that former French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb was reelected mayor of Lyon on Monday but “has not won the war” and will need to work hard to stay in power after 2020.


Spanish papers led with the government’s anti-Franco legislation.

El País said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was putting forward laws to close public spaces that venerate dictator Francisco Franco. The government also decided it will not allow Franco’s remains to be exhumed and reburied in the Almudena cathedral in Madrid, the paper said.

20 Minutos said at least 17 migrants had been found dead off the coasts of Melilla and Cádiz in the past 24 hours.

— State broadcaster RTVE said judges and prosecutors would strike on November 19 over a salary dispute.

Former spy chief faces boot from Merkel’s government

Also making headlines: Brexit deal hangs at ’50-50,’ and Matteo Salvini’s plans for Europe.


Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that former spy chief Hans-Georg Maaßen, who was at the center of a scandal over the summer that almost brought down the ruling coalition government, looks set to be fired from the interior ministry after making “explosive comments” in his farewell speech.

— T-Online said the affair had “fired up a debate” about the future of Maaßen’s ally and protector Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

Bild said the CSU had lost “important ministerial posts” in the Bavarian government, as part of a coalition deal struck with the Free Voters.


FranceInfo focused on Sunday’s independence vote in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, where 56.4 percent of voters opted to remain a part of France.

Le Monde‘s correspondent said the margin of victory was not as large as anti-independence voters had hoped.

20 Minutes said President Emmanuel Macron had launched his World War I centenary “commemorative journey” in Strasbourg Sunday night alongside German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.


The Telegraph had an exclusive, reporting that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had demanded the right to pull the U.K. out of the so-called Irish backstop after three months.

The Guardian quoted diplomats who rated the chances of the U.K. reaching a deal with the EU at “50-50.”

Sky‘s website said citizens of Commonwealth countries who have never lived in the U.K. will be eligible to join the British army, with the defense ministry looking for solutions to plug a staffing shortfall.


Il Fatto Quotidiano carried Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s comments on Europe, which will feature in an upcoming book by journalist Bruno Vespa. The League leader said he “will force Europe to reform itself.” Also in the book, former PM Silvio Berlusconi wrote it was “probable” that Salvini is envisaging an alliance of the League with the EPP in the European election, but that this is “frankly difficult to achieve.”

La Repubblica reported that 12 people died as a result of storms in Sicily.

La Stampa noted Sicilian President Nello Musumeci had asked Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to declare a state of emergency in the region due to the wild weather.

Berlin’s Brexit déjà vu

Angela Merkel is on her way out, but it might not help the UK get a good deal.

Add this to the myriad questions that Angela Merkel’s looming departure as German chancellor raises: Will her exit bury London’s hopes that Germany will intervene on its behalf and steer the Brexit talks in the U.K.’s favor?

If the short history of Brexit is any indication, the answer has to be “No.” Desperation is known to breed false hope; in the U.K.’s case, it has progressed to full-blown delusion.

This week the Spectator’s James Kirkup documented how David Cameron misread Merkel from the beginning. “Cake was never on her menu, either before or after the referendum,” he wrote.

It seems the more Merkel resisted Downing Street’s overtures, the more convinced the Conservative Party became it was all just part of an elaborate negotiating ritual, as if Germans had suddenly become masters of subtlety.

Instead of acknowledging that Germany’s commitment to the EU’s four freedoms is its raison d’état, Tory expectations that “Mutti” Merkel would come to the rescue with a workaround, Mary Poppins-like, only intensified.

A key moment came just hours after Theresa May triggered Article 50 in 2017. Both U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson parachuted into Berlin to participate in an off-the-record gathering between German and British business and political leaders at a Schloss outside the capital.

For months, Berlin had rebuffed London’s repeated attempts to cut a behind-the-scenes deal by insisting there could be no negotiations until Article 50 was triggered. Hammond and Johnson landed in Germany hot with anticipation that the moment had finally arrived. Yet once again, they left disappointed.

The European Commission would lead the negotiations, Merkel’s chief of staff told them, not Berlin.

As POLITICO noted at the time, “Berlin’s Brexit Realpolitik is poorly understood in the U.K.”

What’s amazing is that never really changed.

In Berlin these days, officials privately express frustration that May hasn’t given U.K. Ambassador Sebastian Wood much of a mandate, making discussions with him, despite his charming schoolboy German, more or less pointless.

With Merkel now putting one foot out the door, it’s inevitable attention will shift to her potential successors.

To complete that déjà vu feeling, look for breathless predictions that Friedrich Merz, a leading candidate to replace Merkel with a long history of mandates for investment firms, gets why Europe needs to cut the U.K. some slack.

If Merz gets the job and there’s truth to the latest rumors out of London’s tabloids, it won’t be long before Cameron comes knocking.

This insight is from POLITICO‘s Brexit Files newsletter, a daily afternoon digest of the best coverage and analysis of Britain’s decision to leave the EU available to Brexit Pro subscribers. Sign up here.

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