There has been a globally negative reaction across Britain’s newspaper front pages to the reform proposals aimed at preventing a UK exit from the European Union.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the plan announced yesterday by the European Council president Donald Tusk would deliver the “substantial change” in the areas he is demanding. A UK referendum on continued EU membership could come within months.
But many eurosceptic MPs in Cameron’s Conservative Party say the deal is watered down. Critics of the deal claim that some key pledges, including limits on welfare payments to EU migrants, will be subject to approval by members of the European Parliament.
A quick scan of Britain’s leading newspapers on Wednesday morning will have made difficult reading for Cameron ahead of his defence of the deal in parliament in the afternoon.
The Sun tabloid, referencing popular World War II-based sitcom Dad’s Army, says Cameron has “caved in” over the migrant benefits reform and that Britain will “lose control” of its borders.
Metro tells Cameron EU are joking, adding that Conservative MPs will fight what the paper calls “diluted” reforms.
Those thoughts were echoed in the Daily Express, which laments that “Brussels [will] carry on calling the shots.”
Similarly, the headline in The Times highlights one of the main points in the reform deal that eurosceptics are likely to use in their campaign for the UK to quit the EU, namely that Brussels will have the final say.
The Times goes on to dismiss Tusk’s proposed document as “little of substance”, and that the fact that it was Tusk – and not the British government – who drafted it “betrays a depressing truth about this vaunted renegotiation.”
The right-wing Daily Mail accused Cameron of “selling Britain short”.
The Daily Telegraph, usually a defender of Cameron’s Conservatives focused on the internal struggle the prime minister faces from within his own party.
Support from unexpected quarters
In fact it was left to the newspapers typically most critical of Cameron and the Conservative Party to provide any leniency for the prime minister.
The Daily Mirror kept its language neutral, simply calling the deal a “gamble”.
The i newspaper essentially presented the deal’s points as Cameron had set them out.
And The Guardian led with one of the few plus points for Cameron this morning: his Home Secretary Teresa May is set to support what she calls a “basis for a deal”, having previously voiced doubts over Britain’s future in the EU.
A further article inside the Guardian warns that Britain could become the “dirty man of Europe” with “filthy beaches, foul air and weak conservation laws” if it leaves the EU.