Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

1. Lessons from Chilcot on the Atlantic alliance (Financial Times)

Max Hastings says the Chilcot inquiry has confirmed that the Atlantic alliance was the central cause of Britain's involvement in the Iraq war. But the two main parties still prefer subservience to Washington to the uncertainties of a lonely freedom.

2. Jack Straw demonstrates the flaws of the principled political careerist (Guardian)

In putting the survival of the government above any single cause, Jack Straw has allowed many policy wrongs to take place, says Julian Glover.

3. A pact with France will keep us fighting fit (Times)

Malcolm Rifkind argues that in order to remain a global power, the UK must engage in serious defence co-operation with France. A new entente cordiale is required 100 years after the declaration of the last one.

4. Here lies New Labour -- the party that died in Iraq (Guardian)

Jackie Ashley says that Iraq destroyed progressive politics in Britain for a generation. In disgust at Blair's war, countless numbers of people lost heart and turned away from public life.

5. Which capitalism? (Times)

A leader in the Times says that the World Economic Forum in Davos proved that the critical divide is no longer between capitalism and socialism, but between the liberal capitalism promoted by the west and the authoritarian capitalism favoured by the east.

6. Into economy class, Mandy, and bring your spendthrift chums, too (Daily Telegraph)

Boris Johnson writes about a plane journey in which he sat in economy while Lord Mandelson reclined in first class. Such taxpayer-funded perks should be abolished, he says. The servants of the people should travel with the people.

7. How the British empire is striking back (Independent)

The Chilcot inquiry has shown itself to be imperialist by failing to invite a single Iraqi to testify, argues Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. It should have called in some of the exiled Kurds and Iraqis who backed Bush and Blair, and should have questioned them about the advice they gave.

8. What the eurozone must do if it is to survive (Financial Times)

The eurozone is entering the most dangerous phase in its 11-year history, warns Wolfgang Münchau. If it is to survive, EU leaders must find greater political will.

9. No relief for the Palestinians while Israel enjoys impunity (Independent)

The west should consider imposing cultural and economic sanctions on Israel, argues Andrew Phillips. Nothing else has worked and time may be short.

10. Beijing raises its voice (Guardian)

Martin Jacques says that China's fierce protest over US arms sales to Taiwan reflects the migration of power from west to east.


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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.