Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Don't laugh at Europe's woes. The travails facing Greece are also ours (Observer)

Will Hutton warns that all of Europe, including the UK, will suffer if the struggle to reform Greece and to make the euro work is lost. As long as Britain owns a fifth of Greek bonds, it cannot stand on the sidelines.

2. We can be safe without torturing (Sunday Times)

Torture may sometimes work but it is always morally wrong, argues Martin Ivens. Nonetheless, it is no longer acceptable for us to offer terrorist suspects asylum in this country.

3. Why master juggler Cameron is suddenly dropping the balls (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley afgues that David Cameron is short of two qualities essential for a leader: a clear sense of purpose and a committed body of followers. He has failed to resolve the underlying tensions in the Conservative Party.

4. Touchy-feely catchy voter (Independent on Sunday)

We should give Gordon Brown credit for deciding he can do the "touchy-feely stuff" after all, says John Rentoul about Brown's TV interview with Piers Morgan.

5. Gordon Brown deserves our sympathy, not our vote (Sunday Telegraph)

But Matthew d'Ancona argues that although viewers will sympathise with Brown, their overall opinion of him will not change. For 13 years they have watched him intimidate his foes and destroy those who stand in his way.

6. The north is not history -- but it badly needs a new chapter (Independent on Sunday)

The world of EastEnders, 25 years old this week, is thriving but northernness is in decline, writes Andrew Martin. The BBC and any incoming government must assist its revival.

7. The hidden battle for parliament's soul (Observer)

Henry Porter says that MPs' struggle to repeal Standing Order 14, which allows the executive control over parliamentary business, is one of the most important moments for democracy in the past five years.

8. Where's the risk in Mrs Cable's tapestry needle? (Mail on Sunday)

The control freakery of the state and the futile pursuit of zero risk must end, writes Vince Cable.

9. Maybe this is the end of the beginning (Sunday Times)

A leading article in the Sunday Times argues that the military surge under way in Afghanistan is a bold and necessary move. If it succeeds, it could mark the beginning of the end of the insurgency and the start of Afghan autonomy.

10. The "Eye" has it -- the rest of us wish we had (Independent on Sunday)

The remarkable success of Private Eye, which has just recorded its highest circulation since 1992, reminds the rest of the media not to take themselves too seriously, writes Sarah Sands.

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Will Britain end up agreeing a lengthy transition deal with the EU?

It's those seeking to prevent a referendum re-run who have the most to fear from a bungled exit.

You can check out, but you'll never leave? Today's papers all cover the growing momentum behind a transition arrangement after Britain leaves the European Union, whereby the United Kingdom remains in the single market and customs union.

The FT reports on the first meeting between Theresa May and her new “business council”, in which business leaders had one big message for the PM: no-one wants a “no deal” Brexit – and Confederation of British Industry director Carolyn Fairbairn repeated her call for a lengthy transition arrangement.

The Times splashes on government plans drawn up by Philip Hammond that include a two-year transition arrangement and private remarks by David Prior, a junior minister, that Britain was headed for “the softest of soft Brexits”.

A cabinet source tells the Guardian that the transition will last even longer than that – a four-year period in which the United Kingdom remains in the single market.

Broadly, the argument at the cabinet table for a transition deal has been won, with the lingering issue the question of how long a transition would run for. The fear among Brexiteers, of course, is that a temporary arrangement would become permanent.

Their long-term difficulty is Remainers' present problem: that no one is changing their minds on whether or not Brexit is a good idea. Put crudely, every year the passing of time winnows away at that Leave lead. When you add the surprise and anger in this morning's papers over what ought to be a routine fact of Brexit – that when the UK is no longer subject to the free movement of people, our own rights of free movement will end – the longer the transition, the better the chances that if parliament's Remainers can force a re-run on whether we really want to go through with this, that Britain will stay in the EU.

A quick two-year transition means coming out of the bloc in 2022, however, just when this parliament is due to end. Any dislocation at that point surely boosts Jeremy Corbyn's chances of getting into Downing Street, so that option won't work for the government either.

There's another factor in all this: a transition deal isn't simply a question of the British government deciding it wants one. It also hinges on progress in the Brexit talks. Politico has a helpful run-down of the progress, or lack thereof, so far – and basically, the worse they go, the less control the United Kingdom has over the shape of the final deal.

But paradoxically, it's those seeking to prevent a referendum re-run who have the most to fear from a bungled exit. The more time is wasted, the more likely that the UK ends up having to agree to a prolonged transition, with the timing of a full-blown trade deal at the EU's convenience. And the longer the transition, the better the chances for Remainers of winning a replay. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.