Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, on the Budget date, Cameron in Vanity Fair, and a Lib Dem coali

1. Why did Brown leave the Budget so late?

The Orange Party says the reason it took Gordon Brown so long to announce the date of the Budget is that it also gives away the date of the election.

2. Hague attempts to woo Europe as Americans voice concerns

William Hague is insisting that a Tory government wouldn't "pick a fight" with Europe to offset US concern about the party's foreign policy, reports Left Foot Forward's Shamik Das.

3. PMQs -- The Speaker has the best line

John Bercow's put-down to an unruly Tory backbencher -- "Your heckling is as boring as it is boorish" -- was a classic, says the FT's Westminster blog.

4. David Cameron rejects "left or right" political labels

Andrew Sparrow picks out the highlights of Vanity Fair's profile of David Cameron, in which Ed Vaizey says the Tory leader is "much more conservative by nature than he acts".

5. Five reasons Nick Clegg should rule out a coalition now

The Lib Dem position in the event of a hung parliament has been the subject of much speculation. Stephen Tall at Liberal Democrat Voice puts forward the arguments in favour of an unambiguous statement that the party would not enter a coalition with either Labour or the Tories.

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Nobody's bargaining chips: How EU citizens are fighting back against Theresa May

Immigration could spike after Brexit, the Home Affairs select committee warned. 

In early July, EU citizens living in Scotland received some post from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. The letters stated: “The immediate status of EU nationals living in Scotland has not changed and you retain all the same rights to live and to work here. I believe those rights for the longer term should be guaranteed immediately.”

The letters were appreciated. One Polish woman living on a remote Scottish island posted on social media: “Scottish Government got me all emotional yesterday.”

In reality, though, Sturgeon does not have the power to let EU citizens stay. That rests with the UK Government. The new prime minister, Theresa May, stood out during the Tory leadership contest for her refusal to guarantee the rights of EU citizens. Instead, she told Robert Peston: “As part of the [Brexit] negotiation we will need to look at this question of people who are here in the UK from the EU.”

As Home secretary in an EU member state, May took a hard line on immigration.  As PM in Brexit Britain, she has more powers than ever. 

In theory, this kind of posturing could work. A steely May can use the spectre of mass deportations to force a hostile Spain and France to guarantee the rights of British expat retirees. Perhaps she can also batter in the now-locked door to the single market. 

But the attempt to use EU citizens as bargaining chips may backfire. The Home Affairs select committee warned that continued policy vagueness could lead to a surge in immigration – the last thing May wants. EU citizens, after all, are aware of how British immigration policy works and understand that it's easier to turn someone back at the border than deport them when they've set up roots.

The report noted: “Past experience has shown that previous attempts to tighten immigration rules have led to a spike in immigration prior to the rules coming into force.”

It recommended that if the Government wants to avoid a surge in applications, it must choose an effective cut-off date for the old rules, whether that is 23 June, the date Article 50 is triggered, or the date the UK finally leaves the EU.

Meanwhile, EU citizens, many of whom have spent decades in the UK, are pursuing tactics of their own. UK immigration forms are busy with chatter of UK-based EU citizens urging one another to "get your DCPR" - document certifying permanent residence - and other paperwork to protect their status. More than 1,000 have joined a Facebook group to discuss the impact of the referendum, with hot topics including dual nationality and petitions for a faster naturalisation process. British citizens with foreign spouses are trying to make the most of the "Surinder Singh" loophole, which allows foreign spouses to bypass usual immigration procedures if their British partner is based in another EU country. 

Jakub, a classical musician originally from Poland, is already thinking of how he can stay in the UK, where there are job opportunities for musicians. 

But he worries that although he has spent half a decade in the UK, a brief spell two years ago back in Poland may jeopardise his situation.“I feel a new fear,” he said. “I am not sure what will happen next.”