Morning Call: Pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. Anyone hear what Clarke really said on rape sentencing? (Independent)

In the Independent, Steve Richards condemns the hysterical reaction to the Justice Secretary+++'s comments on rape and rape sentencing.

2. Yes, blustery old Ken Clarke blundered over rape. But the real question is: are the Tories the law and order party any more? (Daily Mail)

Stephen Glover questions whether the Conservatives deserve their reputation for being tough on crime.

3. Scrutiny can keep the macho man in check (Times)

Camilla Cavendish argues that the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape scandal shows why the press should be allowed to know the secrets of the powerful.

4. A last chance to avert a collision at the UN (Financial Times)

Today's speech by Barack Obama on the Middle East is the president's last chance to avoid a crisis in the region, according to David Manning.

5. Obama can now define the third great project of Euro-Atlantic partnership (Guardian)

Timothy Garton Ash sees today's presidential speech as a chance to co-ordinate a European and American following the Arab spring.

6. President's fine words may not address the Middle East's real needs (Independent)

Robert Fisk wonders whether Obama's speech will address the real problems of the Middle East.

7. David Cameron has lost his zeal for the radical in favour of retreat (Daily Telegraph)

Benedict Brogan wonders where the Prime Minister's reforming mojo has gone.

8. A more "democratic" Lords can only damage the Commons (Independent)

Andreas Whittam Smith argues that there's no need for huge constitutional change.

9. Anxiety keeps the super-rich safe from middle-class rage (Guardian)

Peter Wilby asks why the "squeezed middle" are not angrier at the super-rich.

10. Cost-cutting is no remedy for the railway's ills (Times)

Christopher Wolmar argues that we can't cut our way out of a crisis – Britain's railway crisis, that is.

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Forget gaining £350m a week, Brexit would cost the UK £300m a week

Figures from the government's own Office for Budget Responsibility reveal the negative economic impact Brexit would have. 

Even now, there are some who persist in claiming that Boris Johnson's use of the £350m a week figure was accurate. The UK's gross, as opposed to net EU contribution, is precisely this large, they say. Yet this ignores that Britain's annual rebate (which reduced its overall 2016 contribution to £252m a week) is not "returned" by Brussels but, rather, never leaves Britain to begin with. 

Then there is the £4.1bn that the government received from the EU in public funding, and the £1.5bn allocated directly to British organisations. Fine, the Leavers say, the latter could be better managed by the UK after Brexit (with more for the NHS and less for agriculture).

But this entire discussion ignores that EU withdrawal is set to leave the UK with less, rather than more, to spend. As Carl Emmerson, the deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, notes in a letter in today's Times: "The bigger picture is that the forecast health of the public finances was downgraded by £15bn per year - or almost £300m per week - as a direct result of the Brexit vote. Not only will we not regain control of £350m weekly as a result of Brexit, we are likely to make a net fiscal loss from it. Those are the numbers and forecasts which the government has adopted. It is perhaps surprising that members of the government are suggesting rather different figures."

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, to which Emmerson refers, are shown below (the £15bn figure appearing in the 2020/21 column).

Some on the right contend that a blitz of tax cuts and deregulation following Brexit would unleash  higher growth. But aside from the deleterious economic and social consequences that could result, there is, as I noted yesterday, no majority in parliament or in the country for this course. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.