Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, including why the UK is falling out of the EU.

1. Britain, not leaving but falling out of the EU

Cameron did not stop France and Germany from going ahead with what they are proposing, writes the Economist's Bagehot. That's not wielding a veto, that's called losing.

2. 'Nervous' Lib Dems toe the line on Europe

What Lib Dems are really waiting for is to see what happens when parliament returns on Monday, says Kiran Stacey at FT Westminster.

3. Cameron didn't sign EU deal because it's not in the interests of the one per cent

Cameron acted in the interests of the City of London, not Britain, says Shamik Das at Left Foot Forward.

4. Sarkozy told Cameron: "You can't have an offshore centre taking away Europe's capital"

Gary Gibbon warns that the French President is expected to renew his efforts to clip the City of London's wings.

5. Cameron's big opportunity to bring the Conservative family together

This could be a healing moment for the Tories, says ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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.

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