Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's newspapers.

1. Osbornomics is unravelling, and Nick Clegg is right to sound the alarm (Daily Telegraph)

Fraser Nelson says that the Deputy PM's call for tax cuts prompts the question: where are the Conservative ideas?

2. Fairness isn't the be-all and end-all of welfare (Times) (£)

Everyone says you shouldn't take out unless you've paid in, says Philip Collins. But only Nick Clegg really believes it (and the voters).

3. Don't expect the Tories to regret this bloody battle over benefits (Guardian)

Will they be embarrassed by the galloping poverty they're creating? No, says Polly Toynbee. Labour must defend the weak against these bullies.

4. How to equip the IMF for the crises of our time (Financial Times)

The world seems dangerously without guidance, writes Lorenzo Bini Smaghi.

5. Gay people have come a long way -- but hatred is still out there (Independent)

Outright bigotry is in retreat, says Owen Jones, but a substantial chunk of the population still has a problem.

6. Backbenchers are idling. Throw us some meat (Times) (£)

Jack Straw writes that he can't remember a time when Commons business was so light and the Lords so overloaded.

7. Shareholders should scrap fancy pay packages for top bosses (Financial Times)

Luck plays a big part in executive success, writes Richard Lambert.

8. The UK economy needs a shower of money in the high street (Guardian)

Printing money might not be dignified, but it does work, says Simon Jenkins -- just keep the banks and the credit rating agencies out of it.

9. View From the Mountain (Times) (£)

European leaders and policymakers at Davos are waking up to the need for bold action over Europe, says this leading article.

10. Europe rests on Monti's shoulders (Financial Times)

Philip Stephens writes that Italy has returned to the centre of the world's stage and Mario Monti's fate may be Europe's.

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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.