Morning call: Pick of the papers

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

  1. Carney has a chance to kick-start the weak British economy (Financial Times)
    The BoE must spend some of its monetary policy credibility in search of a more robust recovery, writes Chris Giles.
  2. The potential prize from fracking is huge (Telegraph)
    There is bound to be some disruption, but shale gas could cut energy bills and fuel economic recovery, writes Michael Fallon.
  3. Happy birthday, national minimum wage (Financial Times)
    A sign that lasting popular institutions can still be built, writes John McDermott.
  4. The BBC should let its journalists have views (Times)
    It is ironic that the Corporation’s Trust has censured a right-of-centre viewpoint, writes Robin Lustig
  5. I don't want sympathy in life, I want dignity in death (Guardian)
    "Still the British courts won't permit assisted suicide in extreme situations such as mine. Well I'm not giving up the fight yet," writes Paul Lamb.
  6. Bradley Manning is no traitor but he must still go to jail (Times)
    The soldier’s supporters would change their tune if it was a right-wing activist leaking anti-immigration statistics, writes David Aaronovitch
  7. The Grace Dent Guide to Happiness (Independent)
    "I truly hope David Cameron is not developing policy around the deranged chunterings of anyone who found their happiness levels altered by the Diamond Jubilee," Dent writes.
  8. Once, the Tories understood rural Britain. Not any more (Guardian)
    The anti-fracking protest in Balcombe is just the tip of the iceberg. All over Britain, a new countryside rebellion is brewing, writes John Harris.
  9. Lewisham hospital will stay open - but only the lawyers have true cause to celebrate (Independent)
    The NHS's survival depends on the closure of services and even whole hospitals, writes Jeremy Laurance.
  10. Globalisation has a darker side – and it’s a challenge to us all (Telegraph)
    When things go wrong, nation states and their taxpayers will have to pick up the pieces, writes Iain Martin

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.