William Hague with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington on February 25, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Hague denies Iraq war has undermined western stance over Ukraine

The Foreign Secretary says Ukraine "is an entirely different situation" after John Kerry criticises Russia for "invading another country on completely trumped up pretext".

Whatever one's view of recent western foreign policy, John Kerry's attack on Russia for "invading another country on completely trumped up pretext" showed a remarkable lack of self-awareness. By using such language, Kerry, who voted for the Iraq war, carelessly exposed the US to the charge of hypocrisy. But when William Hague (who also supported the war as Conservative leader) was asked on the Today programme this morning whether he believed that the 2003 invasion had undermined the west's moral standing, he unambiguously replied "No, I don't think so" and said he "wouldn't accept any parallels with Iraq". 

He added: 

This is an entirely different situation. Ukraine is not a danger to other nations in the region, Ukraine presents no threat to its neighbours. This is not something where there is any justification whatsoever for the action that has been taken. I won't accept any parallels with Iraq or any of the situations outside Europe in recent years.

Hague's reference to other "situations" presumably includes Syria, which Tory ministers so unwisely invoked over the weekend in an opportunistic attempt to damage Ed Miliband. Sajid Javid tweeted: "Direct link between Miliband's cynical vote against #Syria motion & Russia's actions on #Ukraine. Completely unfit to lead Britain", while Nick Boles wrote: "PM was right to urge Parliament to stand up to Putin and punish Assad's use of chemical weapons. Look where Miliband's weakness has led us." 

Earlier in the interview, Hague soberly stated that "they [Russia] have, in effect, taken control of the Crimea" and added that "there are things we can do and must do". He warned of "significant costs" if Russia failed to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and highlighted the diplomatic action already taken by the west, including the suspension of involvement in preparatory meetings for the Sochi G8. Kerry has threatened Russia with expulsion from the organisation "if this continues". Hague added that he "didn't want to anticipate" what other action the west could take, but the expectation is that economic sanctions, such as asset freezes on Russian businesses, will follow. The challenge for the west will be reconciling its desire to punish Russia with the need to maintain Europe's security of energy supply. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

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.