Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Whether it's plebgate or the Great Train Snobbery, they're all out to intimidate the government (Independent)

Why are respectable, small-c conservative newspapers so indignant about George Osborne travelling first-class? One word: Leveson, says Dominic Lawson.

2. I know from experience that the BBC is an empire of control freaks and cowards (Daily Mail)

The Savile scandal has exposed a profound malaise which will take years to cure, says Max Hastings.

3. Mrs May might – why Tories are tipping Theresa for the very top (Daily Telegraph)

The Home Secretary has more than a touch of Margaret Thatcher about her, writes Paul Goodman.

4. Why politicians won't tell you the truth about crime (Guardian)

Offending is falling, and prison doesn't work, writes Polly Toynbee. But Cameron shows he's also addicted to the quick fix of tough talk.

5. Cameron needs to rediscover his instincts (Financial Times)

The government’s mishaps result from its meagre interest in pure politics, writes Janan Ganesh.

6. The BBC must learn lessons from a crisis of its own making (Independent)

There were errors and misjudgements of varying size, and unacceptable passivity, writes Steve Richards. But the idea that this was something more sinister just doesn't stand up.

7. Looking forward to our debates? Think again (Times) (£)

Coalition may be just one excuse to avoid staging a prime ministerial TV contest for 2015, writes Nick Robinson.

8. Welcome to Berlin, Europe’s new capital (Financial Times)

The price of assistance will be rules made in Germany, says Gideon Rachman.

9. The curse of Lebanon (Guardian)

The revival of sectarian feeling will hit this tiny nation – which is already at the mercy of greater powers – hard, says Jeremy Bowen.

10. Unnecessary pain (Daily Telegraph)

With 11 weeks to go before the child benefit cuts are introduced, preparations remain something of a shambles, notes a Telegraph editorial.

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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.