Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Even if Iran gets the bomb, it won’t be worth going to war (Daily Telegraph)

Containment is a better response than conflict in dealing with a country we have long mishandled, argues Jack Straw.

2. Voters expect Osborne to stay his course (Financial Times)

The British are busy hunkering down for years of squeezed living standards, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. The Lord Rennard scandal marks the moment the Lib Dems discovered they are on the big stage (Independent)

Clegg would not for a second be indifferent to precise allegations, but the response to this media frenzy does expose his party's inexperience, says Steve Richards.

4. Will EDF become the Barbra Streisand of climate protest? (Guardian)

The energy giant is part of a global strategy by corporations to stifle democracy, writes George Monbiot. Clearly it hasn't heard of the Streisand effect

5. The Lib Dems’ problem isn’t sex. It’s power (Times) (£)

Senior figures joined the party never expecting to be in the spotlight, writes Rachel Sylvester. Now it’s revealing political and personal flaws.

6. What Kerry needs to know about Iran (Financial Times)

Tehran is willing to enter into talks with the US, says Hossein Mousavian.

7. In Eastleigh, it's the worst kind of Westminster charade (Guardian)

While austerity rages on, the town's already disillusioned voters are being offered merely sordid spectacle, says Polly Toynbee.

8. A cap on bankers’ bonuses would be lunacy (Daily Telegraph)

If Europe does insist on bringing in legislation, it will make Britain’s EU exit even more likely, says Norman Lamont.

9. Downgrade exposes the myth about cuts (Daily Mail)

George Osborne must stop talking about cutting spending and actually do it, says a Daily Mail editorial. 

10. Why is free admission to art galleries and museums sacrosanct, when free swimming is not? (Independent)

Even in a time of straitened national finances, it never pays to underestimate the awesome power of the arts lobby in Britain, writes Dominic Lawson.

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Theresa May missed an easy opportunity on EU citizens' rights

If the UK had made a big, open and generous offer, the diplomatic picture would be very different.

It's been seven hours and 365 days...and nothing compares to EU, at least as far as negotiations go.

First David Davis abandoned "the row of the summer" by agreeing to the EU's preferred negotiating timetable. Has Theresa May done the same in guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living here indefinitely?

Well, sort of. Although the PM has said that there have to be reciprocal arrangements for British citizens abroad, the difficulty is that because we don't have ID cards and most of our public services are paid for not out of an insurance system but out of general taxation, the issues around guaranteeing access to health, education, social security and residence are easier.

Our ability to enforce a "cut-off date" for new migrants from the European Union is also illusory, unless the government thinks it has the support in parliament and the logistical ability to roll out an ID card system by March 2019. (It doesn't.)

If you want to understand how badly the PM has managed Britain's Brexit negotiations, then the rights of the three million EU nationals living in Britain is the best place to start. The overwhelming support in the country at large for guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, coupled with the deep unease among Conservative MPs about not doing so, meant that it was never a plausible bargaining chip. (That's before you remember that the bulk of the British diaspora in Europe lives in countries with small numbers of EU citizens living in the UK. You can't secure a good deal from Spain by upsetting the Polish government.) It just made three million people, their friends and their families nervous for a year and irritated our European partners, that's all.

If the United Kingdom had made a big, open and generous offer on citizens' rights a year ago, as Vote Leave recommended in the referendum, the diplomatic picture would be very different. (It would be better still if, again, as Vote Leave argued, we hadn't triggered Article 50, an exit mechanism designed to punish an emergent dictatorship that puts all the leverage on the EU27's side.)

As it happens, May's unforced errors in negotiations, the worsening economic picture and the tricky balancing act in the House of Commons means that Remainers can hope both for a softer exit and that they might yet convince voters that nothing compares to EU after all. (That a YouGov poll shows the number of people willing to accept EU rules in order to keep the economy going stretching to 58 per cent will only further embolden the soft Brexiteers.)

For Brexiteers, that means that if Brexit doesn't go well, they have a readymade scapegoat in the government. It means Remainers can credibly hope for a soft Brexit – or no Brexit at all. 

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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