Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. David Cameron may live to regret his backing for George Osborne (Guardian)

By declaring his support until 2015, the PM has narrowed his options and risks energising his enemies within the party, writes Gaby Hinsliff. 

2. Obama must face the rise of the robots (Financial Times)

Technology will leave a large chunk of the US labour force in the lurch, says Edward Luce.

3. Cameron’s safe, but he urgently needs a plan (Times) (£)

Being a good front man is fine, but it’s not enough if the behind-the-scenes thinking simply isn’t going on, says Tim Montgomerie.

4. As the Tories revolt, Ed is given an easy ride (Daily Telegraph)

Labour’s poll lead belies a lack of convincing policies on the economy, Europe and much else, says Iain Martin.

5. Mid Staffs was a betrayal of the NHS (Guardian)

Transparency and accountability are the key to avoiding another care crisis, says Mike Farrar.

6. The bedroom tax is just the latest assault on our poorest citizens (Independent)

The government's approach requires it to demonise its victims as state dependent leeches, says Owen Jones.

7. Cameron’s critics should extol his European vision (Financial Times)

London needs to develop partners, issue by issue, writes Robert Zoellick.

8. Blair may be the one to save Dave (Sun)

The man David Cameron and George Osborne hail as "the master" has signalled that Labour is an empty vessel, writes Trevor Kavanagh. 

9. From the Papal monasteries to Timbuktu, absolutism lives on (Independent)

For the Salafists, a Muslim shrine is a rival to God as surely as Henry VIII saw the monasteries as a Papal rival, writes Robert Fisk. 

10. Mr Cameron needs a more civil partnership (Daily Telegraph)

The row over same-sex marriage makes the Conservatives look like an ill-disciplined rabble rather than a serious party of government, says a Telegraph editorial.

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Brexit has opened up big rifts among the remaining EU countries

Other non-Euro countries will miss Britain's lobbying - and Germany and France won't be too keen to make up for our lost budget contributions.

Untangling 40 years of Britain at the core of the EU has been compared to putting scrambled eggs back into their shells. On the UK side, political, legal, economic, and, not least, administrative difficulties are piling up, ranging from the Great Repeal Bill to how to process lorries at customs. But what is less appreciated is that Brexit has opened some big rifts in the EU.

This is most visible in relations between euro and non-euro countries. The UK is the EU’s second biggest economy, and after its exit the combined GDP of the non-euro member states falls from 38% of the eurozone GDP to barely 16%, or 11% of EU’s total. Unsurprisingly then, non-euro countries in Eastern Europe are worried that future integration might focus exclusively on the "euro core", leaving others in a loose periphery. This is at the core of recent discussions about a multi-speed Europe.

Previously, Britain has been central to the balance between ‘ins’ and ‘outs’, often leading opposition to centralising eurozone impulses. Most recently, this was demonstrated by David Cameron’s renegotiation, in which he secured provisional guarantees for non-euro countries. British concerns were also among the reasons why the design of the European Banking Union was calibrated with the interests of the ‘outs’ in mind. Finally, the UK insisted that the euro crisis must not detract from the development of the Single Market through initiatives such as the capital markets union. With Britain gone, this relationship becomes increasingly lop-sided.

Another context in which Brexit opens a can of worms is discussions over the EU budget. For 2015, the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget, after its rebate and EU investments, accounted for about 10% of the total. Filling in this gap will require either higher contributions by other major states or cutting the benefits of recipient states. In the former scenario, this means increasing German and French contributions by roughly 2.8 and 2 billion euros respectively. In the latter, it means lower payments to net beneficiaries of EU cohesion funds - a country like Bulgaria, for example, might take a hit of up to 0.8% of GDP.

Beyond the financial impact, Brexit poses awkward questions about the strategy for EU spending in the future. The Union’s budgets are planned over seven-year timeframes, with the next cycle due to begin in 2020. This means discussions about how to compensate for the hole left by Britain will coincide with the initial discussions on the future budget framework that will start in 2018. Once again, this is particularly worrying for those receiving EU funds, which are now likely to either be cut or made conditional on what are likely to be more political requirements.

Brexit also upends the delicate institutional balance within EU structures. A lot of the most important EU decisions are taken by qualified majority voting, even if in practice unanimity is sought most of the time. Since November 2014, this has meant the support of 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the population is required to pass decisions in the Council of the EU. Britain’s exit will destroy the blocking minority of a northern liberal German-led coalition of states, and increase the potential for blocking minorities of southern Mediterranean countries. There is also the question of what to do with the 73 British MEP mandates, which currently form almost 10% of all European Parliament seats.

Finally, there is the ‘small’ matter of foreign and defence policy. Perhaps here there are more grounds for continuity given the history of ‘outsourcing’ key decisions to NATO, whose membership remains unchanged. Furthermore, Theresa May appears to have realised that turning defence cooperation into a bargaining chip to attract Eastern European countries would backfire. Yet, with Britain gone, the EU is currently abuzz with discussions about greater military cooperation, particularly in procurement and research, suggesting that Brexit can also offer opportunities for the EU.

So, whether it is the balance between euro ‘ins’ and ‘outs’, multi-speed Europe, the EU budget, voting blocs or foreign policy, Brexit is forcing EU leaders into a load of discussions that many of them would rather avoid. This helps explain why there is clear regret among countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, at seeing such a key partner leave. It also explains why the EU has turned inwards to deal with the consequences of Brexit and why, although they need to be managed, the actual negotiations with London rank fairly low on the list of priorities in Brussels. British politicians, negotiators, and the general public would do well to take note of this.

Ivaylo Iaydjiev is a former adviser to the Bulgarian government. He is currently a DPhil student at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford

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