Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Lady Thatcher debate a battle over Britain's present and future (Guardian)

Make no mistake, the politicised contest about how to remember the former prime minister is not about the past, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. The ghost of Margaret Thatcher will haunt David Cameron until he shows he can win an election (Independent)

The unusually large band of 148 new Tory MPs elected in 2010 are very much 'Thatcher’s children', writes Andrew Grice.

3. The selfish left, not Thatcher, divided us (Times) (£)

In the 20 years before her time in office, the nation endured far more conflict than in the 20 years after it, argues Daniel Finkelstein.

4. Margaret Thatcher: Respect for the dead is an outdated and foolish principle (Independent)

Let us say what we think, and be frank about it: death does not confer privilege, writes A.C. Grayling.

5. The radical Mrs Thatcher is still inspiring today's Conservatives (Daily Telegraph)

Margaret Thatcher proved you can change minds by the force of ideas, says Conservative MP Liz Truss.

6. In this nuclear standoff, it's the US that's the rogue state (Guardian)

The use of threats and isolation against Iran and North Korea is a bizarre, perilous way to conduct foreign relations, says Jonathan Steele.

7. Japan’s unfinished policy revolution (Financial Times)

Tokyo’s economic system is a machine for generating high private savings, writes Martin Wolf. 

8. Margaret Thatcher was no feminist (Guardian)

Far from 'smashing the glass ceiling', Thatcher made it through and pulled the ladder up after her, says Hadley Freeman.

9. Thatcher's economic reforms influenced the world, but the next big changes won't come from Britain (Independent)

Once upon a time we exported Thatcherism; in the near future, we will find ourselves reimporting an Indian and Chinese version of it, writes Hamish McRae.

10. Hollande must heed lessons of Louis XVI (Financial Times)

France’s president may come to be the victim of a revolt against elites, writes Dominique Moïsi.

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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