Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. This latest cure for the NHS really could kill the patient (Guardian)

They're calling it a health revolution, writes Polly Toynbee. So expect a boom in private profit, public mistrust and bankrupt hospitals.

2. Regime tests the limits of a MAD world (Financial Times)

If there is a state that might defy the logic of nuclear deterrence, it is North Korea, writes Gideon Rachman.

3. Ed’s ignoring the elephant in the spare room (Times)

Labour is opposing the horrid practicalities of the ‘bedroom tax’, writes Hugo Rifkind, but is silent on the principle: who owes what to whom?

4. Communism, welfare state – what's the next big idea? (Guardian)

Any attempt to challenge the elite needs courage, inspiration and a truly groundbreaking proposal, writes George Monbiot. Here are two to set us off.

5. Does religion still have a place in today’s politics? (Daily Telegraph)

The recent row between churches and the state over welfare policy shows how the power of the clergy is waning, says Paul Goodman.

6. Tories ignore signs in rush for the exit (Financial Times)

The party is forgetting the qualities that could ensure victory, says Janan Ganesh.

7. There’s something Churchillian about Boris Johnson. On the other hand... (Independent)

He’s a lone wolf, capable of staggering selfishness - it might actually be a valuable trait, says Dominic Lawson.

8. David Miliband and the debasement of British politics (Guardian)

Our MPs are increasingly remote from the voters – Westminster has become the equivalent of a gap year for middle-aged overachievers, says Aditya Chakrabortty.

What matters should not be who is providing a public service, but how well they are doing it, and at what price, argues a Telegraph leader.

10. The welfare state enters a new, and riskier, era (Independent)

The generally quiescent public mood could soon turn, says an Independent editorial.

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The trouble with a second Brexit referendum

A new vote risks coming too soon for Remainers. But there is an alternative. 

In any given week, a senior political figure will call for a second Brexit referendum (the most recent being David Miliband). It's not hard to see why. EU withdrawal risks proving an act of political and economic self-harm and Leave's victory was narrow (52-48). Had Remain won by a similar margin, the Brexiteers would have immediately demanded a re-run. 

But the obstacles to another vote are significant. Though only 52 per cent backed Brexit, a far larger number (c. 65 per cent) believe the result should be respected. No major party currently supports a second referendum and time is short.

Even if Remainers succeed in securing a vote, it risks being lost. As Theresa May learned to her cost, electorates have a habit of punishing those who force them to polls. "It would simply be too risky," a senior Labour MP told me, citing one definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Were a second referendum lost, any hope of blocking Brexit, or even softening it, would be ended. 

The vote, as some Remainers note, would also come at the wrong moment. By 2018/19, the UK will, at best, have finalised its divorce terms. A new trade agreement with the EU will take far longer to conclude. Thus, the Brexiteers would be free to paint a false picture of the UK's future relationship. "It would be another half-baked, ill-informed campaign," a Labour MP told me. 

For this reason, as I write in my column this week, an increasing number of Remainers are attracted to an alternative strategy. After a lengthy transition, they argue, voters should be offered a choice between a new EU trade deal and re-entry under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. By the mid-2020s, Remainers calculate, the risks of Brexit will be clearer and the original referendum will be a distant memory. The proviso, they add, is that the EU would have to allow the UK re-entry on its existing membership terms (rather than ending its opt-outs from the euro and the border-free Schengen Area). 

Rather than publicly proposing this plan, MPs are wisely keeping their counsel. As they know, those who hope to overturn the Brexit result must first be seen to respect it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.