Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Osborne economics is not an invincible force of nature (Guardian)

Although many appear resigned to life under this dysfunctional capitalism, there is a way to make the system less inhuman, says John Harris.

2. All coups end in petty tyranny, however good the intentions (Daily Telegraph)

Britain should scorn the idea that military rule in Egypt is the 'least bad’ option, says Daniel Hannan.

3. We have another option in Egypt: to do nothing (Guardian)

We want to avoid another Syria but intervention could prove counter-productive, writes Oliver Miles. Britain should push for a diplomatic solution.

4. No, this is not the road to recovery. It's the road to Wongaland (Guardian)

The notion that the Bank of England base rate is dominant and we should all go shopping has already been punctured, writes Ann Pettifor.

5. Britain's involvement in the EU is too entrenched to achieve any reform (Daily Mail)

To break free and set our own terms requires an Act of Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act and all connected statutes, writes Robin Harris.

6. One year on, Marikana is emblematic of South Africa’s woes (Independent)

In the ANC’s 19 years in power, little has been done to address inequalities, says an Independent editorial.

7. The police keep firing; the bodies pile up. In Cairo, bloodbaths are now a daily occurrence (Independent)

There can be no excuse for the police whose duty is to protect all Egyptians, says Robert Fisk.

8. Conversation dies. Smartphone to the rescue (Times)

It’s not necessarily rude to play with your phone instead of talking, writes Matthew Parris. It’s just a way of relieving the pressure.

9. The Conservative Party needs to be more inviting (Daily Telegraph)

It's no wonder the Tories are losing members when Conservative associations appear to be stuck in the Fifties, writes Graeme Archer.

10. Japan’s past and future meet at Zero (Financial Times)

Controversy over a new film highlights the change in Japanese attitudes since the 1990s, writes David Pilling.

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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.