Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ed, you can’t remain a Medium-Sized Beast (Times) (£)

The Labour leader is surrounded by grumblers. He needs to wield the knife and assert himself as leader of the pack, writes Rafael Behr.

2. Our sepia-tinted self-image is consoling, but it hinders NHS change more than anything else (Independent)

In its organisation and buildings, it is stuck in several time-warps and only the philosophy – a universal service, free at the point of delivery – remains valid, argues Mary Dejevsky.

3. Britain's booming population is a blessing, not a curse (Guardian)

The birth rate, at its highest for 40 years, is a great opportunity for our economy and wellbeing – if we make the right choices, says Polly Toynbee.

4. How Jeremy Hunt is following head boy Michael Gove’s lead (Telegraph)

The Health Secretary’s intolerance of failure in the NHS is inspired by the Education Secretary’s example, writes Isabel Hardman.

5. Cameron delights delegates with Lib Dem jokes (Daily Mail)

Prince William, Liz Hurley and David Cameron all make a showing in Ephraim Hardcastle's diary.

6. Focus on inflation, Mr Carney. Nothing else (Times)

Disaster follows when interest rates are set to control the exchange rate or unemployment, says Steve Davies.

7. Give David Cameron his due for unleashing Tory animal spirits (Telegraph)

The Conservative Party’s fortunes are improving, but its leader’s critics remain hobbled by the past, writes Bruce Anderson.

8. The west’s errors in Afghanistan – strategic, political and military – are too legion to list (FT) (£)

The west’s errors in Afghanistan – strategic, political and military – are too legion to list, says Philip Stevens.

9. Britain's hypocrisy towards Nigeria (Guardian)

Rather than open our doors to this potential superpower, we bar invited guests and throw money at its kleptocratic elite, says Ian Birrell.

10. Cameron has a point: negative coverage for social media can prove disastrous (Independent)

Users have woken up to the power of the boycott. These sites may be free to use, but if they lose users, they will also lose advertising revenue, writes Natalie Haynes.

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Free movement isn't free: the truth about EU immigration

The UK does not need to leave the single market to restrict European migration - it already can.

In the Brext negotiations, the government has unashamedly prioritised immigration control over the economy. The UK must leave the single market, ministers say, in order to restrict free movement. For decades, they lament, European immigration has been "uncontrolled", making it impossible to meet the government's target of reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year.

It's worth noting that non-EU immigration alone (which ministers can limit) remains more than ten times this level (owing to the economic benefits). But more importantly, liberals and conservatives alike talk of "free movement" as if it is entirely free - it isn't.

Though EU citizens are initially permitted to live in any member state, after three months they must prove that they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have "sufficient resources" (savings or a pension) to support themselves and not be "a burden on the benefits system". Far from being unconditional, then, the right to free movement is highly qualified.

The irony is that the supposedly immigration-averse UK has never enforced these conditions. Even under Theresa May, the Home Office judged that the cost of recording entry and exit dates was too high. Since most EU migrants are employed (and contribute significantly more in taxes than they do in benefits), there was no economic incentive to do so.

For some Brexiteers, of course, a job is not adequate grounds for an immigrant to remain. But even beyond implementing existing law, there is potential for further reform of free movement - even within the single market.

As Nick Clegg recently noted, shortly after the referendum, "a number of senior EU figures" were exploring a possible trade-off: "a commitment by the UK to pursue the least economically disruptive Brexit by maintaining participation in the single market and customs union, in return for a commitment to the reform of freedom of movement, including an 'emergency brake' on unusually high levels of intra-EU immigration." Liechtenstein, a member of the single market, has recently imposed quotas on EU migrants.

Yet with some exceptions, these facts are rarely heard in British political debate. Many Labour MPs, like their Conservative counterparts, support single market withdrawal to end free movement. The unheard truth that it isn't "free" could yet lead the UK to commit an avoidable act of economic self-harm.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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