Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. As we ogle her shoes, Teflon Theresa eyes No 10 (Sunday Times) (£)

In Westminster’s unending quest for the next leader, fancies are turning towards the home secretary, says Adam Boulton.

2. Are you in a sham marriage? (Observer)

Border Agency officials ruined a wedding last week, but maybe we should all take their test, says Victoria Coren.

3. Could Chris Christie’s magic work for the Tories? (Sunday Telegraph)

Appealing to the blue-collar middle class does not come naturally to any party in Britain, says Janet Daley.

4. 66,000 girls mutilated - and we've let them do it (Mail on Sunday)

FGM has been banned here, in theory, since 1985. But it goes on, says Rachel Johnson.

5. A comedian rants and politics looks fun. Now let the grown-ups talk (Sunday Times) (£)

It is not surprising that people think MPs are useless when they get into power, says Camilla Cavendish.

6. Ed Miliband has no answer to IDS the dragon-slayer (Sunday Telegraph)

There have been snarl-ups, but Iain Duncan Smith is undeterred – if welfare reform was easy, he’ll say, someone else would have done it by now, writes Bruce Anderson.

7. Which part of a woman's body will we be taught to despise next? (Observer)

Kate's grey hair is just the latest bit to come under scrutiny, says Barbara Ellen

8. Why Dave needs a 95% loan to keep his dream home (Mail on Sunday)

David Cameron will ‘channel’ Margaret Thatcher this week, says James Forsyth

9. Even a vote for Nick Clegg is better than not voting (Independent on Sunday)

Politicians tend to pay more attention to rich, older men such as Russell Brand or Jeremy Paxman, says John Rentoul.

10. Under the Tories we have become Fool Britannia as foreign countries cash in on our energy bills (Sunday Mirror)

Why not employ our redundant former shipyard workers to make wind turbines instead of sending the work abroad, asks John Prescott.

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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.