Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Failing elites threaten our future (Financial Times)

Leaders richly rewarded for mediocrity cannot be relied upon when things go wrong, writes Martin Wolf. 

2. Ed Miliband should come clean – the rich will have to pay more (Daily Telegraph)

A promise to reinstate the top 50p tax band and fund child care would be a good start, says Mary Riddell. 

3. Why A&E departments are fighting for their life (Guardian)

The marketisation of the NHS pits hospital against hospital, and specialism against specialism, says Allyson Pollock. The whole service is suffering, not just A&E.

4. Benefits Street is a challenge for the right (Times)

As this brilliant TV programme suggests, vulnerable people need help to break the cycle of dependence, says Daniel Finkelstein. 

5. France was described as the ‘sick man of Europe’ in the past but returned to health when a Socialist President changed his policies (Independent)

The parallels between the François then and the François now are uncanny, says Hamish McRae.

6. The bluster of al-Qaeda hides failure (Financial Times)

Policy should focus less on the jihadis and more on the conditions that engender them, says David Gardner.

7. America has had the guts to go after banking’s rogues (Times)

UK regulators believe that prosecuting banks would be destabilising, writes Ross Clark. 

8. The squeezed middle deserves far better (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron has to come up with an agenda that will see those suffering from that “protracted squeeze” benefit from the recovery, says a Telegraph editorial. 

9. Cost of living crisis vaporised as inflation falls (Daily Mail)

Labour’s knee-jerk response to every set of economic numbers may soon need revising, says Alex Brummer. 

10. Hollande's private life is the least of his problems (Guardian)

The president should be regretting not his personal follies but the failure of the French economic model, writes Simon Jenkins. 

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What type of Brexit did we vote for? 150,000 Conservative members will decide

As Michael Gove launches his leadership bid, what Leave looks like will be decided by Conservative activists.

Why did 17 million people vote to the leave the European Union, and what did they want? That’s the question that will shape the direction of British politics and economics for the next half-century, perhaps longer.

Vote Leave triumphed in part because they fought a campaign that combined ruthless precision about what the European Union would do – the illusory £350m a week that could be clawed back with a Brexit vote, the imagined 75 million Turks who would rock up to Britain in the days after a Remain vote – with calculated ambiguity about what exit would look like.

Now that ambiguity will be clarified – by just 150,000 people.

 That’s part of why the initial Brexit losses on the stock market have been clawed back – there is still some expectation that we may end up with a more diluted version of a Leave vote than the version offered by Vote Leave. Within the Treasury, the expectation is that the initial “Brexit shock” has been pushed back until the last quarter of the year, when the election of a new Conservative leader will give markets an idea of what to expect.  

Michael Gove, who kicked off his surprise bid today, is running as the “full-fat” version offered by Vote Leave: exit from not just the European Union but from the single market, a cash bounty for Britain’s public services, more investment in science and education. Make Britain great again!

Although my reading of the Conservative parliamentary party is that Gove’s chances of getting to the top two are receding, with Andrea Leadsom the likely beneficiary. She, too, will offer something close to the unadulterated version of exit that Gove is running on. That is the version that is making officials in Whitehall and the Bank of England most nervous, as they expect it means exit on World Trade Organisation terms, followed by lengthy and severe recession.

Elsewhere, both Stephen Crabb and Theresa May, who supported a Remain vote, have kicked off their campaigns with a promise that “Brexit means Brexit” in the words of May, while Crabb has conceded that, in his view, the Leave vote means that Britain will have to take more control of its borders as part of any exit deal. May has made retaining Britain’s single market access a priority, Crabb has not.

On the Labour side, John McDonnell has set out his red lines in a Brexit negotiation, and again remaining in the single market is a red line, alongside access to the European Investment Bank, and the maintenance of “social Europe”. But he, too, has stated that Brexit means the “end of free movement”.

My reading – and indeed the reading within McDonnell’s circle – is that it is the loyalists who are likely to emerge victorious in Labour’s power struggle, although it could yet be under a different leader. (Serious figures in that camp are thinking about whether Clive Lewis might be the solution to the party’s woes.) Even if they don’t, the rebels’ alternate is likely either to be drawn from the party’s Brownite tendency or to have that faction acting as its guarantors, making an end to free movement a near-certainty on the Labour side.

Why does that matter? Well, the emerging consensus on Whitehall is that, provided you were willing to sacrifice the bulk of Britain’s financial services to Frankfurt and Paris, there is a deal to be struck in which Britain remains subject to only three of the four freedoms – free movement of goods, services, capital and people – but retains access to the single market. 

That means that what Brexit actually looks like remains a matter of conjecture, a subject of considerable consternation for British officials. For staff at the Bank of England,  who have to make a judgement call in their August inflation report as to what the impact of an out vote will be. The Office of Budget Responsibility expects that it will be heavily led by the Bank. Britain's short-term economic future will be driven not by elected politicians but by polls of the Conservative membership. A tense few months await. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.