Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The threat of another euro crisis (Financial Times)

Two German institutions have now objected to the policies underpinning the euro, writes Gideon Rachman. 

2. The greater the challenge, the more hope Clegg has (Independent)

Like Tony Blair, he came to politics relatively late, but now seems to be partly enjoying power even though poll ratings are dire, writes Steve Richards. 

3. Without women, Tories face a lost cause (Financial Times)

If the UK prime minister wants change, he must impose all-women shortlists, says Helen Lewis.

4. This treatment would save children's lives – so why won't the government allow it? (Guardian)

Mitochondrial replacement, developed in the UK, looks set to be lost to the US because the government is too timid to back it, writes Polly Toynbee.

5. Scottish independence: There are two men who could help Mr Cameron save Britain (Daily Telegraph)

The contribution of John Major and Gordon Brown would make sense of the PM's call to arms, says Benedict Brogan. 

6. Cameron must stop and search his conscience (Times)

Theresa May is right to curtail this power, says Rachel Sylvester. Its reform would improve Conservative and police relations with minorities.

7. We need a Bismarck to tame the machines (Financial Times)

The power of the new technology barons must be held in check, says Michael Ignatieff.

8. Orwell was hailed a hero for fighting in Spain. Today he'd be guilty of terrorism (Guardian)

The International Brigades were hailed for bravery, writes George Monbiot. But British citizens who fight in Syria are damned. If only they did it for the money.

9. Accidental damage at Barclays (Daily Mail)

The leak of the profits projection gives the impression of a bank that has not only lost its moral compass but is also accident prone, writes Alex Brummer. 

10. The GOP must learn how to talk about sex (Times)

It’s not the Republicans’ policies that are off-putting for women, but how they are expressed, writes Hugo Rifkind. 

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Theresa May gambles that the EU will blink first

In her Brexit speech, the Prime Minister raised the stakes by declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain". 

It was at Lancaster House in 1988 that Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech heralding British membership of the single market. Twenty eight years later, at the same venue, Theresa May confirmed the UK’s retreat.

As had been clear ever since her Brexit speech in October, May recognises that her primary objective of controlling immigration is incompatible with continued membership. Inside the single market, she noted, the UK would still have to accept free movement and the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). “It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all,” May surmised.

The Prime Minister also confirmed, as anticipated, that the UK would no longer remain a full member of the Customs Union. “We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe,” May declared.

But she also recognises that a substantial proportion of this will continue to be with Europe (the destination for half of current UK exports). Her ambition, she declared, was “a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement”. May added that she wanted either “a completely new customs agreement” or associate membership of the Customs Union.

Though the Prime Minister has long ruled out free movement and the acceptance of ECJ jurisdiction, she has not pledged to end budget contributions. But in her speech she diminished this potential concession, warning that the days when the UK provided “vast” amounts were over.

Having signalled what she wanted to take from the EU, what did May have to give? She struck a notably more conciliatory tone, emphasising that it was “overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed”. The day after Donald Trump gleefully predicted the institution’s demise, her words were in marked contrast to those of the president-elect.

In an age of Isis and Russian revanchism, May also emphasised the UK’s “unique intelligence capabilities” which would help to keep “people in Europe safe from terrorism”. She added: “At a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain’s servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.”

The EU’s defining political objective is to ensure that others do not follow the UK out of the club. The rise of nationalists such as Marine Le Pen, Alternative für Deutschland and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) has made Europe less, rather than more, amenable to British demands. In this hazardous climate, the UK cannot be seen to enjoy a cost-free Brexit.

May’s wager is that the price will not be excessive. She warned that a “punitive deal that punishes Britain” would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”. But as Greece can testify, economic self-interest does not always trump politics.

Unlike David Cameron, however, who merely stated that he “ruled nothing out” during his EU renegotiation, May signalled that she was prepared to walk away. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she declared. Such an outcome would prove economically calamitous for the UK, forcing it to accept punitively high tariffs. But in this face-off, May’s gamble is that Brussels will blink first.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.