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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Osborne must show he is on the side of those who suffer (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor will struggle to silence Labour’s charge that his Budget measures are unfair, writes Mary Riddell. 

2. Prise Ukraine from Putin’s claws (Financial Times)

Russia’s revanchism has to be stopped, even for its own sake, says Martin Wolf. 

3. The Budget is just a gimmick. So let’s ditch it (Times)

Tinkering with taxes every few months may play to the crowd but it’s a disaster for business and prosperity, says Daniel Finkelstein. 

4. Afghanistan: as China forges new alliances, a new Great Game has begun (Guardian)

A common interest in central Asia over Uighur and Taliban militancy is bringing together Beijing and the United States, says William Dalrymple. 

5. The focus is on Crimea, but next is the fight for Ukraine (Guardian)

Despite today's shooting, the west must not forget that the pivotal struggle is over control of the eastern heartlands, writes Timothy Garton Ash. 

6. The Sunni revolt in Syria has given al-Qa’ida more power in Iraq (Independent)

The western powers failed to see that by supporting the armed uprising in Syria, they would inevitably destabilise Iraq, writes Patrick Cockburn. 

7. Putin thinks the west is as weak as jelly. And the tragedy is he's right (Daily Mail)

We neither need nor wish to fight Russia, but the west must abandon its dismally failed attempt to appease its leader, says Max Hastings. 

8. Couples on £300K should pay for their own nannies (Times)

We tax one-earner couples much more than other nations, writes Jill Kirby. 

9. George Osborne, it's not your job to look after the very rich (Guardian)

Britain will always have a wealth gap, writes Simon Jenkins. What's shocking is how governments conspire in its obscene unfairness.

10. Our outrageous tax system isn’t just bad economics. It’s immoral too (Independent)

Those in Westminster have dragged people into a spiral of excessive taxation, ripping the heart of the productivity of our economy, says Nigel Farage. 

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After a year of chaos, MPs from all parties are trying to stop an extreme Brexit

The Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit.

One year ago today, I stood on Westminster Bridge as the sun rose over a changed country. By a narrow margin, on an unexpectedly high turnout, a majority of people in Britain had chosen to leave the EU. It wasn’t easy for those of us on the losing side – especially after such scaremongering from the leaders of the Leave campaign – but 23 June 2016 showed the power of a voting opportunity where every vote counted.

A year on from the vote, and the process is in chaos. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Leave campaign deliberately never spelled out any detailed plan for Brexit, and senior figures fought internal battles over which model they preferred. One minute Britain would be like Norway, then we’d be like Canada – and then we’d be unique. After the vote Theresa May promised us a "Red, White and Blue Brexit" – and then her ministers kept threatening the EU with walking away with no deal at all which, in fairness, would be unique(ly) reckless. 

We now have our future being negotiated by a government who have just had their majority wiped out. More than half of voters opted for progressive parties at the last election – yet the people representing us in Brussels are the right-wing hardliners David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson.

Despite widespread opposition, the government has steadfastly refused to unilaterally guarantee EU citizens their rights. This week it has shown its disregard for the environment as it published a Queen’s Speech with no specific plans for environmental protection in the Brexit process either. 

Amid such chaos there is, however, a glimmer of hope. MPs from all parties are working together to stop an extreme Brexit. Labour’s position seems to be softening, and it looks likely that the Scottish Parliament will have a say on the final deal too. The Democratic Unionist Party is regressive in many ways, but there’s a good chance that the government relying on it will soften Brexit for Northern Ireland, at least because of the DUP's insistence on keeping the border with Ireland open. My amendments to the Queen’s speech to give full rights to EU nationals and create an Environmental Protection Act have cross-party support.

With such political instability here at home – and a growing sense among the public that people deserve a final say on any deal - it seems that everything is up for grabs. The government has no mandate for pushing ahead with an extreme Brexit. As the democratic reformers Unlock Democracy said in a recent report “The failure of any party to gain a majority in the recent election has made the need for an inclusive, consensus based working even more imperative.” The referendum should have been the start of a democratic process, not the end of one.

That’s why Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit, in order to ensure that voices from across the political spectrum are heard in the process. And it’s why we continue to push for a ratification referendum on the final deal negotiated by the government - we want the whole country to have the last word on this, not just the 650 MPs elected to the Parliament via an extremely unrepresentative electoral system.

No one predicted what would happen over the last year. From the referendum, to Theresa May’s disastrous leadership and a progressive majority at a general election. And no one knows exactly what will happen next. But what’s clear is that people across this country should be at the centre of the coming debate over our future – it can’t be stitched up behind closed doors by ministers without a mandate.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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