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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The Tory split on Europe can’t be reconciled (Times)

Cameron’s isolation over Juncker is just the latest manifestation of a 150-year fault line running though his party, writes Philip Collins. 

2. Interest rates are entering the twilight zone (Daily Telegraph)

Central banks are only storing up problems for the future by sticking to printing money, says Jeremy Warner. 

3. Labour should be chasing Green voters, not Ukip supporters (Guardian)

Ed Miliband would be wrong to adopt an anti-immigration message, says David Edgar. Despite Ukip's surge, it has not recruited large swaths of loyalist Labour voters.

4. Draghi’s action has silenced the doubters (Financial Times)

The interest rate is as low as it can go but other measures could be stepped up, says Gavyn Davies. 

5. D-day 1944-2014: a standard for our times (Guardian)

D-day gave us a story and a myth and a standard of judgment we do well to heed, says a Guardian editorial.

6. You can’t reduce a 300-year-old union to a mushy peas analogy (Daily Telegraph)

Unionists can win in Scotland if they stop patronising and find some poetry, says Fraser Nelson. 

7. A Taliban victory wouldn't be an unmitigated disaster for Afghanistan - unless the west failed to support it (Independent)

They were brutal and reductive, but they brought the country closer to peace than at any time before or since, writes Peter Popham. 

8. What Xi and Putin think about the west (Financial Times)

Stable relationships will require understanding and a willingness, when necessary, to be tough, writes Philip Stephens.

9. Obama’s control freaks freeze out the media (Times)

The daily White House briefing could end as the president keeps a tight grip on his image, writes Justin Webb. 

10. Secret justice may be right for Putin's Russia – but not peacetime Britain (Guardian)

Judges have become co-opted into the security apparatus, bartering liberty for an assumed safety, writes Simon Jenkins. 

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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.