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Michael Gove gambles as he rejects single market membership

The Leave campaign's move offers its opponents new economic ammunition. 

For months, EU supporters have been demanding clarity from the Leave campaign on what post-Brexit model it would seek. Would it seek to remain in the single market (like Norway) and risk the loss of sovereignty? (Existing members are required to accept the free movement of people, obey EU law and contribute to the European budget.) Or would it leave the single market and risk the loss of economic activity? The ambiguity has allowed Remain to accuse Leave of adopting Boris Johnon's policy on cake: "pro having it and pro eating it". 

Today, in a lengthy, cerebral and frequently humorous speech, Michael Gove ate his cake. He announced that the UK would not apply for membership of the single market but would instead seek a free trade agreement with the EU. While few dispute that this could be achieved (as Gove noted, the free trade area includes Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and the Ukraine), the In campaign will warn that it would come at a severe cost. 

Withdrawal from the single market, which the UK joined under Margaret Thatcher in 1986, would mean an end to the single market in financial services - one of the UK's greatest assets. When challenged on this point in the Q&A that followed, Gove insisted that the "ingenuity" of the City of London would allow it to continue to flourish. But Mark Carney and bank heads have warned of lost jobs, higher prices, fewer businesses and reduced investment. 

The Leave campaign is attempting to overshadow this spectre by vowing that the UK would regain control of its borders and laws. Its hope is that anxiety over immigration and sovereignty will trump financial fears. But the Remain campaign, which has relentlessly focused on the economic case against withdrawal, is confident that its strategy will prevail. As recent losers Alex Salmond, Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband can testify, few have ever triumphed without without securing victory on this front. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Arsène Wenger. Credit: Getty
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My biggest regret of the Wenger era? How we, the fans, treated him at the end

Arsenal’s greatest coach deserved better treatment from the Club’s supporters. 

I have no coherent memories of Arsenal before Arsène Wenger, who will leave the Club at the end of the season. I am aware of the Club having a new manager, but my continuous memories of my team are of Wenger at the helm.

They were good years to remember: three league titles, seven FA Cups, the most of any single manager in English football. He leaves the Club as the most successful manager in its history.

I think one of the reasons why in recent years he has taken a pasting from Arsenal fans is that the world before him now seems unimaginable, and not just for those of us who can't really remember it. As he himself once said, it is hard to go back to sausages when you are used to caviar, and while the last few years cannot be seen as below par as far as the great sweep of Arsenal’s history goes, they were below par by the standards he himself had set. Not quite sausages, but not caviar either.

There was the period of financial restraint from 2005 onwards, in which the struggle to repay the cost of a new stadium meant missing out on top player. A team that combined promising young talent with the simply bang-average went nine years without a trophy. Those years had plenty of excitement: a 2-1 victory over Manchester United with late, late goals from Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, a delicious 5-2 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, and races for the Champions League that went to the last day. It was a time that seemed to hold the promise a second great age of Wenger once the debt was cleared. But instead of a return to the league triumphs of the past, Wenger’s second spree of trophy-winning was confined to the FA Cup. The club went from always being challenging for the league, to always finishing in the Champions League places, to struggling to finish in the top six. Again, nothing to be sniffed at, but short of his earlier triumphs.

If, as feels likely, Arsenal’s dire away form means the hunt for a Uefa Cup victory ends at Atletico Madrid, many will feel that Wenger missed a trick in not stepping down after his FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last year, in one of the most thrilling FA Cup Finals in years. (I particularly enjoyed this one as I watched it with my best man, a Chelsea fan.) 

No one could claim that this season was a good one, but the saddest thing for me was not the turgid performances away from home nor the limp exit from the FA Cup, nor even finishing below Tottenham again. It was hearing Arsenal fans, in the world-class stadium that Wenger built for us, booing and criticising him.

And I think, that, when we look back on Wenger’s transformation both of Arsenal and of English football in general, more than whether he should have called it a day a little earlier, we will wonder how Arsenal fans could have forgotten the achievements of a man who did so much for us.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.