Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: Hammond must beware the danger of playing it safe

What the papers say: Hammond must beware the danger of playing it safe
Text settings

Philip Hammond’s second Budget of the year will mean that the Chancellor has another 'bite at a not especially flavoursome cherry’, says the Daily Telegraph. The last time, his announcements ‘misfired’; since then Hammond's ‘room for manoeuvre’ has become even more limited. This means that many in the Tory ranks are not filled with ‘great expectations’ about what Hammond might say and instead, says the Telegraph, they ’are just anxious to see Mr Hammond through the day without mishap’. But playing it safe won't be enough for the Tories, according to the paper, which argues in its editorial that it doing so would ‘throw away the opportunity’ for the government to ‘take the initiative’. From the early reports of what we can expect in the Budget, it seems Hammond will ’try to woo young people away from the Corbyn cult’, with schemes such as Help to Buy, and also a young persons’ railcard. Building more homes will help, too. But ‘the best way of helping young people is not to lose control of the public finances’, argues the Telegraph. Hammond must ’work on cutting overall debt’  – and he must deliver his announcement today with the ‘confident and upbeat tone’ the country needs to hear, the paper concludes.

The Sun meanwhile turns its fire on the EU, following reports that an increased offer for the Brexit divorce bill up to around €40bn is not enough. ‘What a surprise’, says the Sun, which claims that Brussels is ‘so greedy...for British cash that it didn’t even wait for us to formally table a new offer before dismissing it as insufficient’. The paper says that this latest development – as well as threats from Ireland to veto negotiations – has left it wondering whether Britain would be best off pulling the plug on talks. Brexit means leaving the single market, and yet this plan will be ‘smothered at birth’ if we’re forced to stick by the EU’s rules after we leave, as Michel Barnier has tried to suggest Britain must do. ‘Make no mistake, that is precisely what Brussels wants’, the Sun says. So while there has been much hype over the Brexit divorce bill, maybe it is time to look at the bigger picture and ask a key question: ‘Will it be worth a single penny if its terms are a millstone around our necks?’.

At last, says the Guardian, Britain has decided to up its Brexit divorce payment offer. But don’t expect any cheering in the paper’s editorial. It ‘would have been better if Britain had not voted to leave the European Union in the first place’, argues the paper. But if Brexit does happen, the best we can hope for is an exit which takes place while co operating ‘with the Europe it leaves behind’, and this week’s decision ‘at least opens up that possibility’. What’s more, the vagueness of the announcement will also make it easier for the government to bridge the gap between the current offer and the sum the EU actually wants, suggests the Guardian. ‘For once’, says the Guardian, it seems the Tory cabinet has ‘behaved sensibly’. The likes of Gove and Boris have ‘kept quiet since making the decision'. It is too early to say that ‘this cabinet cannot be relied on over Europe’, says the paper. ‘But they have made the least bad decision in the circumstances’, concludes the Guardian.