Brexit is now being shaped by ministers who have a record of failing and dismissing the young, says TOMMY GALE of Our Future, Our Choice
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You may have breathed a sigh of relief when David Davis and Boris Johnson resigned their posts in the midst of a series of high-profile departures after the disastrous Chequers summit last weekend. With two of the hardest Brexiteers gone from key Cabinet positions, the Conservatives were keen to dub their replacements, Dominic Raab and Jeremy Hunt, and the White Paper that followed part of a progressive new approach to Brexit that would represent everyone, including the young people who voted so overwhelmingly to remain. But do not be fooled by the rhetoric. The latest reshuffle has installed new ministers at the heart of government who have shown contempt for the young in the past and look set to bring this outlook to their central roles in negotiating Brexit on our behalf.
Dominic Raab, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, is about as unrepresentative of the young as they come. Whilst unsurprising given his long-standing support of a Hard Brexit, his other views show how deep-rooted this gulf between him and young people really is. In the context of his stated lack of belief in the concept of economic and social rights, he has previously advocated scrapping the minimum wage for under-21s. This same frame of reference has led him to express other views that are wildly out-of-touch with a vast majority of young people, including that feminists are “obnoxious bigots” and that the only way to solve the housing crisis facing young first-time buyers is blame immigrants rather than building houses. Raab is hardly the progressive and representative face of Brexit that the Conservatives are keen to promote.
Jeremy Hunt, our new foreign secretary, does not fare much better. Although he initially backed a People’s Vote on the terms of the deal before the referendum, he has since backtracked saying he has been “won round” to the Brexit cause. His encounters with younger generations have not been encouraging either. As Secretary of State for Health he was unwavering in his attempts to impose completely unreasonable contracts on junior doctors, whilst last year he personally received £14.5m after selling the business he started before entering politics – a higher education course comparison company for students. Profit and money, not understanding and engagement, seem to have been the driving force behind our new foreign secretary’s engagement with young people thus far, and he too will play a key role in negotiating our future relationship with the EU.
Perhaps the most telling part of the recent reshuffle, however, was the resignation of the little-known Ben Bradley – the 28-year-old MP for Mansfield who had occupied the newly-created position of Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Youth. As the apparent representative of young people in the party, you would be forgiven for thinking that his recent resignation might have been a disgusted last stand on behalf of the young against his party’s anti-EU position. But you would be wrong. Shockingly, his resignation was because he thought the Chequers proposal was not hard enough for him to support. His recently-vacated Vice Chairman for Youth position, unsurprisingly, remains unfilled.
The latest round of resignations and appointments, then, has been anything but a progressive turn. Brexit is now being shaped by ministers who have a record of failing and dismissing the young, and by a party which has no ability or inclination to represent us. If you find this as upsetting a prospect as me, then take a stand against it by joining Our Future, Our Choice – a group of young people determined to democratically stop Brexit – in backing a People’s Vote on the deal.
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