This pork barrel politics is beneath Britain

PUBLISHED: 11:02 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:02 04 February 2019

Anti-Brexit campaigners' placards outside the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA.

Anti-Brexit campaigners' placards outside the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Brexit is breaking Britain, and Theresa May’s deal might just leave it broken. WILL DRY issues a rallying call for young people to join Our Future Our Choice in fighting Brexit.

The Brexit mess is all consuming. We are all fed up of it. Civil servants have been taken off their day jobs, sucked into the all consuming effort that Brexit requires of our government. Can anyone remember the last important debate in the House of Commons that wasn’t about Brexit? And whenever anyone flicks on the news, they are bound to be met with a chorus of “Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.” Make no mistake, Brexit is not just boring our country, it is crippling it.

Theresa May’s deal, with its lack of clarity and closure, will leave us broken. This is, in large part, because it is not a deal. It does not answer any of the major questions about our relationship with Europe. We don’t even know, for example, if we’re going to, or if even we want to, end up in the single market and the customs union. We have a similar lack of clarity regarding our involvement on any of the forty odd agencies of the European Union, or our involvement in any of our shared projects - many of which we initiated. Take Galileo, the EU’s GPS that will be ready just as we leave. It was the EU informing us of the obvious, that as a non-member we would not have full access to the most secure elements of the project, that triggered the science and university minister, Sam Gyimah, to resign as he realised May’s Deal would leave us repeatedly hammered by the EU27 for years to come. Whether we stay a part of Galileo, Erasmus, or the European Medicines Agency, will be entirely in the gift of the EU member states. And why would, or should, they say “Yes, of course!”, when they could say “Yes, but it will cost you …” when they know participation is more than worth what they will charge. There will no doubt be a Brexit surcharge on membership of all these projects.

But our weaker and pricier participation with Europe will only account for half the damage. The rest is that, as with the last two years, answering the major questions May’s deal leaves unanswered will continue to suck all our political energy away from the pressing problems we are facing: rising knife crime, a failing prison and justice system, and a yet again underfunded and understaffed NHS. We have hired 15,000 civil servants to prepare for Brexit - not 15,000 nurses, doctors, or policemen and women. We are conducting that the Institute for Government describes as the “biggest, most challenging peacetime task the civil service has faced”, not to radically improve schools around the country, nor to prepare the NHS for an ageing population, or build a 100,000 homes a year and end homelessness. No, these efforts and resources are committed knowing full well it will yield no benefits, they are committed to a damage limitation exercise. Young people, nor the most vulnerable in our society, simply cannot afford, nor will we tolerate, inaction on all the major problems we face. Yet that is what the deal mandates. At its heart is a lack of clarity, which means endless, wearisome, but necessary, debates over the next decade, which means this deal will not deliver anything close to closure.

Brexit is breaking Britain, and Theresa May’s deal might just leave it broken. But it’s clear that the prime minister will do anything to get it over the line. After the 2017 election, without a majority, she was willing to buy the votes of DUP MPs for billions of pounds, and in doing so fracture the already precarious political settlement in Northern Ireland. Now, with no majority for her deal, her normal instincts have kicked in. She is allocating investment in some of our country’s most left behind, Northern communities according to which MPs are most likely to vote for her deal. Redcar, the constituency of Anna Turley, and Hull, represented by Diana Johnson and Karl Turner, should not get less than Dudley because their MPs are standing up for their constituents against a Brexit deal that is nothing less than a betrayal of what the Leave voters in their constituencies were promised.

This pork barrel politics is beneath Britain. And young people are sick of it. That’s why we’re taking over parliament on February 20th. If you’re young, and angry about Brexit, come join us.

• Will Dry is a campaigner with the youth anti-Brexit group Our Future Our Choice.

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