When Theresa May took office yesterday afternoon, her opening speech set out a series of radical reforms to Britain that she will deliver over the next four years. Arguably her most important statement of the last week, however, is the one she made on Tuesday: ‘Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it’. With the appointments of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to her cabinet early on, it is clear that that statement was more than hyperbole, so here is what Theresa May might consider doing to ensure that Brexit does indeed mean Brexit.
If we are to deliver the Brexit that the country voted for, then we need to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Brexit requires real unity if we are to make it work, and securing that unity will be one of Mrs May’s toughest challenges. Within the Conservative Party (both its Parliamentary members and the membership as a whole), Theresa May has already embarked upon her unity drive. To continue to secure that unity, May will need a Cabinet which encompasses the most competent MPs from both sides of the Remain/Leave divide, and she will need to convince Party members that she is truly committed to delivering on Brexit.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be included and consulted as part of the negotiations on how our post-Brexit relationship with the EU will look. We are a family of nations in the United Kingdom – sometimes in a family decisions get made that not everyone agrees with, but what we must do now is ensure that we have an open and honest dialogue with all of our regions to ensure that we get a Brexit that works for all of us. The appointment of Ruth Davidson to the Privy Council last night was an interesting signal that there will be a cross-nation Brexit team, however it remains an important fact that – whether you like her or not – Nicola Sturgeon must have a representative at the table if we are to ensure true unity post-Brexit.
Many young people feel let down by Brexit, and it is they who will be affected by the future direction this country takes. We need to involve young people in the Brexit process – remembering that a significant number of (albeit less vocal post-referendum) people aged 18-24 voted to Leave as well as those who voted Remain. It would make sense, therefore, for May’s government to create a body of young people who could be consulted on the negotiations and the sort of package young people want to see delivered. MPs are, by the nature of life and their jobs, not able to be in touch with the Students’ Unions and the classrooms to the same extent that young people are. If we created a panel of young people, from both the Leave and Remain camps, who could go out and garner opinions on the best post-Brexit strategy for young people, then we would ensure unity in one of the most affected groups, and it would also be a terrific statement by Mrs May, that in her government, young people have a voice.
A Parliament united behind the Brexit package is so much more powerful than one fighting over every little amendment. To garner Parliamentary unity is no easy thing – as the Cameron/Clegg coalition premiership showed us – but garner it we must if we are to deliver a Brexit that will unite the country. Just as with all of the groups in our society being included, and all of the nations in our country being included, all of the parties in our Parliament must be included in the decision about what sort of deal to pursue. Including members from Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP and all of the other Parliamentary parties would be another bold statement from Mrs May that Brexit is bigger than party politics.
The Brexit that Theresa May delivers will define her premiership. Regardless of whatever else she delivers, she has been charged by the Conservative Party with securing the best deal for Brexit and her legacy will depend on that deal. She needs to deliver unity to a divided nation – removing hatred towards others (be they of a difference race, class, gender or political position), dismissing this idea of ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’, and delivering a Brexit that works for all. As Theresa May says, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – if she’s going to make a success of it, then we need unity now more than ever.