Shifting sands: our world post-Brexit
I started work at Impetus-PEF the week that the UK voted to leave the European Union. It was also the week that the Prime Minister resigned, there were calls in Scotland and Northern Ireland for referenda about their future, we went from being the fifth to the sixth largest economy in the world, and Boris Johnson’s hair trended tremendously on Weibo (China’s hybrid of Facebook and Twitter). And that was just my first week. It feels like every week since the political landscape has shifted; we didn’t know from one day to the next whether we were preparing for party leadership elections, an imminent general election, or as now seems more likely, a new government and new shadow cabinet(s) bedding in until 2020. It has been an extraordinary time to start a public affairs job.
But one thing is for sure, during this time of national upheaval, there is nowhere I’d rather be than at Impetus-PEF. This isn’t because I’ve also discovered what a bright, brilliant, driven and welcoming team I am joining during these first eventful weeks (although that helps). It is principally because Impetus-PEF’s mission – to ensure that every young person in this country has a fair and equal chance in education, in work and in life – has become the nation’s mission.
In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May proclaimed that her government would ‘do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.’ Rarely before has so much political and media attention been paid to the concerns of young people in particular. Whatever your views on the referendum result, the clear generational divergence between young people who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and older people who voted overwhelmingly to leave, has been a wakeup call. While we all feel uncertain about the future, the costs and benefits of Brexit will be more felt acutely by those with their future still laid before them.
So what are we doing about this? Our work with frontline charities working to give disadvantaged young people the very best chances in education and work, is more important than ever. Supporting this, our Public Affairs team has been doing all it can to emphasise that opportunities for young people must be at the centre of the government’s domestic agenda. We have underlined this in our interactions with the Departments of Education, Work and Pensions and others on a range of policy initiatives including the Education white paper, the Skills white paper and the Apprenticeship levy. We have embarked on an exciting new phase of our Life after school campaign, which will shed light on the ever increasing numbers of young people retaking their maths and English GCSEs and we are working with the Fair Education Alliance and partners to convene a high level conference on how we can chart a progressive post-Brexit future for our young people.
It has been a time of rapidly shifting sands. This creates an opportunity to clear out the old and make way for the new. Shaping the new is our task at Impetus-PEF now – fulfilling our mission has never been more vital.
Dr. Maria Neophytou
Director of Public Affairs, Impetus-PEF