YP Comment: Don’t squander student talents. Brexit’s university challenge

Will Brexit harm Yorkshire's universities?

Will Brexit harm Yorkshire's universities?

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AFTER A toxic Labour conference where the party appeared to be as split on immigration policy and Brexit as it was on Jeremy Corbyn’s lingering leadership, Tory divisions on border controls and freedom of movement will be just as pronounced in the coming days.

Yet, as Theresa May faces the invidious task of delivering her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mantra without splitting her party which has already been at war with itself over European integration for a quarter of a century, it’s important that Britain’s exit from the EU is more nuanced.

Take higher education as a Parliamentary select committee starts to explore the ramifications for Britain’s universities. Not only are their fragile finances underpinned by the fees paid by students from overseas, but their academic success stems, in part, from global influences and the sharing of knowledge. At least the Government has bought itself some time by promising to honour existing EU funding commitments for research projects, a point which leading academics would be wise to remember as they become enthralled by Labour’s uncosted conference commitments from the past week.

And it should also be remembered that Yorkshire’s leading universities are of intrinsic importance to the future of the Northern Powerhouse as Andy Burnham, still the Shadow Home Secretary, denounces successive governments – Tory and Labour alike – for ignoring the North. By working with city leaders and employers, universities can, and should, be doing far more to encourage all those graduates who clearly enjoyed the student lifestyle in Yorkshire to put their skills and knowledge to practical use by setting up new companies and business ventures here. As such, politicians must see the bigger picture if this pool of talent is not to be squandered.

Israel in mourning

THE death of former Israeli president Shimon Peres was summed up by Boris Johnson’s tribute. “In my last conversation with him he told me that ‘pessimists and optimists pass away the same way. But if you leave as an optimist you have had a better life’,” said the Foreign Secretary as Jews around the world mourn his death and the lasting contribution that he made to political life.

The regret is that the path to peace, which began with Mr Peres and the then Palestine leader Yasser Arafat receiving the Nobel prize in 1994 thanks, in no small part, to the negotiating skills of President Bill Clinton, appears to have lost much of its early momentum and remains intractable because of simmering tensions in the Middle East.

An eloquent advocate for a two state solution, Mr Peres was a pragmatist and this approach, one of the cornerstones of international diplomacy, has been in short supply as mistrust deepened between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet this moment of reflection also shows that Tony Blair was an abject failure as peace envoy – and tangible progress will only be made if there’s a charismatic leader like President Clinton who is prepared to invest in diplomacy so optimism does eventually triumph over the prevailing pessimism. With Middle East politics and security even more complicated, not least because of Western military intervention, the rise of the Islamic State and Syria’s self-destruction, a need for fresh dialogue has never been greater.

Streets ahead...

THE contrast could not be greater – Sam Allardyce’s humiliating resignation as England manager as money continues to corrupt professional football and the sheer joy provided by Yorkshire’s Olympians and Paralympians who are clearly motivated by a true love of sport.

This was self-evident on the streets of Leeds during last night’s homecoming parade for this county’s Rio heroes and heroines. A heartwarming occasion, these role models not only appreciate the meaning of the word ‘team’, but they never take such support for granted.

It’s also important that their shining example is not overshadowed by the multi-millionaire mercenaries at the very top of English football who continue to besmirch the reputation of this one-time working class sport now being held to financial ransom by under-performing players, their avaricious agents and shameless managers like Mr Allardyce who was clearly not content with a £3m a year pay cheque. If the supposed national game has any chance of winning back some credibility, it surely needs to start following the example of the Brownlee brothers and co.

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