YP Comment: Brexit '“ time to listen and learn

AS THERESA May summons her Cabinet ministers to Chequers for a special away-day to discuss Brexit, and the potential opportunities for Britain, attendees would be advised to read today's telling research for the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation which sheds new light on the motivations behind the landmark Leave vote on June 23.

Theresa May and her Cabinet will discuss Brexit today.

It concludes that a determining factor was the extent to which low-earning and low-skilled workers felt ignored, even betrayed, by successive governments which turned a deaf ear to concerns about migration – and the sheer number of opportunities being taken by EU migrants – as official figures reveal how more people from Poland are moving here than from any other country.

This is significant. It is a reminder to Mrs May that the electorate, particularly in the neglected North, feels disenfranchised and that voters will punish the Government if she is unable to preside over changes to the economic so the interests of all take precedence over the “privileged few”. It is clear that David Cameron’s policy aides thought pro-EU support in London, a city synonymous with both multi-culturalism and globalisation, was shared across the whole of the UK. Their judgement could not have been more erroneous.

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Yet the challenge for Mrs May and her team is making sure that Britain still attracts sufficient international investors to provide sufficient opportunities for future generations. Although consumer confidence does not appear to have been dented by the Leave vote, the new PM’s definition of ‘Brexit’ is awaited with keen interest – especially by the business community.

In the meantime, the imminent start of the new academic year is a timely reminder that the issue of skills has never been more important to people of all ages, all abilities and from all walks of life. The Government can’t be expected to do this alone – individuals have to accept their share of personal responsibility – but this is one area where Ministers can take the lead and show that they have listened and learned.

Digital age is here to stay

IRRESPECTIVE of Brexit’s impact on the country at large, Yorkshire’s economy will continue to evolve as traditional manufacturing industries are replaced by hi-tech jobs and the emergence of digital first businesses. This is already happening with firms like gambling firm Sky Bet and FDM Group, the UK’s leading IT graduate employer, choosing to expand their operations on this side of the Pennines, and specifically Leeds, due to the potential that exists here. This also counters the misconception that talented individuals need to move to London in order to prosper.

However it’s also important that Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, takes heed of the comments of FDM’s chief operating officer Sheila Flavell who is concerned that schools and colleges are making basic errors – a misguided belief that computers are a male-dominated career; classroom lessons do not focus sufficiently on the practical skills required by industry and the erroneous belief that students need a degree if they’re to work in IT.

Valid criticisms which need to shape Ms Greening’s forthcoming policy speech, they need to be taken on board by education leaders across the region. If schools can ensure that even more pupils gain the necessary expertise, there are employers who will provide the job opportunities – the one certainty, moving forward, is that the digital economy will continue to expand.

Fair way still to go

AS tourism leaders look to exploit’s golf potential, it is right that they acknowledge the sport’s rich heritage in Yorkshire – both the Ryder and Walker Cups have been staged on the county’s fairways. It does not end here. Acclaimed Rotherham coach Peter Cowen, one of the sport’s great tutors, instructs five members of Europe’s 12-strong team for the forthcoming Ryder Cup – including Sheffield rookies Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Yet, while the quality of courses in the region certainly debunks the Mark Twain adage that ‘golf is a good walk spoiled’, it’s about time one of the sport’s premier matchplay tournaments returned to these parts. Ganton Golf Club near Scarborough last staged the Walker Cup for amateurs in 2003 but its recent quest to bring the Solheim Cup – the female equivalent – to England for the first time never got beyond the first tee. Let’s hope this is the only missed opportunity – both Yorkshire and golf should be mutually beneficial.