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EXCL Tory minister warns Theresa May must strike 'workable' Brexit deal or Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM

4 min read

A Conservative minister has warned Theresa May that the Government must secure a “workable” Brexit or leave the door open for Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister.

Sam Gyimah also said the Conservative Party’s failure to reach out to students allowed Mr Corbyn to become “the only game on campus” at last year’s general election.

In an interview with the House magazine, the science and universities minister praised Mrs May’s speech at Mansion House last week for recognising the tough choices the UK must make as part of the Brexit negotiations.

“I voted Remain because I thought it was going to be costly and complicated extricating ourselves from the EU, not because I’m a big fan of Jean-Claude Juncker or anything. It is complicated this process... What the Prime Minister’s speech did well is that it reckoned with the difficult trade-offs that we have to make as a country," he said.

"The truth is that we are leaving the EU, there’s no point in refighting the referendum battle. The important thing, certainly from my perspective as Universities and Science Minister, is thinking and looking ahead to what kind of regime and system we have post-Brexit to ensure that these sectors continue to be a success.

“But I guess ultimately we have a workable Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn ends up in Downing Street. And I think that would be a terrible thing for the country.”

Mr Gyimah said it is vital to create an immigration system that allows "the brightest and best" to study and work in the UK after Brexit.

He also said the UK was considering whether to sign up to the next EU framework programme on funding for research and innovation, once the current programme, Horizon 2020, comes to an end.

“We are looking at [it], we would want to participate but subject to two tests. Obviously, that it’s based on excellence, which is what we value. But also, value for money – not at any price,” he said.

“What I am doing within government is working on our strategy on that, but also with EU countries, explaining where we are but also showing that this is an area where it could be a win-win for us and the EU.

“As science minister, if I have my own way, given that it could be a win-win, then why don’t we do a deal on science before everything else? But that’s a matter for the Prime Minister and the Commission to negotiate.”

He added: “People are also essential to this. For science to work you need collaboration and deep collaboration, and that means we need an immigration regime that enables the brightest and the best to come not just to study here but also work here as scientists.

“The steps that have been taking on EU nationals so by far the Prime Minister provides some reassurance in terms of what regime we would have post-exit and post the implementation period.”


Mr Gyimah, who launched his #SamonCampus initiative soon after being appointed universities minister in January, said the Conservatives must engage with young people and students.

"I feel that if we leave the playing field to Jeremy Corbyn in terms of engaging, interacting and listening to what their concerns are, then we only have ourselves to blame if they turn out and vote for him in droves," he argued.

“He was the only game in town [at the election]. He was the only game on campus. And he was the only game on campus with a very populist, I would say flawed, set of policies. But the point is that he was the only one there.”

When asked whether the election was a wakeup call for the Tories on young people, he replied:

“Yes, of course. Although, the evidence shows that there wasn’t the youthquake that everyone thought that there would be. What it made clear is that here is a group of people that politicians had assumed don’t vote. I remember when I said to one senior politician that we should mobilise and get young people to vote, he replied, ‘the young don’t vote. Why go chasing shadows?’

 “We’ve all realised that look, they’re voting and they’re voting in numbers and so we’ve got to get our message across.

“But also, [there are] very simple things we should be doing. We should be on campus registering our supporters to vote, explaining what are the choices, why the choice matters, and getting them to vote. If we are not doing all of these exercises, then you can’t expect them on polling day to put their cross against a Conservative name.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Gyimah expressed fears that "censorship" is "becoming the norm" on university campuses - and warned that it will be "very difficult to turn the clock back" without curbing this trend.

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