As our exit from Europe continues to dominate daily politics, other, vitally important areas are being neglected. So what should our politicians’ priorities be once we are beyond Brexit? We asked various contributors to draw up a pledge card for a post-Brexit manifesto.
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1. Promote integration
Nobody wants to live in a society in which we fear fellow citizens simply because we do not know them. In polarised times, we risk a retreat from community if we separate ourselves into our different identity bubbles.
Yet we have never had proper national integration strategies. We have seen nothing like the level of political will, resources or civic engagement that Germany has mobilised in response to polarisation. Government should lead, setting the vision and foundations – but closing the contact gap needs to be everybody’s business.
Nobody should go to school in Britain where there is no meaningful contact across class, ethnic and faith lines. Every school governing body should be required to consider twinning and linking arrangements with other schools to ensure we are educating children to be citizens of a shared Britain.
Employers, sporting and cultural institutions should make practical contributions too.
2. Use the race disparity audit to form policy
Theresa May created the race disparity audit to deal with ‘burning injustices’ of inequality. This pioneering initiative has rendered every policy area transparent. It shows where we are making progress, where the gaps are, and who risks being left behind. It is unmatched anywhere else in the world. It would actually be illegal in France, where collecting data about racial inequalities is prohibited.
We must not waste the opportunity it gives us. This audit must now underpin a practical policy agenda that advances fair chances and no unfair barriers – regardless of one’s class, race, gender and hometown. Theresa May’s potential successors – and the opposition parties – should commit to acting on it, by offering competing ideas to narrow these opportunity gaps to unlock the potential and talent of Britain today.
3. Listen to the public on immigration
After Brexit, Britain will need to rethink its immigration policy. The public has lost confidence in governments who failed to anticipate or respond to the rise in immigration – and which then corroded trust further by making promises that couldn’t be kept. To reassert this, the public need a voice in shaping the choices we make.
The Chancellor has the Budget: a day on which his or her work is scrutinised by parliament and the public alike. So, the Home Secretary should have an annual Immigration Day, on which the Commons agrees policies and targets. This event should be preceded by extensive local and regional public engagement on the pressures and gains of immigration.
Attitudes towards immigration have softened since 2016, but the Government remains nervous about engaging the public in any decision making. The failed net migration target was a one-size-fits all approach. We could better reflect how the public think about migration by taking different policy approaches for different types of migrants: international students; low, semi and high-skilled workers; families and refugees.
4. Make it easier to become a British citizen
It is good for our society when the people who join it want to become British. We should encourage the take-up of citizenship. Three million European nationals are being invited to become permanent residents under the ‘settled status’ scheme; the next Prime Minister should directly invite those who want to take up citizenship to do so, at cost price.
The Government is planning to review the content of the citizenship test; it should also conduct a broader review of the purpose of citizenship policy – and review the current policy, process and cost barriers to becoming British.
We should also celebrate our new citizens – by breathing new life into citizenship ceremonies, holding them in iconic locations, and using them as a practical opportunity to promote full engagement, from voter registration to opportunities for volunteering and contact.
5. Initiate a shared history project
Comprehensively understanding our history is an important step on the road to a more united Britain. Our traditions of Remembrance have become increasingly inclusive, with a growing awareness of the enormous contribution of Commonwealth soldiers in the two world wars; there has been greater recognition across all faith and ethnic backgrounds that Remembrance can, does and should belong to us all.
The 75th anniversary of D-Day this year will see our country reflect on the contribution of the tens of thousands of Second World War veterans now in their eighties and nineties. Across the 2020s, direct experience of this conflict should be captured before it passes from living memory into the history books. That’s why the next Prime Minister should announce the biggest ever oral history project in this country.
Teenagers and young people would meet those who served and record their personal stories. Doing so would create more contact across the growing generational divide than ever before – and help us all to understand how shared history underpins our national identity today.