ITT members voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, so ITT certainly won’t be endorsing Brexit simply because Boris Johnson won a majority on 12 December.
That would be to repeat the mistake of Article 50, which a lot of remain MPs endorsed in the wake of the 2016 referendum. They feared being on the wrong side of majority opinion. Instead, they put themselves on the wrong side of history.
Wrong doesn’t become right simply because it has a majority in the House of Commons, least of all when parties supporting a second referendum outpolled the parties against on 12 December.
And that was with Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party. Polls showed consistently that voters were against both Brexit and Corbyn, but they hated Corbyn more than Brexit.
Only Jess Phillips of the candidates for the Labour Party leadership race showed the courage to criticise Corbyn and his regime. I look forward to welcoming Jess to the ITT Conference in Istanbul on 8 June.
So, we are where we are, and Brexit will now take place. It is vital, however, we don’t make the mistake of endorsing catastrophic policy.
This means, until the moment comes to re-engage with Johnson’s actual long-term plan for our relations with the EU, we should focus on talking about issues other than Brexit in the same way we would have done had Brexit not happened.
On immigration, for instance, if EU freedom of movement is to be replaced by a skills and needs based system, then the case for openness needs to be demonstrated robustly so we don’t turn our back on the huge benefits migrants will bring after Brexit.
More immigration already cones from outside the EU than from inside. We need to lobby hard to stop Brexit becoming a recipe for insularity and xenophobia.
It is equally vital that we boost the skills of our own young people. The lack of a decent apprenticeship system and skills training for teenagers not going to university is still a major cause of discontent and alienation in communities that voted for Brexit, particularly those remote from London’s powerhouse economy. An apprenticeship revolution needs to follow the higher education revolution of the last generation.
Finally, I hope that all those British towns and cities twinned with continental towns and cities will breathe new life into their partnerships, particularly for young people.