Sam Gyimah resigns as universities minister in protest at Brexit deal

Remain supporter says failed talks with EU on Galileo satellite programme expose Theresa May's proposed deal as “naive”

December 1, 2018
Sam Gyimah

Sam Gyimah has resigned as the universities and science minister, saying the UK’s exclusion from the European Union’s Galileo satellite system exposes Theresa May’s Brexit deal as “naive”.

Mr Gyimah, who backed Remain in the EU referendum, announced his resignation with a Facebook post, in which he said a second referendum should not be ruled out.

He is the seventh government minister to resign since Ms May, the prime minister, reached her proposed Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, delivering another blow to her seemingly slim hopes of passing the deal.

Jo Johnson, another former universities minister, resigned as transport minister last month in protest at Ms May’s Brexit deal, calling for a second referendum. Mr Johnson praised Mr Gyimah’s “strong and principled” decision to resign.

Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, said on Twitter that an announcement on Mr Gyimah’s replacement as minister is not expected until Monday.

Mr Gyimah, who was appointed to succeed Mr Johnson in January, resigned as he was in talks with the EU over whether the UK will join the union’s next research programme as an associate member after Brexit.

He was scheduled to be in Brussels on 30 November and announced his resignation at the end of the day.

Ms May had said on 30 November that the UK would not be taking part in Galileo, the EU’s equivalent to the US’ GPS system.

Mr Gyimah said in his Facebook post on the Galileo talks: “The PM is right to call time on a negotiation that was stacked against us from the very beginning. But Galileo is only a foretaste of what’s to come under the Government’s Brexit deal.

“Having surrendered our voice, our vote and our veto, we will have to rely on the ‘best endeavours’ of the EU to strike a final agreement that works in our national interest. As minister with the responsibility for space technology I have seen first-hand the EU stack the deck against us time and time again, even while the ink was drying on the transition deal. Galileo is a clarion call that it will be ‘EU first’, and to think otherwise – whether you are a leaver or remainer – is at best incredibly naïve.”

He also said that “we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the idea of asking the people again what future they want, as we all now have a better understanding of the potential paths before us”.

The Surrey East MP added that the universities and science post was “certainly one of the best jobs in government. Innovation, scientific endeavour and our universities represent the best of Britain, underpin our economic fortunes and are central to our place in the world. It has been a pleasure and honour to serve these extraordinary communities.”

Mr Gyimah’s successor will need to deal with major issues including talks with the EU over the UK’s potential association in research, as well as the government’s ongoing post-18 education review.

Gordon Marsden, Labour’s shadow further and higher education minister, said on Twitter that Mr Gyimah’s resignation showed that Ms May’s “botched Brexit deal” offers UK universities, staff and students “no security on future of research funding worth many millions of pounds from EU or [on the] major benefit” from the EU’s Erasmus+ mobility programme.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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