Former Disability Minister, Sarah Newton, resigned over two weeks ago in protest over the prospect of a no deal Brexit but is yet to be replaced.
Asked directly about the situation, Tory vice-chairman, James Cleverly told BBC Radio 5 Live “There is a logic to say, until we have got through this very difficult and turbulent point in time, that a small gap – undesirable though that is – is better than what could be forcibly a series of reshuffles.”
Since the admission 48 hours ago, disability charities have condemned the decision and suggested that the Government does not take disability issues seriously, pointing out that there have been eight Disability Ministers in the past decade. Mr Cleverly insists that the Government’s work on disability “does not stop”, adding: “The Prime Minister and the Government are keen to get Brexit resolved soon so we know where we stand and, once that is done, I’m sure posts will be filled,” he added.
Labour MP, Marsha De Cordova, accused the Prime Minister of “ignoring disabled people” due to Brexit. Indeed, the gov.uk website already shows Sarah Newton as a previous incumbent but does not indicate any further plans as to who is taking care of the portfolio for the moment.
MPs are due to vote on the withdrawal agreement, covering the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU, at 2.30pm today.
Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox told MPs, this morning that the deal must be approved by 11pm in order to “secure our legal right” to an extension to Brexit and that if it doesn’t, any further delay past 12 April would be subject to the veto of the other 27 EU leaders.
Mr Cox told MPs that the European Council had agreed that Brexit could be delayed until 22 May if the withdrawal agreement was approved by the end of this week. An agreement, however, seems unlikely since Labour have indicated their opposition to the proposal saying that without the political declaration part of the deal outlining future relations, it amounts to a “Blindfold Brexit”.
All of this means that a new Minister for Disabled People may not be appointed until the end of May.
Able Magazine editor, Tom Jamison said: “It’s getting to the point where Brexit isn’t the problem anymore. Internal factions, gamesmanship and party politics have effectively seized the engine of government so that its functions are no longer working.
Of course Brexit is complicated but to so easily brush off the fact that nobody is taking responsibility for the Disability portfolio is shocking. Would we really allow such a vacancy in Defence, Education, Business, Transport or Environment?
Saying there’ll be an appointment once Brexit is resolved is rather like relying on the patterns of tea leaves to predict the weather!”