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Reflections on my PSA-Parliament PhD Internship
The PSA has now launched applications for its PSA-Parliament PhD Internship programme 2019/20. Adeola was one of our successful candidates for last year's placement. Here's how she found the experience.
I was told many years ago by my grandmother,.. if somebody puts you on a road and you don’t feel comfortable on it, and you look ahead and you don’t like the destination and you look behind and you don’t want to return to that place , step off the road.” Maya Angelou
Not a typical way to start a report about a PhD internship, but nothing about my internship was typical. It was a perfect time to start a placement as parliament was slap bang in the middle of such a road - Road Brexit. I started my internship in January and the next 4 months in Westminster were turbulent and uncertain politically. Brexit dominated everything, and ordinary government business was all but paralysed. Our constitutional structures creaked as historic procedures and precedents were abandoned, unlikely political alliances forged, and the government suffered unprecedented defeats.
I was based in the Home Affairs Committee where here as elsewhere committee work was deferred or rescheduled as MPs had to take part in crucial votes. There were unexpected advantages to working in these extraordinary times. Drawing on my experience as a lawyer I had the opportunity to draft clauses on behalf of the Committee Chair seeking amendments to the draft Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill which would secure the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK prior to exit from the EU by giving them a right to Settled Status. I also drafted, against a frequently changing background, a second clause which sought to vary the requirements under the Settled Status scheme to protect vulnerable people who would not be able to easily comply with these requirements.
Business did carry on in spite of the distractions of Brexit and I got to grips with the basics of committee work. This included assisting in preparing for committee evidence sessions on English Channel Migrant Crossings and Settled Status. I also attended evidence sessions on Serious Violence (including knife crime, the challenging drug market and the Macpherson Report 20 years on) and Modern Slavery. In the process I gained huge insight into committee scrutiny work. The highlight was the session on the work of the Home Secretary, when several topical issue, including preparations in the event of a no-deal Brexit and policies relating to returning foreign fighters, were raised. I was also involved in the production of the report on Asylum Accommodation and other ad hoc matters which fell within the range of the committee’s work.
It was exciting to be in the thick of what has been described as the most significant political events in recent history. More importantly the experience gave me a greater understanding of the scrutiny process such as the sheer pace and scope of the work. It also gave a glimpse of and the intricate workings of parliament, and a confidence that ultimately it will find a way on the Brexit Road.