Ahead of Suella Braverman’s big statement this afternoon, it was the turn of another Brexiteer to face the Commons. Kemi Badenoch appeared before the House in her capacity as Minister for Women and Equalities, to update MPs on people who have changed gender under different regimes abroad. Under plans announced today, foreign citizens will be forced to comply with tougher British rules if they move to the UK. This includes providing medical reports to get a gender recognition certificate.
The change, in Badenoch’s words, was ‘long overdue’ with the list last updated in 2011. Over the past dozen years, much of the Western world has significantly altered their systems for gender recognition, with New Zealand adopting self-identification. Today’s changes mean that individuals coming to the UK from those countries will no longer be automatically issued with a gender-recognition certificate, which allows people to be legally recognised as their preferred gender on all legal documents such as drivers’ licences. Arrivals from the 50 jurisdictions being taken off the list will now have to apply for a UK certificate.
Today’s statement to MPs could have been a tricky one, given the potential sensitivities and a hostile line-up of Labour MPs. But Badenoch delivered a typically punchy performance, brushing off Anneliese Dodds’ barrage of hostile questioning. Like a heavyweight boxer, she mixed a fleetness of foot with a haymaker when required, telling the House at one point that she regretted the Labour party turning this into a ‘political football’ before giving a Thatcher-esque riposte: ‘I am not afraid of anyone on the opposite benches, I am not afraid of a single one of them because they do not take this seriously.’
It was an assured outing that had the Tory benches – disproportionately filled by right-wingers ahead of Braverman’s address – nodding along in agreement. The most memorable exchange was when Sir Chris Bryant told MPs that Badenoch’s language ‘chills’ him and is a reason why he as a gay man now ‘feels less safe’ than he did three years ago.