Each year, around 16,000 UK students benefit from the Erasmus+ programme, which allows them to live, train and study in EU countries for a year. Equally, students from EU countries have the opportunity to live, train and study in the UK through the scheme, which acts as an academic and cultural bridge between EU countries.
Students who take part in the Erasmus+ programme often come back enriched and singing the praises of the scheme, and there is currently a concerted effort by student organisations to keep the UK in the programme after we leave the EU.
This issue was raised as an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) on 8 January 2020 in the form of New Clause 10:
New clause 10—Implementation period negotiating objectives: Erasmus+—
“(1) It shall be an objective of the Government to secure an agreement within the framework of the future relationship of the UK and the EU before the end of the implementation period that enables the UK to participate in all elements of the Erasmus+ programme on existing terms after the implementation period ends (“the Erasmus+ negotiations”).
(2) A Minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a progress report on the Erasmus+ negotiations within six months of this Act being passed.”
This new clause would require the Government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education and youth programme.
Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated by the Government by 344 votes to 255.
The Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, has said that the Government remains open to the UK continuing to participate in Erasmus+. However, this vote does not bode well for the Government’s commitment to the programme.
I hope that the Government does make the effort to keep the UK in Erasmus+, for the sake of future generations of students who will benefit from it.
Just because we are leaving the EU does not mean that we need to sever all ties with our European neighbours, especially when it comes to programmes that benefit all parties involved.