UK students are set to lose access to the EU’s foreign exchange scheme, Erasmus+, in what will arguably be the biggest Brexit-perpetrated crime. Forget the economics of it, this is wrecking a whole generation’s prospects.
There may yet be a Brexit deal before the end of the transition period, although it remains to be seen how significantly Emmanuel Macron’s COVID infection – and possible transmission to other leaders – will affect the negotiations.
Cries of “fumée blanche” by hacks who should know better were comprehensively put down yesterday, as more reliable sources denounced the ‘news’ as “total garbage” and “just no”.
But the nitty-gritty of tariffs and the single market aside, there are also other talks going on, which include whether the UK should be allowed to access Erasmus+, a scheme that has given more than three million students the chance to study abroad since it started in 1987.
Michel Barnier told MEPs this week that a deal looks unlikely because UK government negotiators are trying to cherry-pick aspects of the programme, rather than commit to full membership.
Erasmus is open to more than just EU nations; Norway, Serbia and Turkey are among the countries participating in the full-fat scheme, and more than 20 other states are involved in some form or another.
It is another example of a complex issue where the UK’s existing commitments are difficult to extract from the mess created by Brexit. EU officials see no clear path ahead other than the UK sticking with full membership and the financial obligations that come with it.
Estimates suggest that Erasmus is worth about a quarter of a billion euros to Britain every year but it is almost impossible to calculate the true impact of the programme on GDP and quality of life.
It stands above financial forecasts. A goose that lays golden eggs about to have its neck wrung by a government hell-bent on defending the illusion of “sovereignty” at any cost.
Shrewd reader that you are, you have probably deduced that your correspondent is an Erasmus alumnus, outraged that a younger generation of UK students is set to be denied a life-changing and life-affirming opportunity.
Eurosceptics have often dismissed the programme as a glorified jaunt for the offspring of liberal metropolitan elites. Like many pro-Brexit arguments, this completely misses the point.
Firstly, it helps out students who would otherwise not be able to afford to study abroad. I should know, I was one of that particular group.
Secondly, of course it is a jaunt. That is part of the point, to give young people the chance to actually become real people by escaping their tribes and broadening their horizons. They also inevitably learn at least bits of a foreign language, an utterly useless skill…
Erasmus taught me how to live. Denying more people that chance is criminal, especially as the world continues to hurtle onwards at a blistering pace towards who knows where.
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Views are the author’s