The Brief, powered by Goldman Sachs – Erasmus Fuss

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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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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The Roundup

The European Medicine’s Agency is expected to approve Pfizer’s vaccine at an extraordinary meeting on 21 December and then, within three days, the European Commission is set to give its final green light. As for the vaccination process, in practice, everything depends on the readiness of EU countries, especially when it comes to logistics.

Council President Charles Michel and Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez entered self-isolation after the announcement that French President Emmanuel Macron had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The arrival of US President Donald Trump in 2016 has “awakened” the EU and made it realise it was too dependent on Washington, prompting a trend of boosting Europe’s autonomy, the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, told EURACTIV’s media partner EFE in an interview.

Talks between France and the UK over the management of the Channel Tunnel risk failing as the British side considers the EU’s plans for the rail link “absolutely unacceptable”, a UK government minister said.

In the latest legal setback for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the top EU court in Luxembourg ruled that Budapest had broken Union law by restricting access to the international protection procedure for asylum applicants in transit zones and unlawfully detaining them.

The EU’s future carbon border adjustment mechanism must mirror the EU’s own carbon market price and structure in order to be compatible with WTO rules, says Pascal Canfin.

The enormous tradition and diversity in African agricultural products may benefit from the use of the intellectual property tool for food protection that Europeans have been held most dear.

European aerospace giant Airbus revealed more details about its hydrogen aircraft project, which could include a propeller-driven plane “unlike anything seen on today’s runways”.

EU countries have the right to enforce mandatory stunning on animals prior to slaughter because it does not infringe on religious rights, the bloc’s highest court has ruled, drawing angry protests from the European Jewish Congress.

European regional policy has a special role to play in overcoming the coronavirus crisis, with one of the main new instruments being REACT-EU, a fund which represents an increase of €47.5 billion in structural funds.

Policymakers have started re-thinking the EU strategy for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that the European Commission unveiled only a few days before the start of the first lockdown all over Europe.

Look out for…

  • EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Council
  • Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi at Conference 25th Anniversary of the Dayton Agreement

Views are the author’s

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