UK MPs vote down pledge to seek Erasmus participation

British MPs yesterday voted against making securing full ongoing participation in the EU's Erasmus+ educational and work placement exchange programmes a negotiating objective in the next phase of Brexit talks.

9 January 2020
Erasmus+ includes opportunities for students to spend time studying in other EU countries' universities
By Oliver Rowland

The vote has been met with anger and disappointment from pro-EU commentators and social media groups – however it does not mean participation has been completely ruled out.

The vote was on including a new clause in the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill stating that the government would aim to secure agreement that after the transition period – which the UK calls the implementation period – the UK would continue to participate in all elements of the Erasmus+ programme on existing terms.

It also said a minister should lay before both houses of Parliament progress reports on Erasmus+ negotiations within six months.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who tabled the clause, said in the debate yesterday it was “an absolute no-brainer” and that “for students, young people, those in training and staff who work in the education sector, the Erasmus scheme as been absolutely incredible”.

She added: “Let us remind ourselves what Erasmus does. It allows our young people to go abroad to European universities, to learn new languages, to meet new people, to put down some roots abroad and to build the international understanding that, in my view, is a big part of what it means to be British…

“When people who have used the scheme return and apply their skills, the economy is boosted. The scheme increases their chances of getting a job and increases their confidence and sense of independence—and Brexit ​puts all that under threat.

“If full access to the scheme is not negotiated, it is those from the poorer families who will suffer. Those from well-off families will be able to study abroad if they want; their parents could pay the fees.”

A junior Brexit minister, James Duddridge, said that the UK would continue to participate fully in Erasmus+ during the transition period and that the UK remains “open to maintaining and expanding cooperation in education”.

He added: “We strongly believe, as [Layla Moran] does, in the value of international exchange, not just European exchange, and it is very much part of our vision for global Britain to extend that concept.”

Mr Duddridge said the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship, that is attached to the Withdrawal Agreement and forms a rough basis for the next phase of talks, “envisages the possibility of UK participation in EU programmes” and there would be negotiation on terms of participation, where appropriate, during the transition period.

“Ultimately, decisions about our participation will be a matter for wider negotiations, but we will look at all the available opportunities,” he said.

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