The EU and the UK announced last week they made “decisive steps”, in the words of the EU negotiator Michel Barnier, setting the transition period to 31 December 2020. But “we are not at the end of the road,” Barnier warned. Work remains to be done.
Issues such as the Irish border, the circulation of products or Britain’s participation in Euratom, Europol, Eurojust, reports EUobserver, still need to be discussed. The list includes the successful research and educational programmes of the EU, such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.
“We cannot speculate on any possible future scenarios,” said the UK National Agency Erasmus+, “but we note the Government position is that UK participation in some EU programmes ‘promoting science, education and culture’ may continue”. The document on the financial settlement between the UK and the EU states that Britain “may wish to participate in some Union budgetary programmes of the new MFF post-2020 as a non-Member State”. Erasmus+ is funded through the Multi-annual Financial Framework.
But the British Labour MEP Rory Palmer demands more action to the British authorities to “find a way to protect the rights of young people”. “So far, the UK Government has offered warm words but little clarity,” he told EDJNet, “and it means that young people are being left in the dark.” According to Palmer, “the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s participation in Erasmus is affecting young people who are planning their studies and do not know whether or not they will have the same opportunities as previous generations”.
“Reaching an agreement on keeping Erasmus could be a very easy win that would unlock more complex negotiations,” said João Bacelar, the executive manager of the European Universities Foundation, to EDJNet. And “even the staunchest UK politicians in favour of Brexit think that such collaboration should be safeguarded”, added the president of the European Association for International Education, Markus Laitinen.
But in Europe “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” as Michel Barnier warned while announcing the transition period. And even if a deal could be reached, a new Erasmus programme will be in place after December 2020. “So, all the agreements would have had to be renegotiated anyway,” said Laitinen to EDJNet.
France, Denmark and Malta, the most “British dependable”
Britain is the third most popular country taking part in the Erasmus programme, after Spain and Germany. The country received almost 64,000 students and academic staff in 2015; half of them coming from France, Germany and Spain, according to the last Erasmus+ Annual Report. Those three countries are also the most popular among the Britons. More than 26,600 students and academic staff went abroad in 2015 under the Erasmus scheme.
But breaking down the number into countries, we can see that some European partners have a bigger connection to