by Adam Clarke
Our imminent exit from the European union will have a massive impact on Britain, as I’m sure you’re all aware, and whether you were a ‘brexiteer’ or a ‘remainer’ is pretty much irrelevant now: it’s happening, like it or not. However, there is still some confusion surrounding whether access to certain schemes and opportunities funded by the EU will remain open to students from a post-Brexit Britain. One such scheme is Erasmus+, which I have personally benefited from over my time at university. As part of my degree, I worked as a teaching assistant in France for a year, giving me the opportunity to live in another country and experience all that it can offer. Without the help of Erasmus+ in finding my placement as well as providing funding, my year abroad would have been a lot more difficult, if not impossible. As a result of my experiences, I am concerned that the loss of the financial support provided by Erasmus+ may mean that some British students will not be able to access the same opportunities that they could have if Britain remained a part of the EU.
“anything that may restrict opportunities for students based on their financial or medical situation is abhorrent”
On Wednesday 8th January, MPs voted by 344 to 254 against a clause that would have required the government to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus programme after Brexit. The fact we would no longer be in the European Union would not matter when it comes to being a member of the Erasmus programme as Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Serbia participate in it and yet are not a part of the EU. A Department for Education official told BBC News: “The government is committed to continuing the academic relationship between the UK and the EU, including through the next Erasmus […] programme if it is in our interests to do so.”. Yet, the vote on the 8th January means that there is no obligation for the government to maintain membership of Erasmus+. A House of Lords report states that if Britain was to try and implement a scheme like Erasmus on a national scale, it would be “very difficult” and leaving Erasmus would “disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities.” In my opinion, anything that may restrict opportunities for students based on their financial or medical situation is abhorrent and as such the government seriously needs to consider the impact that not renewing membership of Erasmus+ may have.
As things stand, students will still be able to access the Erasmus+ programme until at least 2021, when it would need to be renegotiated since Britain will have officially left the EU by then as the transition period will have ended. I sincerely hope that the government attempts to negotiate continued membership of the Erasmus+ programme so that future students in the UK can benefit from the life-changing experience of a year abroad, without the financial worries or stress that would render it nearly impossible without the scheme. MPs owe it to future generations not to let Brexit shut us off from the rest of the world, continuing our membership of the Erasmus+ programme would be a step in the right direction.