EUROPE/THE NETHERLANDS. Could it be possible to allow students from Scotland and Wales to still take part in the Erasmus+ exchange programme – despite Brexit? That’s the question 145 Members of the European Parliament put to the European Commission in a recent letter.
At the end of December, it became clear that the United Kingdom would no longer be participating in the Erasmus+ programme after Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson feels that the programme is too expensive and wants to launch a new British exchange programme instead.
But according to German MEP Terry Reintke and her colleagues, Scotland and Wales do still want their students to have access to the Erasmus+ programme. In a letter to the European Commission, they have therefore asked if the Commission sees any possibilities to facilitate this. Neth-ER, an organisation that represents the interests of Dutch education and research in Brussels, reports that the MEPs’ letter also enquires whether the national governments of Scotland and Wales have been contacted about this matter.
The letter has now been signed by more than a fifth of all MEPs. Three Dutch MEPs have also expressed their support: Agnes Jongerius (PvdA), Lara Wolters (PvdA) and Samira Rafaela (D66).
It is not yet clear whether it will be legally possible to keep the Erasmus+ programme available for students from Scotland and Wales. According to Neth-ER, the signatories are pinning their hopes on the fact that “education in the UK falls under the remit of the devolved governments”.
The UK consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. While the British parliament in London decides on big issues like foreign policy and defence, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own ‘devolved’ national government.
Wales narrowly voted in favour of Brexit in the 2016 referendum. In Scotland, however, a clear majority of the population voted to remain in the EU. This has led Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon to call for another referendum on leaving the UK, which is to be held next year.
Most people in Northern Ireland would also have preferred to stay in the EU. Luckily, Northern Irish students who dream of spending a semester abroad at a European university have no need to worry. Ireland has promised to finance its northern neighbour’s participation in the Erasmus+ programme.
HOP, Evelien Flink