UK Government 'decided not to stay in Erasmus' under Brexit deal

24 December 2020, 20:04

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he regretted the UK said they would not participate in the scheme
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he regretted the UK said they would not participate in the scheme. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The Erasmus scheme has been scrapped under the Brexit deal after the UK government decided "not to participate".

The Prime Minister announced it would instead be replaced by a worldwide scheme named after World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing.

Speaking after the announcement of a trade deal between the UK and the European Union, Boris Johnson said the UK had made a "tough decision" to pull out of the programme for financial reasons.

At a press conference shortly before the Prime Minister spoke, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK's withdrawal from the programme was one of his regrets.

Read more: Key points of the Brexit deal, from fishing to laws

He said: "I have just two regrets in terms of our societal co-operation.

"Firstly, the British Government decided not to participate in the Erasmus exchange programme."

One of the key critics of Mr Johnson's decision not to participate was SNP MP Douglas Chapman, who said the PM had promised to stay in Erasmus a year ago.

He tweeted: "A year ago the PM promised in the House of Commons that the Erasmus scheme was safe in his hands. I was apparently 'talking out of the back of my neck' for suggesting the disastrous outcome we have today."

The Erasmus exchange programme, which the UK joined in 1987, allows students to study and work across Europe.

Mr Johnson said it would be replaced by a worldwide scheme named after Bletchley Park code breaker Alan Turing.

He said: "We are doing a UK scheme for students to go around the world, it will be called the Turing scheme.

Read more: Brexit deal done

"Students will have the opportunity not just to go to European universities, but the best universities in the world."

Further details about the new scheme are expected in the coming days.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, welcomed the news of a trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

She continued: "While the announcement that the UK will now not be participating in Erasmus+ is disappointing, we are pleased that the Prime Minister has committed to a new UK programme to fund global mobility.

"We now ask the UK government to quickly provide clarity on this Erasmus+ domestic alternative, and that it be ambitious and fully funded. It must also deliver significant opportunities for future students to go global which the Erasmus programme has provided to date."

The move to leave the Erasmus scheme has been criticised by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who called the decision "cultural vandalism".

Read more: EC President von der Leyen: Brexit deal was 'worth fighting for'

She tweeted: "There will be lots of focus, rightly, on the economic costs of Brexit.

"But ending UK participation in Erasmus, an initiative that has expanded opportunities and horizons for so many young people, is cultural vandalism by the UK Government."

Labour and Co-Op MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle also criticised the scheme, tweeting: "As someone who lobbied & drafted parts of last scheme this will not work.

"UK gains from students coming to UK & Brits gain personally from going abroad."

Former prime minister Gordon Brown had previously called for the UK to remain part of the programme.

In September, Mr Brown said the programme plays a critical role in higher education and research across the country, as well as ensuring all UK students have access to a global education.

More than half the British students who study abroad do so under the Erasmus programme, Mr Brown added.