MEPs have reacted with dismay after the European Commission ruled out the possibility of Scotland and Wales staying in the Erasmus programme after Brexit.
In a letter to MEPs, the commission said, the only possibility for constituent nations of the UK to participate in the EU’s flagship student exchange scheme was “as a whole, or not at all.”
Around 140 European Parliament deputies had written to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asking her to “explore pathways for Scotland and Wales to stay in the Erasmus Programme.”
Thousands of young people on both sides of the channel have benefited from the programme over the years.
The MEPs argued that, “like many on both sides of the Channel, we are deeply saddened and concerned to have learnt the UK decided to leave the Erasmus programme.”
"Erasmus has proven to have a significant impact on young people's lives in Europe - not only on their language, cultural and personal skills, but also on their motivation to strengthen a peaceful and solidary European society.”
“The Commission is aware of the Scottish government’s statement on the UK decision not to associate to Erasmus+... However, as one constituent nation of the UK, association to Erasmus+ is not possible for Scotland” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
They also warned that the UK’s exit from the EU had left “many young British people without the chance to develop close ties with their European neighbours,” but that both the Scottish and Welsh government’s had “already made it known” that they wished to stay in the Erasmus programme.
However a reply from the European Commission president flatly ruled out any chance of Scotland or Wales remaining in the scheme.
The response from von der Leyen says, “The EU offered the UK full association to the Erasmus+ programme in exchange for the standard financial contribution from third countries participating in Union programmes. “
“Following a year of constructive negotiations with the UK government, the decision was made in London not to pursue UK association to Erasmus+.”
“The Commission regrets this decision. The UK has played a long and active role in the growing range of activities funded by Erasmus+ since the first student mobility started in 1987.”
“UK organisations and individuals from all regions of the UK will be deprived of opportunities for exchange and cooperation between higher education institutions, training organisations, schools and youth groups.”
"This answer is not what we had hoped for. But we will continue to explore how Scotland and Wales could stay in Erasmus... The next step is to organise a debate on this in the European Parliament. Erasmus is a cornerstone in a peaceful continent which also applies beyond the EU” Greens/EFA group MEP Terry Reintke
“Many EU nationals will no longer be able to choose the UK as a destination for their Erasmus + experience, or UK partners for Erasmus + cooperation.”
It goes on, “The Commission is aware of the Scottish government’s statement on the UK decision not to associate to Erasmus+, and my colleague [EU Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner] Mariya Gabriel has met Richard Lochhead MSP, the Scottish Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, who was keen to explore options for Scottish participation.”
“However, as one constituent nation of the UK, association to Erasmus+ is not possible for Scotland.”
The one page letter concludes, “The only possibility for the UK is to associate as a whole, or not at all.”
Greens/EFA group MEP Terry Reintke, who initiated the letter, told the Parliament Magazine, "This answer is not what we had hoped for. But we will continue to explore how Scotland and Wales could stay in Erasmus.”
She added, “My time studying in Edinburgh was one of the most wonderful and formative periods in my life.”
“The next step is to organise a debate on this in the European Parliament. Erasmus is a cornerstone in a peaceful continent which also applies beyond the EU.”
“Every young European should get the chance to participate in an exchange programme. Not only helps it to understand the host country, but also to experience first-hand European values and ideas.