Lib Dems press to keep UK in EU research programmes and Erasmus

Party tables amendments to withdrawal agreement bill, but may struggle to overcome Boris Johnson’s majority

January 8, 2020
Parliament, Westminster, government, politics, London
Source: iStock

The Liberal Democrats have tabled amendments to the UK government’s European Union withdrawal agreement bill, seeking to keep the country in the bloc’s research and student mobility programmes after Brexit.

The amendments, which call on the government to negotiate access to the EU’s Horizon Europe and Erasmus programmes before the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020, will be debated in the House of Commons on 8 January.

There is as yet no certainty as to whether the UK government will seek to join the programmes, although ministers have sent positive signals about ambitions to do so.

Joining Horizon Europe, which starts in January 2021, as an associated country is likely to mean that the UK will be required to pay the EU a fee of more than €7 billion (£6 billion) over the seven-year programme.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman and MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “Erasmus and Horizon have transformed the way we think about education and research.”

Membership of the EU’s research programmes “has helped our universities to become world leaders in research, raising standards, giving them access to research facilities across Europe and helping them to attract staff”, she added.

“No UK-led programme could ever match the reputation and extensive university partnerships of Erasmus and Horizon.”

On Erasmus, Ms Moran said: “The EU has achieved something our parents could only dream of: making studying abroad fashionable and affordable.

“The benefits are huge: learning a new language, picking up skills and work experience, building lifelong friendships and providing a huge boost to your confidence and independence. Without Erasmus, the opportunity to study abroad is only available to a select few.”

She continued: “Boris Johnson cannot use his bad Brexit deal to take away the rights of students and staff to live, work and study abroad…MPs should back our amendments today to send a clear message that Boris Johnson will not get away with weakening our universities and limiting the horizons of young people.”

The government, which has a majority of 80 in the Commons, may regard the amendments as seeking to tie its hands in negotiations.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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