31-12-2020 >> BREXIT
Jan 01st 2021

UK has left the EU. 31-12-2020: a sad day for all of us. Lots of questions to ask, lot of things to say. Read our Charlie’s thoughts on Brexit. 

“Tomorrow the Sun will still rise; what I thought about today……

31-12-2020. The last day of the UK’s de-facto membership of the European Union. Four years since the country voted to leave it is happening. I am old enough to remember joining in 1973 and the 1975 Referendum confirming the willingness to do so.

It had a different name then, the European Economic Community. I suspect that if it was still the EEC the UK would still be a part of it. But it isn’t.

Back in the Fifties when it all began, a certain General De Gaulle, who had sort refuge in England after the fall of France, and who triumphantly strode back into Paris after the Allies had liberated it, opposed the UK’s ‘membership’ of the ‘Community’. And kept France out of NATO. Too expensive perhaps?

Like all things, the EEC developed, anything that stands still is likely to get left behind. Former Eastern Block countries emerged from behind the Iron Curtain to live under the protective economic umbrella of the burgeoning European Union. The bureaucrats in Brussels were no different to any others. Numbers means strength and they went forth and multiplied. European Law became THE Law.

The lambs lay down with the Lions. And the Lions protected them. The EUROpean Super State developed. Which was fine if you didn’t mind being told by the Lions how to run your economy. Perhaps they should have paid their taxes. Perhaps they did, but studying the Accounts of the European Union wouldn’t have been much help, because they’ve never been audited as genuine.

The benefits of member of the European Union were immense. Stifling paperwork needed for cross border travel was abolished. Funds were allocated to educate the Youth, improve the Environment, support the less favoured areas for Agriculture and Industry. Creating Employment. Awareness of other cultures and ethnic groups soared. So many good things………….

In the UK internal politics carried on as fractious as ever, always with an undercurrent of discontent about its contribution to the overall European Union budget. The PM at the time, David Cameron, saw an opportunity to cement the UK’s place in the European Union by holding a referendum to sanction this policy. This would unite his Party. A sure- fire winner. Only it wasn’t. The reasons are many and complicated but now irrelevant.

The last four years have been at times unpleasant, always uncertain and ultimately divisive. Political chicanery at its best/worst. Like trying to unravel a ball of string twisted over nearly 50 years. It will take a while. But bureaucrats and their political masters have both the time and the ‘skills’ to do it. Someone will always benefit from any given situation.

Meanwhile the population of Europe, from Iceland to Italy. Poland to Portugal gets on with living the day to day, with a certain virus to contend with. The EU provides them with funds to encourage engagement between cultures, giving people the chance to travel and gain experiences who otherwise would never have the opportunity. Actually, the EU doesn’t give them the money. It comes from the contribution of each country, which is accrued from their taxpayers. It’s managed by politicians and bureaucrats. When will it begin again?

At the 11th hour, like every good European Union ‘discussion’, the Brexit agreement had yet to be reached. A ‘local’ politician, a certain Monsieur Macron, with his own re-election in mind, decided that he would physically shut his border with the UK, in order to protect his country from the very virus that he had recently caught. Hundreds of truck drivers, including French, were trapped, away from their families at Christmas time. Miraculously, the deadlock in the Brexit talks was broken. Some people cast their minds back to the 50’s. Plus ca change, plus, c’est la meme chose.

Looking at the social media, the comments of the academics, the intelligentsia, the political commentators, is a bad idea today. Better to look at the mobile phone contact list. The EUROPEA website. The emails full of Christmas good wishes from friends and colleagues from all across Europe.

The UK government has abandoned Erasmus, stating that they will replace it with Turing funding. Opening up the world, not just Europe. A little research revealed this definition;

The Alan Turing Institute is the United Kingdom’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, founded in 2015. It is named after Alan Turing, the British mathematician and computing pioneer.

A report from the House of Lords EU Committee warned the benefits of the Erasmus Programme would be very difficult to replicate with a national programme as the government is planning.

It added that vocational education and training would stop, and that leaving Erasmus would “disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities”.

UK universities are still eligible to participate in Erasmus programmes. And as long as funding is awarded before the end of 2020, students and staff will be able to go ahead with their exchanges even if they take place after the end of the transition period.

Universities UK’s guidance is that: “In effect, this means staff and students can complete mobility periods and receive funding up until the end of the 2021-22 academic year.”

However, UK and EU students will have to deal with new immigration regulations.

UK nationals will only be able to stay in an EU country for 90 out of every 180 days without a visa (except for Ireland, which will still have free movement with the UK). The immigration regime will vary between EU members.

EU nationals coming to the UK under the Erasmus scheme would be admitted under the short-term study route for periods of less than six months. However, for a longer period they would have to apply for a student visa in the same way as somebody wishing to study a whole degree course in the UK.

The government has published guidance for UK nationals planning to study in the EU, and encourages students to contact their educational institutions to check what will change next year.

It also encourages prospective students to consider wider issues such as visa requirements and health and travel insurance.

The Erasmus Programme is run in seven-year cycles and the next one will be from 2021 to 2027.

The European Commission has proposed doubling the funding of Erasmus for the next cycle to €30bn (£27bn).

And while the details have not yet been agreed, there have been suggestions it may become easier for non-EU countries to participate, although clearly they would have to pay to do so.

It is already the case that not all the countries that participate in the programme are EU members.

For example, Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Serbia are all what is called “programme members”, which means they participate fully.

But even if the government decides it wants to participate in Erasmus after 2021, it may not be able to negotiate that in time for the start of the cycle, so there could be a period when such programmes are not available for UK participants.

“The Erasmus+ programme has delivered and continues to deliver significant benefits to the UK and we need to ensure the positives of the programme are not lost as we move into the next stage,” Jane Racz, the director of the programme in the UK, told BBC News.

 

I hope that answers any questions people may have at present.

After Covid, what then? I don’t know.

UK Agriculture after Brexit, what then?  I don’t know.

EUROPEA UK after I retire, what then? I don’t know.

What will happen tomorrow? I do know.

The Sun will still rise………………. ”

 

Charlie Askew, NC of UK 

 

Editor’s comment: along with this text we received in an email, there was a sentence from Charlie worth sharing. And it goes like this: “Today we leave the EU. But I will never leave you all as friends and colleagues.” EUROPEA will always be there for you, Charlie, and will continue to be the place where we can stay TOGETHER. And together we’ll go further. 

Acknowledgements: many thanks to Charlie (UK), EUROPEA-UK.

Featured image: Pixabay