“The Tory government has voted against continued involvement in the Erasmus scheme that allowed young people to spend time in other EU countries”
The suggestion is that the government will pull the UK out of the EU-funded programme, which allows students from across the continent to work or study in another European country during their degrees.
But, so far at least, rumours of Erasmus’ death have been greatly exaggerated.
The claims come after MPs voted against “New Clause 10” — an amendment to the government’s Brexit bill — last night.
The rejected clause would have compelled the government “to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education and youth programme”.
Had it passed, the government would have been required by law to make staying part of the Erasmus scheme a priority in Brexit negotiations.
The clause was just one of a string of opposition amendments which the government defeated. It’s been suggested that it did so to avoid tying its own hands in negotiations.
Crucially, what many commentators seem to have missed is that voting the clause down, as Conservative MPs did last night, is not the same as scrapping UK involvement in the scheme.
Universities minister, Chris Skidmore, tweeted this morning that the vote “does not end or prevent the UK participating in [Erasmus]”, adding: “We remain open to participation and this will be part of future negotiations with the EU — we highly value international student exchanges”.
The Department for Education told FactCheck: “The government is committed to continuing the academic relationship between the UK and the EU, including through the next Erasmus+ programme if it is in our interests to do so. The vote last night does not change that [their emphasis]”.
They confirmed that this commitment applies to participation in the next Erasmus programme, which runs from 2021 to 2027.
A spokesperson added: “As we enter negotiations with the EU, we want to ensure that UK and European students can continue to benefit from each other’s world-leading education systems.”
Now, it’s still possible that the UK could end up leaving the Erasmus programme after Brexit, depending on the outcome of the negotiations.
But it’s wrong to say that last night’s vote means that the UK will quit the Erasmus scheme. The government’s stated ambition is to stay in, so long as it remains “in our interests to do so”.