Amendment 38

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 2:20 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 2:20 pm, 16th January 2020

My Lords, I have added my name to this important amendment. I will be brief.

The Government should have a fairly good idea by now of the views of academics, universities and other institutions. Hopefully, they will have taken note of the strong views of students and former participants in the Erasmus programme that have been expressed in the press and on social media in the last week or so, and their huge concern about the potential loss of this programme.

In terms of projects, Erasmus is now about more than learning and higher education. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, has pointed out, there are schemes for apprentices, adult learners, schools, youth programmes and entrepreneurs. On that point, what is less heard and discussed is the implications of Erasmus for business. The Russell Group has spoken of the considerable opportunities in industry that Erasmus opens up for students on their return to the UK. If we are also to maintain our business links with Europe, it will become more important, not less, that young people learn and use languages such as French and German, an issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, will no doubt expand on.

I hope the Government will look at this objectively and understand that the loss of Erasmus would represent a significant overall loss in terms of the choices that students will have to study abroad. In those circumstances, where the choice remains it will be at a considerably greater cost, to the extent that for students from poorer backgrounds, that choice would disappear. That is an important point. Erasmus favours those from less privileged backgrounds, a point that has been well made by former participants.

One of the arguments that is put is that we can replace Erasmus with a global arrangement. We have such arrangements already, which Erasmus does not preclude. The loss of Erasmus would be a net loss for students, and a reduction of opportunities to study abroad and to broaden horizons. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that the loss of Erasmus would, in the Government’s own terminology, be a levelling down, not a levelling up. I earnestly hope that the Government will do everything to maintain our meaningful membership—that is, programme membership —of Erasmus. Surely this being an intention endorsed by Parliament will only strengthen our hand in negotiations with the EU. I fully support the amendment.