Life after Brexit: mobility and education

By Sara Toffano.

Great Britain has officially left the European Union early this year. The withdrawal will have an impact on both UK and EU citizen: freedom of movement, trade, transport and education. Regarding the latter, UK will no longer take part into the Erasmus+ program. The UK government presented the Alan Turin Scheme, its own scheme to provide funding for international opportunities.

On 23 June 2016 started the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union: 52% of British voted via referendum for Brexit and, officially from the 1st January 2021, Great Britain is no longer part of the European Union. During the referendum campaign arguments of economics, politics, and national identity were presented by Brexiteers and Pro-Europeans.

Brexiteers argued that leaving the EU would result in an immediate cost saving, as the country would no longer contribute to the EU budget. What is harder to determine is whether the financial advantages of EU membership, such as free trade and inward investment, outweigh the upfront costs. In fact, The EU is a single market in which imports and exports between member states are exempt from tariffs and other barriers. Services, including financial services, can also be offered without restriction across the continent. Within the EU, Britain also benefited from trade deals between the EU and other world powers now including Canada and Japan, which have both concluded free-trade deals with the EU since the UK voted to leave. In Remainers’ view, leaving the EU the UK would lose the benefits of free trade with neighbours and reduce its negotiating power with the rest of the world. By contrast, Brexiteers believe the UK could compensate for those disadvantages by establishing its own trade agreements. Pro-Europeans argued that the UK’s status as one of the world’s biggest financial centres would be diminished if the City of London was no longer seen as a gateway to the EU for the likes of US banks. But Brexit supporters were adamant that a deal to allow continued tariff-free trading would be secured even if the UK left the single market.

With regard to sovereignty, for Leavers, exiting the EU would allow Britain to re-establish itself as a truly independent nation with connections to the rest of the world whereas for Remainers it would result in the country giving up its influence in Europe. To them, EU membership involved a worthwhile exchange of sovereignty for influence: in return for agreeing to abide by EU rules, Britain had a seat around the negotiating table and its voice was amplified on the world stage as a result. It is also true UK sovereignty would not be absolute outside the EU: the British government would still be bound by membership of NATO, the UN, and various treaties and agreements with other nations.

Another argument presented by many Brexiteers was that Britain should “regain control” of its borders. Although many Remainers acknowledged that the pace of immigration had led to some difficulties with housing and service provision they believe the net effect had been overwhelmingly positive but most Brexiteers wanted a substantial cut in immigration since it would positively affect the job market. In fact, fewer people coming to the country would mean less competition for jobs among those who remained and, potentially, higher wages. But that “is not necessarily a good thing” affirmed Stuart Rose, leader of the pro-Remain Britain Stronger in Europe campaign. In her view, labour shortages and rising wage bills could reduce economic competitiveness and growth. Reduced immigration could also cause damaging skills shortages in the UK workforce, said Remainers, as well as dampen demand for goods and services.

Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was in favour of Brexit, said Britain was leaving the “door open” to terrorist attacks by remaining in the EU. “This open border does not allow us to check and control people,” he argued.  However, UK benefited from being part of the EU, as well as NATO and the UN: “It is through the EU that you exchange criminal records and passenger records and work together on counter-terrorism”, he said-. “We need the collective weight of the EU when you are dealing with Russian aggression or terrorism”.

Brexit will have a wide range of impacts on people’s freedom of movement, trade in goods and services, air and road transport, the energy market and various EU programmes.

Regarding the movement of persons UK and EU citizens are going to face new immigration regulations. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and other non-visa nationals who wish to enter the UK do not require a visa when visiting the country for up to 6 months whereas all migrants looking to enter the UK for other reasons, such as work or study, will need to apply for entry clearance in advance and are subject to border checks. On the other hand, UK citizens will only be able to stay in an EU country for 90 days in every 180 without a visa. The UK citizens’ right to live and work and the freedom of movement in the EU ceased at the end of the transition period and, therefore,  British citizens looking to move and work in an EU country will need to apply in accordance with that country’s existing immigration rules. Moreover, the EU rules on the pricing of mobile phone use are no longer in force for mobile communications between the UK and the EU, so operators will agree on roaming charges on commercial grounds.

Concerning trade in goods between the EU and United Kingdom, it is subject to the new EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. If a business imports products into the EU, the products must comply with EU requirements and if a business engages in trade with the UK, it must follow the customs clearance procedures that are required for trade with third countries.

As regards the education sector, one of the many consequences of the UK’s exit from Europe is also the country’s non-participation in the Erasmus+ programme, the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport in Europe which enables student mobility in the EU Member States plus Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia. In fact, UK opted not to take part to the next Erasmus+ 2021-2027 as an associated third country. However, all projects selected under the programme 2014-2020 will continue operations until their completion on the same basis under which they were selected. Therefore, a number of these existing projects and partnerships that involve UK partners or are open to UK students will continue based on the 2014-2020 rules, when the UK was a Programme Country. Moreover, funding of some UK Universities remains available to allow students to study and work abroad in EU countries until May 2023. Among them there are the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, University College London, and University of Reading.

To replace the Erasmus+ programme is the new Alan Turing Scheme proposed by the UK government. From the name of the scientist best known for leading the code-breaking successes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and for designing the Automatic Computing Engine whose principles are now used to design modern PCs, the scheme provides funding for international education and training opportunities around the world to UK students.

Who can take part to the Scheme? Firstly, Higher Education (HE) students who can study at another university or carry out an internship; secondly, Vocational education and training (VET) students, who can participate in Turing Scheme work and internships abroad or study at an institution offering these types of courses; thirdly, recent graduates from HE and VET. who can carry out their Turing Scheme training abroad for up to 12 months after graduation; finally, primary school students who can study abroad for a short or long period, depending on their age. The funding is open to organisations in the UK and UK Overseas Territories from across the education and training sector. From March 2021 onwards eligible organisations must apply for the Turing Scheme.

Compared to Erasmus+, projects in the new programme will not only widen participation and support social mobility, but also target students from more disadvantaged backgrounds, which were few in the Erasmus+ programme, making opportunities accessible to all across the country. The programme will offer students opportunities to study and work abroad similar to those of the Erasmus+ programme, but the main difference is that it will include countries all over the world. Another key point of the new programme is that students will also receive help to cover additional travel costs, including visas, passports and health insurance, as these can often be an obstacle for potential participants. The aid provided will be in line with what has been offered so far in the Erasmus+ programme. In addition, there will be a division into 3 groups based on the countries’ cost of living: high, medium, and low cost of living.

Starting from January 1, 2021, all EU nationals wishing to study in the United Kingdom will be subject to different rules and procedures in order to study in the UK: EU students will no longer be treated equally with UK nationals, but rather with students from countries as the US, India, Bangladesh, Canada, Albania. All EU students who have gained a place at a UK higher education institution, who are 16 and older, are eligible to apply for a Student visa which can be obtained by following several certain procedures, as completing an application, presenting the required documents, as well as paying a visa fee of £348. EU must be able to score 70 points by meeting the requirements set by the UK authorities:10 points by proving they are proficient in the English language to the required standard for the level of the course he or she intends to study; another 10 points should be scored by showing evidence that they are capable of supporting themselves during their studies; and an amount of 50 points must be scored by the student by presenting several requirements such as the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies and the Approved Qualification requirement.

Sources:

 

European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/about/uk-and-erasmus_en

Erasmusu Blog, https://erasmusu.com/it/blog-erasmus/notizie-erasmus/il-turing-scheme-sostituisce-lerasmus-nel-regno-unito-tutto-sul-nuovo-programma-di-scambio-1203138

Finnish Prime Minister’s Office, https://vnk.fi/en/information-about-brexit/citizens-rights

Institute for Government, https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/british-citizens-europe-after-brexit

Shengen Visa info News, https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/new-procedures-for-eu-students-wishing-to-study-in-uk-from-january-1-2021/

The Week UK, https://www.theweek.co.uk/brexit-0

Touring Scheme, https://www.turing-scheme.org.uk/about/

UK government, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-immigration-system-what-you-need-to-know

University of Reading, https://studyabroad.reading.ac.uk/erasmus-programme/

University of Edinburgh, https://www.ed.ac.uk/global/exchanges/funding/erasmus-grant

University of Liverpool, https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/applying/brexit/

University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/go-abroad/study-abroad-and-erasmus/erasmus-programme

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