Young people’s opportunities must be protected after Brexit, warns local MSP

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South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has warned that young people are at risk of losing out on opportunities to learn and work abroad after Brexit.

The SNP MSP, who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Culture and Europe Committee, said that a Tory hard Brexit could see young people in Scotland lose access to EU schemes like Erasmus Plus – while UK universities and research bodies lose the right to apply for money from a growing pot of EU research funds.

‘Horizon for Europe’ – the research programme administered by the EU – is set to rise by almost 30 per cent after 2020. Higher education institutions, businesses and research institutes in Scotland have been the main beneficiaries of its predecessor programme Horizon 2020. The new programme will also include €26bn for Erasmus, and €700m for an InterRail programme which allows EU citizens to apply for a free pass to travel on Europe’s rail network.


This week MSPs will debate the Culture and Europe (CTEER) Committee’s report on Erasmus plus – a popular exchange scheme which allows students from a variety of backgrounds to live and work In different countries. The scheme – currently funded from the EU budget – is facing the axe after Brexit, and the CTEER committee, have recommended the UK Government commits to footing the Bill.


Joan McAlpine MSP commented:


“European exchange programmes like Erasmus Plus offer huge benefits, and transforming experiences, for apprentices, students, youth groups, and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, but access could be severely restricted if Tory plans for a hard Brexit go ahead.


“We need Westminster to recognise the transformative opportunities which will be missed because of Brexit, and do everything in its power to limit the damage it is causing.”


“Reckless Tory plans for a hard Brexit could also see Scotland lose out on millions of pounds in vital European research funding – damaging the success of our universities, businesses, and research bodies for many years to come. 


“The UK government needs to recognise the folly of its extreme Brexit plans, and the damage they are doing across important sectors of our economy, before it is too late.


CTEER Committee report on Erasmus plus:


The EU’s next research program Horizon Europe should get €97.6 billion for the next seven year period, according to the European Commission — a rise of 27 percent from the previous program.

  • Horizon Europe, running from 2021 to 2027, will fund research and innovation across policy areas including health, agriculture, energy, climate change and transport. Its predecessor Horizon 2020 has a €77 billion budget for 2014-2020.
  • Research, along with the Erasmus student program, both received a rise in spending despite cuts to the agriculture and cohesion budgets. The Horizon Europe total includes €10bn for research on food, agriculture and the bioeconomy.
  • The Commission was keen to point out the increase for Horizon Europe is even greater when the U.K.’s departure is taken into account, since British researchers won around €10 billion from Horizon 2020. If British researchers no longer take part, Horizon Europe will boost research in the EU27 by close to 50 percent.
  • “In practice, it’s not only that the cake is bigger than before, but that the guy that was eating more of that cake is not anymore around the table,” a Commission official said.