A new petition urging the government to retain membership of the influential Erasmus+ scheme for university students has hit 40,000 signatures.
The petition was launched by news website Scram News earlier this month after the government blocked an attempt to protect the UK’s role in the scheme while Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal was being debated in the House of Commons.
There have been impassioned pleas for the government to protect membership of the scheme, with Lib Dem MP Layla Moran passionately defending the initiative in the House of Commons.
Moran told MPs: “Let us remind ourselves what Erasmus does. It allows our young people to go abroad to European universities, to learn new languages, to meet new people, to put down some roots abroad and to build the international understanding that, in my view, is a big part of what it means to be British.”
She continued: “When people who have used the scheme return and apply their skills, the economy is boosted. The scheme increases their chances of getting a job and increases their confidence and sense of independence—and Brexit puts all that under threat. If full access to the scheme is not negotiated, it is those from the poorer families who will suffer. Those from well-off families will be able to study abroad if they want; their parents could pay the fees. The Erasmus scheme gives those from poorer backgrounds the ability to do that in a way that simply was not available before it came to fruition.”
The petition organisers are hoping to hit 50,000 signatures imminently, and will hand it to 10 Downing Street when it reaches a significant number.
Jayde Bradley, campaigns manager at Scram News, explained the thinking behind the petition.
She said: “Erasmus has allowed millions of people to study and live abroad, an incredible opportunity many participants would never have gotten otherwise. Many people have been in touch with us to share their touching stories about how Erasmus changed their lives for the better.
It’s petty and damaging for the government not to commit to protect the scheme for future generations. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, surely we can all agree that education shouldn’t be a pawn in the Brexit negotiations.”