Rejoining the EU: How & When, and what we need to do to make it happen sooner rather than later – some very practical suggestions included. Tickets available here.
Bio: A. C. Grayling CBE MA DPhil (Oxon) FRSA FRSL is the Founder and Principal of New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, and its Professor of Philosophy. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. He is the author of over thirty books of philosophy, biography, history of ideas, and essays. He was for a number of years a columnist on the Guardian, the Times, and Prospect magazine. He has contributed to many leading newspapers in the UK, US and Australia, and to BBC radios 4, 3 and the World Service, for which he did the annual ‘Exchanges at the Frontier’ series; and he has often appeared on television. He has twice been a judge on the Booker Prize, in 2014 serving as the Chair of the judging panel. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Vice President of Humanists UK, Patron of the Defence Humanists, Honorary Associate of the Secular Society, and a Patron of Dignity in Dying.
Campaigns – Updates on EU Citizens & Settled Status!ActNow! We are contacting you today in connection with #actnowEUSS campaign namely to raise awareness of the deadline for EU and EFTA citizens resident in the UK to apply for settlement status. Today there are only 94 days left until the application deadline on 30th June 2021. Please take a few minutes to watch this video as it gives a comprehensive background to the urgency. https://youtu.be/xtPNwozO0kw The #actnowEUSS campaign has been tweeting and posting messages over the past 4 weeks to highlight the 30 countries whose citizens are affected. With only 94 days left we have much to do locally…
Report it! Have you heard of anyone with a problem with their application for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme? Struggling to apply? Still waiting for a decision? Or they received the wrong status? Or have they been granted a status but are struggling to prove it because you haven’t been given a physical proof of status? The3million have an excellent site for collecting these experiences at the3million | Report it
Join Us – Campaigning Next Steps – Thursday 1st April at 8pm! Together with Berkshire for Europe, we are hosting a Zoom webinarSmall Step Campaigning: Erasmus, Musicians, The Veterinary Bill! EU Citizens: Next Steps!Preparing for Local Elections & Getting Your European Voice Heard!And, Much More!Look forward to Seeing you at the Zoom Session – All Details Below!
Mini Survey – Choose your favourite Erasmus coin! In 2022 the Erasmus programme celebrates its 35th birthday. Are you one or do you know anyone of the millions of people who have loved the experience? Or maybe you have heard about Erasmus but not yet had a chance to take part? They’re looking to you to choose the commemorative €2 coin to celebrate the programme. You can pick from one of the six designs below within the link. Help mark Erasmus’ place in shaping. This survey is open, and you can cast your vote until midnight, March 31st, 2021. https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/Erasmus35YearsEuroCoin
Some Interesting Links… The Good Law Project – It’s hard to put it better than the Commissioner for Public Appointments: “… some at the centre of government want not only to have the final say but to tilt the competition system in their favour to appoint their allies…” This is not the Britain we should be. https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/time-to-end-cronyism/
If you have tried to buy something online from an EU country since 1 January 2021, you might have found it cost you rather more than you were expecting … thanks to Brexit! And if you’ve attempted to send a parcel to friends in an EU country, you will have experienced the joys of filling out detailed customs declarations forms, in addition to higher postage costs.
I’ve heard a myriad of such anecdotes and for many it has felt like the first tangible impact of Brexit. Here are some recent examples:
Anna: Had to pay an additional £27 for customs clearance charges on wallpaper ordered from Germany.
Rebecca: Tried to buy a plant from a gardening company in the Netherlands – they no longer export to the UK due to Brexit conditions. They used to ship over 600 varieties per shipment, which would now generate a mountain of paperwork. It is currently too costly and impractical to ship to the UK.
Dwayne: Had to pay an unexpected £20 for tax on musical equipment ordered from Germany.
Ali: Ordered some slippers from a Danish company, but the forwarder wasn’t allowed to ship parcels to the UK. The order had to be cancelled.
Josh: Had to pay £450 more than in pre-Brexit times for samples from Austria for his UK-based company. The supplier had also been obliged to fill out several additional forms.
It’s clear that Brexit is hitting your average British consumer. Johnson’s deal certainly doesn’t feel much like a ‘free trade deal’ in reality. So what choice is there for the British consumer buying from the EU? It’s either soak up the extra costs or don’t make the purchase. Brexiters might argue that this is a good thing – British consumers will turn to UK-based companies to meet their needs. But even taking that potential outcome into consideration, it’s clear that Brexit has reduced choice for ordinary British people. And it must also be recognised that any UK company relying on imports from EU countries will be adversely affected by extra red tape and higher transportation costs. And UK-based companies may start charging customers more in response to having less competition. Prices for brits will inevitably rise.
Many Brexit impacts currently feel fairly remote to the average person on the street, partly due to the overwhelming nature of the Covid pandemic. But it’s likely that most will know someone who has found themselves paying import tax on a purchase or who has faced the prospect of filling out a lengthy customs declaration form just to send a birthday present – each situation a little reminder that we have ‘Brexited’ and these are the consequences.
It’s been a tumultuous time for UK language students studying or working abroad this academic year. They have suffered serious disruption thanks to the pandemic, with many having to self-isolate in both directions to be able to spend the Christmas period in the UK.
However, Covid is not the only curveball being thrown their way since they also have the reality of Brexit to contend with. The transition period ended on December 31st 2020 and from 1 January, UK students ceased to be EU citizens. The UK is now considered a third country by EU member states and the practical repercussions of this are not insignificant. Students will now need a visa for any stay over 90 days. In some cases, they also need to prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves and this can be as much as €6000. Many currently on their year abroad are finding it difficult to access accurate information about the new documentation they are expected to have. Those studying two languages, who need to change locations part way through the year, are experiencing even more difficulties and it’s not surprising that all of these students are finding the uncertainty of their status abroad extremely stressful.
An article in The Guardian from the 23 February drew attention to this issue and having noticed a quote from a professor at a university within our local area, I decided to contact her to find out more. Julia Waters, Professor of French and Year Abroad Coordinator for the Department of Languages and Cultures at Reading University, kindly agreed to answer my questions regarding the difficulties that students on their year abroad are currently facing.
CR:How many Reading University students are part way through their year abroad? What has the impact been on them from both Covid and Brexit?
JW:There are currently 70 languages students from Reading on their Year Abroad, all of whom have been affected, to a lesser or greater degree, by the double-whammy of Covid and Brexit. Obviously, Reading is far from alone in this: the problems faced by our students are replicated in universities across the country. This cohort of students were already part-way through their Year Abroad when the transition period ended – but this did not immunise them from the immediate impact of Brexit and their sudden change in status from EU citizens with full freedom of movement, to non-EU nationals with no such entitlements. Students have been differently affected, depending on their particular situation: whether spending the full year in one country or dividing their time between two countries/languages; whether studying, working or a combination of the two; whether they came back to the UK over New Year or stayed in the EU.
The worst-hit have been students trying to go or return to Spain after the New Year. Spain has imposed a Covid-related ban on all incoming travel, but with an exemption for EU citizens, which now no longer applies to UK students. So, although some of our students had been in Spain before Christmas and had all the documents that FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) and Spanish government websites told them they would need, several were turned back at the airport. Two particularly determined students spent hundreds of pounds to employ a Spanish lawyer to get their paperwork sorted out and find a loophole in order to be able to return. Many others are still stuck in the UK, doing classes online, as the travel ban is repeatedly extended. A couple were unable to get to Spain to register at university in person before the start of term and so their registration has been refused.
There are also a handful of Joint Honours students who are still in their first country and who face huge administrative complications when travelling to their second – including possibly having to return to the UK to apply for a visa and then facing the prospect of Covid isolation and other restrictions in both directions.
CR: What would you like to see the government do to help resolve the situation?
JW:We need clarity. The official guidance, on FCDO and foreign government websites, is inadequate. There are lots of ‘you may need’ phrases which are no help at all to students who need to know what they need now. Host universities and employers in the EU are unclear what the new requirements are and have been providing students with inconsistent advice. Some countries require students to prove that they have sufficient funds (either 1,000s of pounds in a bank account or a regular monthly income of £600-800) for the duration of their stay. But much of this information is provided on the official sites. Although travelling armed with piles of paperwork (proof of study or work placement; proof of status as students; proof of residency or an appointment to obtain a residency card; guarantor’s statement or bank statement; proof of medical insurance and EHIC; proof of Erasmus funding…), some students have still been refused entry. It’s a mess and the poor students are stuck in the middle of it all. The pressure on already overstretched academic staff has also been immense.
CR:The UK is set to leave the Erasmus scheme at the end of this academic year, with the government’s replacement, the Turing scheme, coming into force in September. How does the new scheme compare with Erasmus and will Reading University participate?
JW:Reading University, like other universities, will apply to participate in the Turing scheme, even though it is still unclear quite how funds will be allocated. While the Turing scheme may provide opportunities for students to study in non-EU countries, this perceived advantage will not apply to the vast majority of existing, European exchanges.
The main problems that I foresee with the Turing scheme – and I’m not the only one to have identified these – are that Erasmus is based on a reciprocal, partnership model and it’s not clear how this will be replicated with Turing. As an EU-funded scheme, Erasmus ensures the mutual waiver of tuition fees and recognition of qualifications, so providing a framework for exchange that is arguably more important than the student funding itself. Erasmus funding is also allocated over a cycle of several years, allowing universities to build long-term relationships and ensure from before the start of a 4-year languages degree, that the student will have a choice of exchange opportunities and be eligible for funding support. The one-year model of the Turing Scheme does not allow for such forward planning and is likely to make administration extremely onerous. Erasmus does not just support student mobility (as will Turing) – it also supports knowledge transfer partnerships, staff training exchanges and other strategic, collaborative projects between institutions and countries. Withdrawing from Erasmus’ long-standing administrative framework, reciprocal arrangements and long-established funding processes, and starting from scratch at very short notice, seems highly risky.
Since I spoke to Professor Waters, more information has come to light about the government’s Turing scheme which suggests that funding is indeed significantly lower than what was offered under the Erasmus scheme. Students wishing to take part will end up paying more, which makes it hard to understand claims that the Turing scheme would widen participation for students from lower income backgrounds. Students also face unavoidable additional costs as a result of Brexit; for visas, work permits, residency cards, roaming charges, etc.
Another weakness of the Turing scheme is that unlike Erasmus, it does not currently extend to incoming students. This means that the UK loses the chance to host young people from Europe. The lack of reciprocity may also make it more difficult for UK institutions to retain foreign partnerships or secure new ones.
The current generation of young people had no chance to vote in the 2016 referendum, but they are already experiencing the consequences of Brexit, none more so than foreign language students. The practicalities of the year abroad have become more complicated and costly whilst the opportunities for future year abroad students are currently unclear. Leaving the ready-made and successful Erasmus scheme seems like an unnecessary own-goal by a government that continually promotes the idea of ‘global Britain’. There are undoubtedly more questions to be asked about the Turing scheme and it will face much scrutiny by those who have experienced the benefits of Erasmus.
We will be holding online working group sessions in the week commencing 7th December and we would really like as many of our supporters that can to join one or more of these.
Details are below, including links to the Zoom meeting. If you would like to attend one or more to help us develop our thinking, please let us know by email, or you can just join the meeting on the evening if you’re uncertain.
1 EU Citizens in UK (Euro Café and Settled Status). Facilitated by Caroline / Mailan, 7 Dec 8.00 – 9.30pm. Link Meeting ID: 861 7377 7887 / Passcode: mockpwd
2 Defending Democracy and Electoral Reform. Facilitated by Len / Caroline, 8 Dec 8.00 – 9.30pm. Link Meeting ID: 869 0181 5758 / Passcode: mockpwd
3 Engagement / working with local Political Parties. Facilitated by Katherine / Terry, 9 Dec 8.00 – 9.30pm. Link Meeting ID: 857 5978 1557 / Passcode: mockpwd
4 Influencing others (outside of our bubble). Facilitated by Beth / Mailan, 10 Dec 8.00 – 9.30pm. Link Meeting ID: 864 0659 2223 / Passcode: mockpwd
5 The Rejoin campaign. Facilitated by Peter / Adrian, 11 Dec 8.00 – 9.30pm. Link Meeting ID: 890 4699 9191 / Passcode: mockpwd
We will take the output from the survey and working groups into our plans for 2021 and beyond.
And for something fun before Xmas, please join us for a socialmeet-up at the virtual Remainiacs Arms on Wednesday 16th December at 7.30 pm. We can’t meet up in person, but we can do the next best thing and meet online to raise a glass with remainer friends. Link, Meeting ID: 852 5438 4617 / Passcode: 9P7dL9
Thank you for your continued support, Adrian Chair of Berkshire for Europe
This evening we held the feedback session on the supporter consultation which Berkshire for Europe, Open Britain Berkshire and Maidenhead for Europe undertook between mid-October and mid-November. We were delighted that 132 people returned the survey and so many of you joined the feedback session.
If you missed the session and would like to see the survey results please see here:
Thank you to everyone who contributed to our campaign discussion on Wednesday 8th July.
We need a comprehensive deal that protects the economy, security, health (and more) of UK and EU, and the additional transition arrangements to achieve this. We need to build public awareness and pressure on the government so that this becomes politically their best option.
Here is a summary of what we discussed (including latest news) and links to resources you can use.
This is the time of maximum risk from Brexit, as the transition arrangements end and realities replace rhetoric. But as a consequence, the public is more open to understanding the facts and to pressurizing the government to accept these realities and change course. Everything we can do to public awareness and pressure on the government to do this makes a difference.