Last year, the government of UK shocked the entire world by announcing Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU), and since then it has been a topic of discussion for the majority of the news channels and papers in Europe. Recently, Brexit has again made it to the headlines, but this time to talk about students’ “equal rights”. The latest high-tensioned talks between the UK government and the European Union on the issue of Brexit ended on an Agreement in Brussels.
The said agreement describes certain crucial issues including the future of the Irish border, the financial settlement and most importantly the rights of the citizen. The negotiation document highlights a commitment that states that students will be provided with “equal treatment” moving forward. The negotiators are now looking forward to getting on with the second part of the talks, i.e. on trade negotiations. Though it is yet to be unveiled how the trade negotiations can have an impact on the international education, the promise of fair treatment for students living either in the bloc or in the UK after the event of Brexit has been mentioned in the paper. It says, “Their rights will remain the same after the UK has left the European Union.”
According to PIE News, president of the European Students’ Union (ESU) in Brussels Helge Schwitters described this news as “positive for student mobility”. However, the ESU is quite cautious about the talks as the deal is far from sealed. Mr Schwitters told PIE News that it would “follow closely the next phase of negotiations.” The mentioned paragraph also sets out the rights for workers and the self-employed people, while providing assurance to professionals working in education sector across Europe, along with the students in their institutions.
The negotiation document does not promise the participation the programs such as Erasmus, but it does set out the fact that the UK students and the EU students will be given equal rights to healthcare, social benefits, and education (including higher education), and training when the person is residing across borders.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker described this part of the negotiation as bringing “back the certainty”, mentioning that this will safeguard the choices made by the citizens of EU before of Brexit vote. He added that they (European Commission) have made it certain that their rights would remain the same even after UK leaves the European Union. According to him, this is the case for EU citizen’s right to live, work and study. He hopes and encourages that the government to put the agreement on citizen’s rights into law as quickly as possible.
It is anticipated that the negotiation documents may hold further positive messages for the mature student and academics, as the family of a UK or an EU citizen would be allowed to join them – as long as they were related on the date of Brexit. It’s a lifetime right and is mandated to make sure that the families are not separated from each other post-UK-EU separation due to cross-border work or study.
Although, post-Brexit foreign citizens will require residence permits. The citizens will have to make application for the same, and they will be given a window of two years to make the application and submit it. The agreement also highlights that the host state will avoid any unnecessary administrative load in this process.
The chief executive of Universities UK, Mr Alistair Jarvis, reportedly addressed this point in a statement by highlighting the fact that the agreement on citizen’s rights was crucial for everyone in the UK higher education sector. He also mentioned that the EU nationals (46,000) working across the UK university now have clarity on how they can still remain and work in the UK and gain a settled status after learning about the agreement.
Another important thing was mentioned in this agreement that once the permanent residence is secured, the citizens won’t be allowed to live outside the nation of residence for any time-period longer than consecutive five years. If anyone does so, his/her status may be revoked.
The government of UK’s promise to keep its commitment past 2020 indicates that the UK will remain to be a part of Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020, at least until the end of the current EU budget period. The chief executive of the Russell Group in the UK welcomed this announcement by saying this will help uphold the future academic collaboration with international partners.
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