by Bev Haigh-Jones
We are pleased to say that a very new member to the Cornwall for Europe family has provided the Brexit story this time. John doesn’t live in Cornwall, but has friends in Penzance and Portmellon, visits regularly and it goes without saying that he shares the opinions and values of the Group. As a language teacher, he and his students have been significantly impacted by Brexit, despite the assertions from Boris Johnson in December 2020 that this would not be the case.
As a Languages teacher (mainly French and German), I spent all of my 30 years stressing to my students the importance of our ties with the rest of the world and, in particular, with Europe. Not surprisingly, therefore, you can imagine my dismay when the UK voted to leave Europe. Many aspects of the decision concerned me, but foremost among them was the huge loss of opportunity to young students in many academic fields brought about by the UK no longer participating in the Erasmus scheme.
If Erasmus is something you are not terribly familiar with, it’s a scheme that offers cultural and educational exchanges and opportunities at minimal cost across Europe, which, until Brexit, obviously included the UK. Students could choose to study at a university in Europe for up to a year and that year would count as part of their degree. My own nephew benefited from the scheme, swapping one of his years at Portsmouth University for a year at Rennes University. He loved it and returned to Portsmouth for his final year with a much-broadened experience of France and its culture.
As a teacher, I know of various ex-pupils who took advantage of the scheme to study in France, Germany, Spain and other countries. Two of those ex-pupils met their future spouses during their year abroad and, years later, have citizenship in Germany and Spain respectively. It was, and still is, a wonderful scheme. There were no additional tuition fees for studying abroad, so it afforded equal opportunities for all. With Brexit, all that has gone.
Those in favour of Brexit will point to the Turing scheme, which is said to be a replacement for Erasmus. It isn’t. Erasmus allows students to study without additional fees, whereas Turing leaves a student at the whim of their destination establishment as to whether additional tuition fees will be requested. It’s not a bad scheme, but it is definitely not a replacement for Erasmus and, like many aspects of Brexit, narrows down the opportunities open to UK citizens wishing to create closer European ties.
And it works both ways. The nephew of a dear French friend of mine exchanged Paris for Kingston for a year as part of his science course some 20 years ago and loved his time over here. (Incidentally, he and his family visited Cornwall 3 years ago and had a wonderful time!!) That year abroad cannot happen anymore, since the UK chose to end its membership of Erasmus when Brexit happened. We could have still been part of it, even after Brexit, but our government obviously felt it was too much of a link with Europe, pandering to the tastes of its Brexiteers at considerable cultural cost to our young people and those of the EU. Shame on whoever made that decision.
This month we also have a contribution from Andrew. Not exactly a story, but more an expression of his personal feelings about Brexit.
“I guess the things that Brexit has affected for me personally are selfish really, however here goes:
As someone who enjoys travelling in a motorhome and cycling in France travel has undoubtedly been made more difficult.
Taking goods to friends in France and bringing stuff back has been hampered.
I have bought cycling and other goods from shops in the EU in the past, many will no longer send goods to the UK.
Some small UK businesses that I have dealt with in the past are no longer trading as they depended on selling goods imported from the EU. Difficulties in dealing with EU companies and additional tariffs have caused them to close or change what they sell.
Like everyone else in the country I am being affected by shortages of fuel and food at my local vendors, which I think is in part very much down to the effect of Brexit.
Lastly, I feel deeply saddened that we have left a shared beneficial relationship that has enhanced all our lives for decades, being part of a larger, more diverse community enhanced my life. I have yet to hear a single, quantifiable benefit to Brexit.”