Sadiq Khan signs petition for UK to rejoin EU's Erasmus scheme

Sadiq Khan, pictured at the European Commission headquarters in 2017 (PA)
Sadiq Khan, pictured at the European Commission headquarters in 2017 (PA)

Sadiq Khan has joined calls for the UK to rejoin the EU’s Erasmus programme, in a bid to “reopen the door for young people from across Europe” and enable the same for London students.

The mayor has signed a petition launched on Monday by the UK branch of the European Movement, which says the move would be “a vital step in retaining Britain’s standing in the world and upholding the world renown of our universities”.

Mr Khan said: “We have seen the damage done by the Government’s hard Brexit right across our city, including to our world-class educational institutions with students from across Europe no longer able to choose London to study abroad and vice versa. That’s why I’m supporting the campaign to re-join the Erasmus+ programme.

“The UK may no longer be part of the EU, but London is, and always will be a European city and by re-joining the programme we can reopen the door for young people from across Europe to once again choose our city as we work to build a better London for everyone.”

The petition currently has more than 8,000 signatures, and is aiming at 20,000. Other notable signatories include former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP, the SNP’s Europe spokesperson Alyn Smith MP and Plaid Cymru’s Westminster group leader Liz Saville-Roberts MP.

The Government has replaced the Erasmus programme with its own Turing Scheme, which it calls “a truly global programme with every country in the world eligible to partner with UK education settings”.

It has said that Turing “will benefit more people from disadvantaged backgrounds”, pointing out that “while the UK was part of Erasmus, the most privileged were 1.7 times more likely to benefit from studying abroad”.

During the Brexit negotiations with the EU, prime minister Boris Johnson said the UK would remain part of Erasmus, but it was revealed in December 2020 that the two sides had failed to reach an agreement.

Mr Johnson said it was “a tough decision” to leave the scheme, but claimed that the UK “loses out” financially because of the larger number of EU nationals who were coming to study in the UK.

The call from Mr Khan for the UK to rejoin Erasmus is the latest intervention from the mayor calling for closer EU links. Earlier this year, he said Ministers should ease post-Brexit visa rules, which he warned are putting off young Europeans from visiting and working in the capital.

In an open letter to European Londoners on the seventh anniversary of the Brexit vote in June, the mayor thanked them for their contribution to the city's success. In July, he urged the Government to re-enter the EU's Horizon research programme.