In the wake of Brexit European schools have reached out to us with questions about Erasmus+ and the future of our partnerships. As we have previously pointed out, it is difficult to say what is going to happen. Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May has not yet triggered Article 50 - the legislation that governs the withdrawal from the EU - and is not believed to do so before the end of 2016. The negotiations, once Article 50 has been put in motion, is believed to take up to two years, with many believing it will take much longer.
But what should schools do in the meantime, as Call 2017 is soon upon us? We reached out to Angela Andersson, Deputy NA Director at the Swedish National Agency. She answered our questions as Acting Head of the Department for International Cooperation, in the place of Maria Linna Angestav.
How do you view Brexit and its effect on Erasmus+ projects destined for the UK?
The Swedish Council for Higher Education is a government agency with many responsibilities, among them being the National Agency for Erasmus+ in the field of Education and Training. As such we share the stance of the Swedish government and the European Commission, which is that we take note of the outcome of the referendum, but that European Union treaties and law, concerning Erasmus+ as well as all other areas, continue to apply. Together with our colleagues around Europe we follow the development closely, carrying on “business as usual”.
Do you deem it possible for a Swedish school to swap their UK partner for a different one in case the British borders shut completely?
I’m afraid it’s not really possible to give a good reply to this very hypothetical question.
On a more general note I could mention that there is, in the grant agreements, a force majeur clause which can be applied in the event of an unforeseeable exceptional situation beyond the parties' control. I think we can safely assume that, if such an unforeseeable situation would occur, the European Commission and the National Agencies would do their best to enable schools to carry on with their projects, and apply a high level of pragmatism and flexibility.
Non-EU members like Norway and Turkey are participating in Erasmus+. Is it possible for the UK to receive a similar deal?
I would say that there is every technical possibility to reach an agreement, but it’s far too early to know what will happen.
UK is a popular partner for Swedish organisations in Erasmus+, almost a third of the projects involve a UK partner, and it’s where most Swedish Erasmus students spend their time abroad. Over the years close ties have been formed between schools, universities and organisations in the UK and in Sweden, and I think there is a good chance that mutual learning and fruitful cooperation will continue, one way or another.
Let's say a Swedish school is looking to apply for an Erasmus+ grant to fund a Key Action 1 project in the UK. What would you advise them?
I would advise them to continue as planned; prepare the application and hope that it will be approved. Undertaking learning or professional experience in another country is rewarding both for the individual participant and the organisations involved, it brings new perspectives and experiences and it’s also great fun!
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