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Welsh Government ‘fully committed’ to Taith learning exchange programme

18 Apr 2024 3 minute read
The Welsh Government launched the £65 million Taith youth mobility scheme in 2022

Luke James, Brussels

The Welsh Government says it remains “fully committed” to its Taith learning exchange programme after the European Commission announced plans for a new EU-UK scheme.

The Commission said this afternoon that it wants to open negotiations with the UK Government on an agreement to facilitate youth mobility and begin to “rebuild bridges” following Brexit and the UK Government’s decision to withdraw from the Erasmus scheme.

“The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union has hit young people in the EU and the UK who would like to study, work and live abroad particularly hard,” said Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič.

“Today, we take the first step towards an ambitious but realistic agreement between the EU and the UK that would fix this issue. Our aim is to rebuild human bridges between young Europeans on both sides of the Channel.”

Erasmus

The Welsh Government launched the £65 million Taith youth mobility scheme in 2022 in order to compensate for the withdrawal from Erasmus that Welsh EU official Dr Hywel Ceri Jones was key to establishing.

The scheme will pay for 15,000 Welsh youngsters to travel, work and study around the world and for 10,000 youngsters from around the world to come to Wales.

Speaking in Brussels in February, Mark Drakeford, who was then the First Minister, said the Welsh Government is “very proud” of the Taith scheme but said “if we had a choice we would much rather we were part of an established scheme” like Erasmus.

Responding to today’s proposal by the European Commission, a Welsh Government spokesperson told Nation.Cymru: “We welcome all opportunities to further foster international collaboration and partnerships in Wales.

“We are fully committed to our international learning exchange programme, Taith, which is helping thousands of learners and staff across Wales experience enriching educational mobilities.”

Reciprocal agreement

Under the Commission’s proposal for a reciprocal agreement, UK citizens aged between 18 and 30 could move to the EU for a period of up to four years without being tied to a specific job or educational course.

In exchange, the Commission is hoping to ensure that EU youngsters could once again study in the UK without paying the significantly higher international tuition fees.

The EU also wants to reduce the costs of visas, which is £490 for a student, and remove the need for applicants to pay the £776-a-year health surcharge.

“This landmark intervention is a welcome acknowledgement of the immense impact that Brexit has had not only on young Brits but young Europeans as well,” said Naomi Smith, the chief executive of pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain.

“The UK Government must now respond in kind. Until a reciprocal EU-UK Youth Mobility Scheme is formalised, our young people will continue to be robbed of the irreplaceable formative experiences their parents and older siblings enjoyed, because of a failed Brexit project they did not vote for.“

The Commission stressed though that the scheme would not amount to the restoration of freedom of movement for under-30s.

Applicants would still need to apply for a visa to one EU member states and would not be granted inter-EU travel rights.

The European Commission now needs the approval of the European Council, made up of the EU’s member states, before it can pursue negotiations with the UK.

The UK Government has not yet responded to the proposal.


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