Participating in Erasmus after Brexit.

In the first week of February a group of High Peak constituents collected 175 signatures for a petition in support of our continuing participation in the Erasmus+ programme. I presented the petition to our new MP, Robert Largan, at his surgery in Hope on 8th February, asking him to use his influence on Government to lobby for our continuing participation in the programme after the transition period ends in December 2020. Robert Largan said he was very much in favour of exchange programmes and supported the UK staying in the Erasmus programme, or its successor. He then took the petition to hand in to the Secretary of State for Education.

For those unfamiliar with the programme, Erasmus is an EU funded exchange programme whereby students can spend a period of time studying abroad. This experience enhances language skills as well as familiarising young people with other cultures and societies. Former High Peak constituents who have participated in the scheme as students have said the following:

‘It was the first time I really thought critically about the society I came from and the views I held. I made wonderful friends from across the world.’ “Edith”

‘This experience allowed me to fully immerse myself in the German culture and way of life. Without the financial support and infrastructure that the Erasmus scheme provides, this would not have been possible.’ “Holly”

It’s not just university students who benefit from the Erasmus programme: it also funds schools and FE colleges for work placements, staff development and collaboration with international partners, with very positive outcomes. In 2019 the Association of Colleges carried out a survey of colleges and college groups and received 33 returns. 100% of the respondents reported students’ improved self- confidence, 94% improved team-working, 91% improved problem-solving and 91% improved communication.

So what is the present position with Erasmus, given that we left the European Union on January 31st 2020? Can we continue to be part of this programme? The answer is YES. At present, during the transition period, we are participating in the programme as before, until the end of 2020. This fits nicely with the funding cycle of Erasmus which runs in a seven year cycle, with the current one, called Erasmus +2020, ending in December 2020. After that we could continue to participate in the next cycle, called Erasmus 2021-2027, as an associated third country. Some other countries are doing just that at the moment with the present programme, namely Turkey, Iceland, Norway and Serbia.

The Government has been considering the UK’s continued participation in Erasmus for some time now, and it will form part of the negotiations with the European Union which are just starting. It is also looking at alternatives, including a domestic exchange programme. The problems with that are that it would be very difficult in any national programme to replicate the partnerships built up over 30 years of Erasmus, never mind the costs of setting up new partnerships. The House of Lords European Union Committee in their report Brexit: The Erasmus and Horizon Programmes also found that ‘opportunities for people in vocational education and training would ‘stop in their tracks’ without Erasmus funding’, and that people with disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs and disabilities would be disproportionately affected—they currently receive additional funding to help them access the programme.

 Since we handed our petition in to our MP in early February, there have been two further developments which may be significant. The first is the sacking of Chris Skidmore, the Universities Minister, from the Cabinet. He was the Minister who gave evidence to the House of Lords Committee and is quoted in the report as saying, ‘We are still keen to be able to pursue associated membership of future (EU) programmes that begin in 2021.’ He has been replaced by Michelle Donelan. The second is the publication of the points system governing applications to enter the UK after December 2020 when free movement ends. As far as I am aware, there is no reference to students in the points system. However, the House of Lords report heard evidence that the free movement of Erasmus participants was a key principle in bilateral agreements with non-EU programme countries and indeed Switzerland lost full access to Erasmus following its 2014 referendum on free movement. So will the UK be able to participate in Erasmus as an associated country if the rule on free movement is strictly adhered to?

In High Peak we’ve made our views known: we think Erasmus is a brilliant programme and that the Government should do all in its power to see that our students can continue to benefit from it. But negotiations are starting and we need to keep a careful eye on our government’s stance so that we can hold them to account.

Distressed Jeans and the Fabrication of Institutional Contempt

I wear blue jeans almost every day. Being a gardener, spending a lot of time weeding my vegetable patch, my jeans get worn out at the knees within a year or so and I replace them with an intact and robust pair that will protect my tender skin.  Instead of demoting the old ones to become cleaning rags, perhaps I should sell them for a fortune on e-bay as rare genuinely work-distressed garments.

There is now a huge market for manufactured distressed clothes, created by carefully calibrated machines and artisans that make new clothes look old or damaged – with precisely-placed rips on the thighs or buttocks of jeans, bullet holes through t-shirts, or jacket collars that look as though they have been nibbled by a rat. While some people distress their own brand-new clothes, many are happy to shell out even hundreds of pounds to buy pre-damaged garments sold by the big brands of the fashion industry.

A few days ago, I asked a 15-year old boy why he distresses his jeans. He thought for a while before saying that he supposed that it was because it was “fashionable” and because his friends did it. One commentator claims that people do it to “foster the illusion of work”, while another writer goes as far as saying that pre-ripped garments provide “a costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic”. I see it as a deliberately visible but fairly harmless way of signalling personal dissatisfaction with the norms that society imposes on our daily lives. Like purposefully dishevelling one’s hair, it is a means of asserting one’s non-conformity and claiming that one deserves special attention.

The problem arises when such non-conformity, rather than being allowed to remain a symbol of individual idiosyncrasy, is nurtured and fanned into a collective disrespect towards the institutions, laws, conventions and norms that have grown up over many years to foster a sense of common decency and mutual respect, to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals and especially minorities, to prevent crime, and to foster truthfulness and trustworthiness.

One of the most curious aspects of the present crisis facing Britain is that we have never had any serious dispute with the European Union since we joined on New Tear’s Day 1973. I suspect that it is also true that very few UK citizens can point to specific cases in which their own lives have been blighted by EU regulations. Yet, in a few months in 2016, a majority of voters was persuaded through a skilfully orchestrated campaign, backed by the massive use of social media, to call for us to leave the Union. “Take back control” and “regain sovereignty” became powerful rallying calls, even though there no evidence was put forward by the advocates of Brexit to show that we had lost any control or forfeited significant elements of sovereignty.

Lots of voters were – and continue to be – rightly disaffected by their lack of self-advancement and were easily persuaded to blame this on “the bureaucrats in Brussels” and the influx of European migrants.

We are now in the contradictory situation of having a prime minister who, having called on us to uphold British sovereignty, seems to be intent undermining – or simply avoiding – scrutiny by parliament (the locus of British sovereignty) of his immensely damaging proposals for leaving the European Union without a deal.

What is evident is that. in this age of distressed jeans, it is much easier to drum up popular antipathy towards the public institutions – whether international or national – that shape our lives rather than to persuade people to acknowledge and defend their generally benign impacts.

The greatest danger now facing our country is that our new prime minister, driven less by his beliefs – if he has any – than by his personal ambitions, will knowingly lead us (and our children and grand-children) into a deeply self-harming future. The most obvious sign that this is his intention is that, having happily approved the use of billions of taxpayers’ pounds to finance ‘no-deal planning’, he has appears not to have given the slightest thought to the nature of the long-term relationship that he would like to see with our European neighbours. Without such a vision, he is bereft of any basis for successfully negotiating any deal with the EU.

For the past 3 years the Conservatives have failed to make a convincing response to the result of the 2016 referendum. If only by prolonging uncertainty, this failure has already done immense economic harm to our country: it has undermined the respect that other nations hold for us; it has fostered deep divisions between people who have happily coexisted in the past, and it has put at risk the integrity of the United Kingdom.

We are now engulfed in a national crisis of unprecedented proportions which has been created by the present government and from which it is patently incapable of extracting us. It lies within the reach of MPs who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit to defeat the government in a no confidence vote that would sooner or later lead to either a general election or a referendum.

The opposition has also wasted the last 3 years through its indecisiveness and its failure to engage in a well-orchestrated campaign to convince voters of the real benefits of staying in Europe. There is an urgent need to talk with them frankly of the dangers associated with any Brexit but especially with a ‘no deal’ outcome and to argue that it makes common sense to continue with the status quo at least until there might be a genuine breakdown in our relations with other EU nations rather than a fabricated dispute.


This post is provided by

From: Future for our Children

March for Change

20th July 2019

6 Simple Thoughts for the Day


  1. Has Britain ever had a big dispute with the EU since it joined over 40 years ago?

NO – So why stir up discontent?


  1. Can you point to any way in which your own life has actually been damaged by our EU membership?

If not, what is to be gained by you and your own family from getting out of the EU?


  1. The Single Market provides for the easiest possible trading between 28 neighbouring countries. Can you think of any good reason to pull out of it?


  1. We are geographically part of Europe and share many problems and opportunities with our neighbours. So, doesn’t it make sense to work together to solve them? Think about preventing the spread of diseases, safe travel, scientific research, security and crime control, food safety, environmental management, climate change – you name it…..


  1. Our parents lived through two horrendous wars of European origin and lost many of their friends and relations. We have enjoyed a long life in peace largely because the EU nurtures trust and confidence between its members. Don’t you think that, by leaving the EU, Britain raises the risk that our children and grandchildren end up fighting?


  1. The Brexit process has already mucked things up for 3 divisive years. Any Brexit or a No Deal will prolong the agony and uncertainty for years to come. If we decide to stay in Europe, there will be no need for more negotiations and we can return now to our normal – friendly – ways.



Boris got us into this mess, driven by his ambition.


He’s not the person to get us out of it.

Latest response from Ruth George MO

This is in response to a letter about Brexit from one of our members.


Thank you for contacting me with your views on Brexit.  It is important to me to hear from constituents as the ever-changing situation develops.
Since the referendum in 2016, I have scrutinised all the different options presented for leaving the European Union. My priority has always been to ensure that we negotiate terms that best protect our economy and maintain stable employment, enabling us to give the police, NHS, schools, and all our public services, the support they desperately need, and to tackle the growing poverty in our country.
The deal which the Prime Minister presented to Parliament was simply a stop-gap deal that leaves negotiations on the long-term deal to the next Prime Minister.  Based on last night’s TV debate, I wouldn’t trust either of the contenders to negotiate a constructive deal.  Boris Johnson clearly lacks the understanding of the detail of the situation – details that will be crucial to businesses wishing to trade and people to travel.
The fact check on the debate sets out a lot of those misconceptions:
It has become clear that the Conservative Party will never sign up to a practical deal and the deal that is being contemplated presents a real threat to the economic security of the UK, with both leadership candidates failing to confirm that they would not pursue a cataclysmic no-deal exit.  
From all my correspondence, surveys, meetings and conversations with constituents, it is clear there is not a majority who want a hard Brexit that will affect local jobs, much less leaving the EU without a deal.  Over the last three years, so much has been clarified regarding both the false promises made during the referendum campaign and the impact a haphazard exit from the EU would have on our future. 
It would therefore not be democratic to go ahead with a deal without referring back to the British people in a confirmatory referendum to make sure it is what a majority want, and with an option to remain in the EU.
I have been advocating for a vote on the Brexit deal far many months, since assessing local opinions following the publication of the Prime Minister’s deal and I am pleased that this is now confirmed Labour Party policy.
Faced with leaving without a deal, or with a deal negotiated by the new Conservative Prime Minister that would fail to protect jobs or our rights and standards, I would campaign for us to remain in the European Union, and to seek to reform the EU from within and reform our economy so that they best address the concerns of people who voted to leave the EU.
Whatever the outcome of any new attempts to get a different deal with the EU, a people’s vote is the most democratic way forward. Not only would it ensure that any deal passed by parliament is subject to appropriate public scrutiny, but would also, for the first time, give the public a vote on a tangible, negotiated deal based on more than just smoke and mirrors. 
Once again, thank you for contacting me.
Kind regards


If you would like to receive a monthly round up of my local campaigns and Parliamentary activity, please email me at

Ruth George MP
Member of Parliament for High Peak 

Working for you in High Peak and Westminster

Dunkirk Spirit

This week sees the 79th anniversary of the evacuation of 338,226 servicemen forming the backbone of the British army from Dunkirk. Officially known as Operation Dynamo; it is also described as the miracle of Dunkirk. The French port has found its way into the British conscience through the expression – the Dunkirk Spirit. A description of British ingenuity and resolve against adversity.

Indeed, it was a miracle that many of those servicemen including my father found their way home. In my father’s case especially so, as he was part of the rear guard. By the time he reached the beaches of Dunkirk the evacuation was well underway. He came back on a Thames sailing barge which a number of men noticed appeared to still be seaworthy despite being beached and abandoned. Through ingenuity they raised the sail and found their way to Margate and home.

For the first 15 years of my life, trips to Veterans parades organised by the Dunkirk Veterans Association became second nature. Dunkirk, De Panne, Portsmouth, Ramsgate, Margate. All places I remember visiting in my childhood. I remember the evening socials and dances. I remember the Church Services. I remember the Outdoor Services. I remember the Parades. I remember those who eventually grew to be old remembering those who never had a chance to grow old.

I also remember the holidays. France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and yes Germany. All countries visited in the first 15 years of my life. Both my parents had 6 years of their young lives taken away from them by War. They both knew people who had lost family in both World Wars. Yet they were more than happy to travel to Europe and explore European cultures and seek to make friends with those from other countries on their travels. They even went to the Munich Beer festival and drank with Germans. I am lucky. They brought me up to be a European.

Dunkirk will always be engrained into my soul. Dunkirk is in my DNA. I have Dunkirk spirit to my fingertips. I will use every drop of it to keep Britain where those of my parents’ generation concluded we should be in 1975. As part of a European Family of Nations.

Those who lived through the dark days of the two World Wars are with us in ever decreasing numbers. They knew first-hand where Nationalism can lead us. They were the experts in the effects of War in Europe as they saw it first-hand. We should listen to them by following their example and seek to be at the heart of the European club of nations, not run away from it, simply because we don’t understand the rules.

79 years ago, we were forced to leave Europe by the ultimate in Nationalistic fanatics. To leave voluntarily now just because another set of nationalistic fanatics are demanding it, after our parents fought so hard to return, would be a betrayal of all the sacrifices made in the 5 years that followed Britain’s darkest hours during the late Spring and early Summer of 1940.

John Bland is chair of the Lincolnshire Branch of the European Movement and a member of the European Movement

Dominc’s Blog Inequality: The real cause of Brexit?

A report out today by the Institute of Fiscal Studies ( tells us that our society is riven by inequality: of income, of wealth, of health outcomes and in life expectancy. In fact all the key measures of a decent and generous society show a huge and increasing chasm between those with and those lower down whichever ranking you look at. The average pay of FTSE 100 CEOs is now 145 times that of the average worker. It was 47 in 1998. While overall mortality rates have fallen and cancer and heart disease related deaths have fallen significantly over the last decade ‘DEATHS OF DESPAIR’ have risen since 2011 after a long period of decline and/or stability. Deaths of despair – that means people taking their own lives as they just cannot stand life anymore. And in C21st century Britain it is increasing. For men between 45 and 54 years up from 50 to some 60 per 100k people. According to the report we risk becoming like the USA whose market-based system for everything including health and education makes them the most unequal country on the planet. 

So, yes this is political point I am making. When you vote in the EU elections, remember if you are suffering like the report says, two major causes are the ruthless way large companies and shareholders extract as much from us as they can and a decade of deliberate austerity. And these factors will get worse if we leave the EU and form closer bonds with the USA. STOP BREXIT before it kills us

Dr Dominic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic is a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.


Dominc’s Blog:Brexit – Mrs May’s fool’s errand

My first job was in a bank.  In the first week, a colleague asked me to get a ‘left-handed key’ from security to open up for the day.  It took me a few moments to realise I was being subject to the kind of joke often meted out to new recruits.   There WAS no such thing as a left-handed key.  It was a fool’s errand to test me out, and at least I hadn’t fallen for it completely.

I wonder whether, when Mrs May took on the job of delivering a brexit that is ‘in the interests of the people of the UK’, she realised she had been handed a left-handed key.   It was something her front-bench either left politics to avoid or reluctantly accepted and which her back benchers knew would never work on the basis she thought. 

Brexit is now such a contentious and bungled project, that we need to put the question back to the people.

Last week Trade Minister Liam Fox admitted that only 7 out of 69 trade deals with non-EU nations had been signed.  These are to ensure the rollover of existing arrangements we have them in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU.  They account for some £16bn out of a total trade with non-EU nations f £117bn. 

Meanwhile, China canceled a trade trip by Chancellor Phillip Hammond due to comments made by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson about sending out our ships to the China Seas as a show of our strength.  And then Mr Fox sends a joint letter with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to the Japanese to tell them to get a move on with trade discussions.  Their reaction?  Fury at the insult to their intelligence and culture.

This is not how a global savvy country works.  We are not back in the 19th century when we could bully nations into doing as we said.  Just six months ago, we were the world’s 5th largest economy.  We are now 6th and probably 7th behind China, the USA, Japan, Germany, France and India.  In fact, in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head terms, we stand at around 22nd in the world.  We have a similar population as Germany but a total GDP of just 2/3rds of theirs.

I am sure that so-called diehard Remoaners and BeLeavers will never change their minds about the vote to leave the EU.  But what of all those people somewhere between?  Those who thought the promises about the benefits of leaving could be trusted?  Those assertions have proven to be as reliable as a left-handed key.  And now the left-handed keymeisters are telling us it would be fine and maybe even a good idea to leave without any proper deal.

The referendum delivered a strong message of disaffection with our politicians.  It has been followed through by an embarrassing fiasco of party politics.  We need to step past the politicians and demand they put the decision back to the people.

Dominic’s Blog: Tax Avoidance – the reason why ERG want ‘No Deal’ by 29 March ….

Why we need an extension of Article 50 and a People’s Vote to decide our future.

New EU tax laws that came into force on January 1st of this year could mean companies who try to aggressively avoid tax through off-shoring their profits will have to pay their taxes like the rest of us.  The UK and our dependancies  such as the Caymen Islands are global leaders in structuring companies and their debt so they can hide their profits from paying taxes in the countries in which they operate.

If we are still part of the EU after April 1, many of these schemes will fall foul of the law and these companies will have to pay their dues.

In fact, even if we have left but are in a transitional period after an orderly withdrawal, we will still be subject to these laws and, yes, these companies will have to pay their taxes to the governments in whose jurisdictions where they operate and make their money. 

That is one of the reasons why the ERG will do everything they can to make ‘No Deal’ happen.  It is not a negotiating lever.  It is their goal.

MPs should not be voting for various versions of a deal based on their own self-interest and how much tax they or their supporters pay.  It should be left to us through a People’s Vote on the final deal options: Deal, No Deal or Stay.

Dr Dominic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic is a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.

Further reading

Allan’s letter to the Matlock Mercury.

Dear Matlock Mercury

In her recent letter to the Matlock Mercury “A Citizen”  (why no name?) implies that those of us who wish to remain in the European Union are not being British. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I do not think it is very British to stand by whilst our country becomes an international laughing stock – isolated and mistrusted on the world stage. “No-one likes us, we don’t care” is fine for Millwall football club, but hardly desirable for a supposedly mature nation. Neither is it British to stand by whilst our government recklessly ignores international treaties, whilst ministers insult our erstwhile friends and neighbours, and MPs put their leadership ambitions above the interests of the country as a whole. As for Boris Johnson and his Churchillian rhetoric, he would do well to remember that Churchill himself spoke passionately in favour of European unity, and of Britain’s need to participate fully in this.

It is not British to throw away our rights to live, work, retire or study in Europe (and in future heaven help any Briton who falls in love with a European national!). Nor it it British to wash our hands of the million-plus Britons who currently live in the EU, and who are now facing a nightmare of uncertainty. That great Victorian statesman Lord Palmerston made it clear that the first responsibility of any UK government was to protect the interests of British people overseas. In contrast, the present generation of political pygmies seem to think that projecting their own prejudices is all that matters 

It is not in Britain’s interest to rip up our trade deals with the 27 countries in the EU, and the 50-plus countries – such as Japan and Canada – with which the EU has agreements. This puts at risk the future of thousands of British businesses and millions of British jobs. Cars, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, vacuum cleaners – the list of UK companies that are cutting back on investment, or relocating operations to other countries seems to grow longer every day. 

It is not in Britain’s interest to walk away from our partnership  and influence in Europe, and instead put ourselves at the mercy of mega-powers such as China and America, who will always put their own interests first. No-one voted to hand over the NHS to American corporations, or to lower our food safety standards to suit American agri-business – but that is the inevitable outcome of any one-sided “deal” with Donald Trump’s USA. As to the idea that EU membership prevents public ownership of utilities, or state aid to industries, just look at France, Spain or Germany; they do precisely that, but then they do not have British politicians twisting EU policies to justify their own bankrupt ideologies.

It is not in Britain’s interests to waste money we haven’t got (£4.2bn in the last few months alone) on woefully inadequate preparations for a ‘no-deal” scenario that will be an economic and social  catastrophe. Brexit politicians may pooh-pooh  the experts – yet they steer clear of offering any concrete solutions to the mess they are creating. 

It is not British to put the very existence of the United Kingdom at risk – yet Mrs May’s contempt for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is doing just that.

And it is certainly not democratic to do all this on the basis of a single referendum which was manipulated by foreign newspaper barons, was distorted by lies and electoral fraud, and from which those most affected –  young people and many UK citizens living in the EU – were excluded. Moreover, only 37.5% of the total electorate actually voted to leave the EU – hardly a ringing endorsement. As for the claim that a second referendum would be an insult to democracy, by that logic the 2016 vote was itself undemocratic in overturning the original European referendum of 1975! 

Leaving the EU is not an act of national liberation. It is national suicide. Brexit Britain is becoming fearful, isolated and impoverished. This is why I and many other patriotic Britons are continuing to fight for our country’s future. We want a country that is prosperous, that is fair to all, and that is welcoming and welcomed in world affairs. In short, we Remainers want a  country we can be proud of. Is that such a bad thing?

Allan Dare

Dominic’s Blog: Where next in this game of high stakes chicken?

Last night Mrs May shifted from doing things those around her said was not possible to doing something that she herself has told us for months is not possible.   She has been telling us repeatedly that we going to leave the EU on 29 March, that we cannot have another referendum and that ‘her deal’ is the best deal on offer.   She has said that the only way to avoid a ‘No Deal’ exit is by agreeing with ‘Her Deal’.  

How come she went against herself and completed a massive U-turn to go back to the EU negotiators to re-negotiate her deal?  Well, it was in order to preserve her own party’s unity and to stay in power.   It is why she has to give the decision back to us in a People’s Vote if and when she cannot make headway with the EU and Parliament. 

The reason why this matters is that she has now increased the odds for us leaving the EU in disorderly way.  Now I know that in the end we might well recover from that, but that is the whole point: in the end.   What I would call hard brexiters set the bar pretty low when they say that ‘the sky would not fall in if’ we left on WTO rules.  Well, the sky didn’t fall in when the steel industry declined in Sheffield in the 1980’s or when the coal mines closed.  It hasn’t physically fallen in on the countless homeless and poor seeking help in food banks since 2010.  But the lives of millions have been horribly damaged as a consequence of these events.

‘No Deal’ would be a self-inflicted wound that would cause huge pain.

For me, the most worrying aspect of No Deal is what impact it would have on investment and jobs in the UK.   According to figures from the government statistical office (ONS) in the 4 years up to 2016/17 there were 3149 investment projects by EU companies investing in the UK.  That’s 15 every week for 4 years.  These investments accounted for over 196,000 jobs.  That is over 940 every week  – 134 24/7 for 4 years.

Leaving the EU will inevitably see these kinds of investments decline.  We have already seen a negative flow of jobs in recent months as the logic of being located in the UK to serve the EU evaporates.   Leaving without a deal will concentrate a huge amount of industrial re-structuring into a short period.

We should brace ourselves for a ‘No Deal’.   Some temporary arrangements would be made to ensure aircraft will continue to travel and for medicines to get through if that is what happens.   I am pretty sure of that, but the fundamentals will be for a much poorer country.

All I can say is reflect on what and why Mrs May is doing in betting our prosperity to save the unity of her party.  The next time you get a chance to vote – make sure you use it and use it wisely.  

Dr Domonic Swords

Dominic is a Professor in Business Economics and has over 25 years of international experience working with blue-chip companies around the globe. Dominic is a regular contributor to the Hope For Europe blog so watch this space.