Boris fears bumbling eurocrats could spark Scotland crisis with pro-EU gestures to SNP
SNP ‘chasm’ could result in ‘breakup’ warns commentator
They fear a clumsy gesture by top eurocrats would hamper the Government’s efforts to keep the Union in tact. Eurocrats have attempted to keep Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalist Holyrood administration at arm’s length in recent years. But MEPs have repeatedly called on the European Commission to back the SNP’s independence bid because the campaign is pro-Brussels.
Whitehall officials are keen to point out that the EU should be cautious in its overtures to Scotland.
They want their Brussels counterparts to be respect of the challenges faced in maintaining harmony across the Union.
It understood that one strategy to prevent the EU from adopting Union-busting policies is to stress the difficulties that similar decisions to reach out to separatist movements would cause across the bloc.
It is hoped the UK and EU’s 1,466-page Trade and Cooperation Agreement should dampen SNP leader Ms Sturgeon’s anti-Brexit campaign pitch now the future relationship is resolved.
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Just last week the Commission backed away from an attempt by Holyrood to secure membership of the EU’s student exchange scheme.
A spokeswoman for the EU’s executive insisted “only countries” can take part in the programme.
The rebuttal came after Richard Lochead, Scotland’s higher education minister, held talks with Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner responsible for education, to discuss allowing Scottish students to participate in Erasmus.
The spokeswoman said: “I can confirm that Commissioner Gabriella has received the letter you mentioned, and this letter is being analysed now by the services and we will reply in due course.
“What I could mention as well is, in the process of the negotiation the UK decided unfortunately not to join the Erasmus programme after their exit from the Union.
“And in general based on the Erasmus regulations, only countries can join the programme.”
And it came after more than 100 MEPs wrote to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pleading with her to open negotiations with Scotland’s devolved government on Erasmus membership.
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Parliamentary insiders last month told Express.co.uk that their support was a deliberate snub to the pro-Brexit Westminster government.
One source said: “It definitely raised an eyebrow, basically a middle finger to Westminster.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to rejoin the Erasmus scheme after Brexit during the trade negotiations with Brussels.
It is understood No10 decided that membership did not reflect value for money or fit in with its “levelling up” agenda.
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A Department for Education spokesman said: “The UK decided to not participate in the next Erasmus+ programme as it was not in the interest of UK taxpayers and our net contribution would have been around £2 billion over the programme.
“The new global Turing Scheme is designed to provide thousands of students across all of the UK the opportunity to study and work abroad, beyond EU countries, and will include additional support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We will continue to work with the sector and devolved administrations to deliver the programme, backed by over £100 million, ensuring students from all backgrounds benefit from the opportunity to learn across the world.”
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