Credit: Glasgow European Society

EU ambassador visits the University to talk Brexit, mobility, and dialogue

By Alan Rubin Castejon

The Glasgow European Society hosted a Q&A with Serrano

The European Union’s ambassador to the UK engaged with students at a Q&A session, hosted by the Glasgow European Society (GES) earlier this month. The event was part of a series of engagements during the ambassador’s visit, which also included meetings with the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Sir Anton Muscatelli, and other academic figures.

Conversations ranged widely, from Brexit narratives to the EU’s role in international aid.

On Brexit negotiations, the ambassador expressed disappointment with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Pedro Serrano criticised the signing without implementation as “questionable.”

Emphasising the enduring significance of EU-UK relations, Serrano highlighted the EU as the UK’s largest trading partner, contributing to 48% of the nation’s income. He stressed, “the EU remains at the heart of prosperity for the UK.”

Introducing the discussion on the recently published youth mobility proposal by the EU Commission, the ambassador highlighted how youth exchanges are “fundamental to keep us united,” stressing their pivotal role in maintaining cohesion.

The proposed policy would see greater ease of movement for 18 to 30-year-olds, from reduced visa fees to waived healthcare surcharges. The plans would enable reciprocal ease of movement for both UK and EU nationals.

The policy awaits agreement by the EU Council, composed of individual member states. Should the Council reach a consensus, the Commission would be empowered to begin negotiations with the UK.

Serrano speaking with Plášil. Credit: GES

Michal Plášil, President of the GES, expressed optimism about the policy’s potential to mitigate declining European student numbers in the aftermath of Brexit: “after Brexit, we could see a decline in the number of European students in the UK, and this scheme would be an opportunity to [partially] fix this issue.”

The number of EU students at Glasgow has collapsed since Brexit, as EU students are no longer eligible for either free or Home tuition, instead being charged the same international tuition as students from anywhere else. The last cohort of undergraduate EU students is set to graduate from the University this summer.

However, both the current Conservative Westminster government and the Labour Party have preemptively rejected the proposed policy, citing red lines over freedom of movement.

On this matter, Plášil commented on behalf of the European Society: “We find it disappointing that both the UK government and the Labour Party have no plans to reintroduce the scheme, as it would benefit not only youth from the EU, but also from the UK.”

Concluding the event, the ambassador urged EU citizens to participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections, emphasising the significance of each vote in shaping the future of the European Parliament.

Plášil echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of unity within the European Union amidst current challenges. He added, “In almost all countries, we see parties that are not particularly fond of the EU. Their goal is to destabilise and paralyse the European Parliament, which would have a negative effect on all member states.”

When asked about Germany denying entry to Ghassan Abu-Sittah, the University of Glasgow’s rector, who is a British citizen, Pedro Serrano stated that he was not aware of the situation.


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