Czech Ambassador to Britain Marie Chatardová gave an interview to the editor of ČTK, March 10, 2023, Prague.
Prague – The question of the post-Brexit arrangement in Northern Ireland burdened relations between Britain and the European Union, but the new agreement on the regime in this British region brings a turning point, according to Marie Chatardová, the Czech ambassador in London. In an interview with ČTK, she stated that she also considers the arrival of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to be key. According to her, however, Britain's return to the EU student program Erasmus+ is not in the offing.
Britain left the EU in 2020 after protracted negotiations with the European Commission, but the wrangling over Brexit was far from over with a formal exit. After the new trade partnership was negotiated, there were immediate problems with the implementation of the Northern Ireland deal, and the subsequent dispute between London and Brussels raised fears of a trade war. However, at the end of February, the two sides agreed to a joint solution in the form of a modified arrangement, which led to a series of comments about the start of a new chapter in Britain's partnership with the union.
“I agree. I think that the arrival of Rishi Sunak… was quite a turning point,” responded Chatardová, who participated in a meeting of Czech ambassadors in European countries this week in Prague. “The agreement is relatively groundbreaking because (the previous convention) burdened those relations,” she added.
Regarding the possible consequences of this step, the ambassador recalled the statement of the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who announced after the conclusion of the new Northern Ireland agreement that work would be done on British access to the EU's Horizon program, which supports scientific cooperation. “Which I think is very important. As for Erasmus, I haven't heard that the British want to come back,” Chatard said. from member countries goes to study in the United Kingdom. According to Chatard, between 2020 and 2022, the number of new EU students at British universities fell from 98,000 to 48,000. The British government presented its replacement for Erasmus+ in 2021, but the Financial Times recently reported that the Turing program is “beset by problems” according to university staff.
“When I spoke to the rectors of some British universities, they said that they would like to find some solution… Now there are discussions about some more creative solutions such as joint study programs, where students would study part of the program at their home university and part at university in another country,” said the Czech ambassador, who also drew attention to the specific programs of individual parts of the United Kingdom. According to her, students from the EU are also interested, but going to Britain is “more expensive and more complicated” for them after Brexit.
At present, it is not only foreign students in Britain who are facing a dramatic increase in costs. The sharp increase in the price of energy and food also did not escape the United Kingdom, where the growing economic distress of households is also reflected in a wave of strikes in the healthcare sector and public transport. However, the British government insists on economic and military support for Ukraine, and according to Chatardova, it has the support of the general public.
“I saw some polls that showed that the public thinks that, despite the difficult economic situation, the United Kingdom should play one of those leadership roles,” said the Czech ambassador. “And almost 40 percent of the British participated in some form in supporting Ukraine,” she added.
According to Chatardová, unity on the British political scene is important in this regard. “The Conservative Party and the Labor Party are pulling together and the support for Ukraine has been across the political spectrum from the very beginning,” she said. will continue this year with meetings at ministerial and parliamentary level. A visit of a high-ranking representative of the Czech Republic to Britain is also likely during the coronation of King Charles III, which is planned for May 6. It is not yet clear who will represent the Czech Republic at the event, as the British side has not yet sent official invitations. “It can certainly be expected that we will have representation at the highest level,” said Chatardová.