January 30, 2019 / 1:55 PM / a year ago

EU proposes emergency measures for students, pensions, projects if UK crashes out

FILE PHOTO: A woman poses in front of the European Commission headquarters as snow falls in Brussels, Belgium, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Students could finish exchange programmes, existing EU projects could still get funding and EU workers in Britain could continue to accrue pension benefits at home under emergency measures proposed by the EU executive on Wednesday to limit disruption if Britain crashes out of the bloc with no deal.

With Britain’s parliament calling for changes to a divorce agreement that the EU says cannot be renegotiated, the European Commission now sees the risk of a damaging no-deal Brexit as growing by the hour and has stepped up contingency plans.

In a statement, it said it was proposing that students already participating in the Erasmus university exchange programme could continue to study and receive funding. The Commission said there would be 14,000 EU students in Britain and 7,000 Britons studying elsewhere in the bloc on Brexit day.

“Young people from the EU and the UK who are participating in the Erasmus+ programme on 30 March 2019 can complete their stay without interruption,” the Commission said.

Other measures aim to ensure that EU states continue including periods of work, insurance and residence in Britain when calculating social benefits such as pensions for their own citizens.

And if Britain continues to honour its obligations under the 2019 EU budget after Brexit, British beneficiaries of EU programmes could continue receiving EU funds as planned.

The British parliament voted this month to reject the divorce agreement reached late last year between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU.

UK MPs ordered May on Tuesday to demand the removal of a provision that requires EU rules to be applied in Northern Ireland if no other solution can be found to prevent a hard border between the EU and the British-ruled province. The EU says the agreement cannot be reopened.

If no deal is agreed and no action taken to delay or cancel Brexit, Britain would automatically leave the EU on March 29.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Peter Graff

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