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Boris Johnson’s last-minute Brexit deal includes a new scheme named after gay war hero Alan Turing

Emma Powys Maurice December 24, 2020
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Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a gay man, a scientist and a war hero. (Getty)

Boris Johnson’s last-minute Brexit deal has scrapped the Erasmus exchange programme and replaced it with a new scheme named for the gay WWII hero, Alan Turing.

The prime minister announced on Thursday (24 December) that the UK had reached a trade deal with the EU, having rushed to meet the final deadline of 31 December.

While the full economic cost remains unclear, it has been confirmed that one major casualty will be the loss of the European student exchange programme Erasmus which was established in 1987.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon was among the many decrying the government’s “cultural vandalism” in withdrawing from the programme, which has enabled over 300,000 UK students to study at universities abroad.

But Johnson assured that the UK would be developing its own exchange programme, and that it would be named after the gay Enigma codebreaker, Alan Turing.

“On the Erasmus scheme, it was a tough decision. The issue was that, as you know, the UK is a massive contributor to the higher education economy,” Johnson said at a press conference.

He described the scheme as “a wonderful thing” but “extremely expensive,” claiming that the UK exchequer “more or less loses out on the deal”.

“So what we are doing is producing a UK scheme for students to go around the world,” he continued.

“It will be called the Turing scheme. So students will have the opportunity – named after Alan Turing – not just to go to European universities, but to go to the best universities in the world.

“We want our young people to experience the immense intellectual stimulation of Europe but also of the whole world.”

Turing is remembered as one of the most famous victims of homophobia, as well as one of the greatest intellectual minds of his day. He played a pivotal role in ending the Second World War while laying the foundations for personal computing and artificial intelligence.

Instead of giving him the thanks he was due, the British government prosecuted him for homosexual acts and gave him a choice between prison or chemical castration.

Turing chose the latter and tragically ended his life by suicide two years later.

Johnson has not elaborated on the details of the “Turing scheme” he plans to introduce, but many have already questioned whether it can possibly do justice to the name of the gay war hero.

“I’m confident about very little these days. But I’m certain that Alan Turing would hate his name being associated with this deliberate narrowing of horizons,” commented one Twitter user.

 

Related topics: Alan Turing, Boris Johnson, brexit

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