EU Commission Proposes to Arrange a Youth Mobility Agreement with the UK

| April 22, 2024
EU Commission Proposes to Arrange a Youth Mobility Agreement with the UK

The European Commission had proposed to the European Council to open negotiations with the United Kingdom (UK) for a reciprocal youth mobility agreement.

The agreement aims to allow more freedom of movement for young EU and UK citizens to study, work, and live in the UK and the EU, respectively.

Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice President for European Green Deal, Interinstitutional Relations, and Foresight, said decreased mobility is one of the most significant results of the UK’s exit from the EU.

He added it had impacted young people the most. It has limited their opportunities to explore life and engage in cultural, educational, research, and training exchanges.

Šefčovič said the Commission’s proposal aims to “rebuild human bridges between young Europeans on both sides of the Channel.”

“Today, we take the first step towards an ambitious but realistic agreement between the EU and the UK that would fix this issue,” Šefčovič said in a statement released on 18 April 2024.

Technically, this is only a proposal by the Commission, which the European Council will discuss.

If the Council agrees, the European Commission could launch the negotiations on a youth mobility agreement with the UK.

Proposed UK-EU youth mobility agreement

The Commission’s proposed youth mobility scheme would be open to British and EU citizens aged 18 to 30.

According to the Commission’s briefing document, qualified participants could stay in the destination country for up to four years.

Eligibility conditions include having a valid travel document, a valid comprehensive sickness insurance, and proof of financial means to support oneself.

These conditions must remain consistent throughout the participant’s entire stay in the destination country.

The proposal would also lay grounds for rejecting applications. For instance, individuals could be rejected if deemed a threat to “public policy, public security, and public health.”

Mobility would not be subject to a quota system, and it would not be limited to a specific purpose.

The brief stated that beneficiaries “should be able to undertake different activities during that period, such as studying, training, working, or traveling.”

However, the proposal would only enable UK participants to live, work, study, and travel in the destination country. It would not allow intra-EU mobility.

Travel for up to 90 days within other EU member states would be subject to Schengen Zone rules or the state’s laws.

The proposed youth mobility agreement would not affect the existing visa or residency permit routes in the UK and EU.

Addressing mobility barriers, ensuring equal treatment

The European Commission revealed that the UK “has shown interest” in a youth mobility agreement. It confirmed it had “[reached] out to a number of member states.”

The proposal seeks to address this common concern among member states in an EU-wide manner.

“Only an EU-level approach will ensure that all Member States are treated equally in respect of mobility of young people to the UK,” the Commission stated.

The proposed UK-EU youth mobility agreement also addresses student and trainee mobility barriers.

For starters, it aims to provide fair and equal treatment to all EU participants regarding tuition fees for higher education.

Brexit resulted in many EU students no longer being entitled to home tuition fees. They must now pay overseas or international tuition fees. The proposal seeks to overcome this inequality.

Another is that while participants would have to pay for visas and residence permits, they “should not be disproportionate or excessive.”

The proposal would also ensure that EU citizens can undertake training in the UK, even when that training is related to studies in the EU.

Under UK laws, a trainee is typically considered a worker or employee. EU citizens can apply for traineeships if they comply with specific work visa routes.

This includes meeting visa requirements such as a specific salary threshold and health immigration surcharge fee.

Those who qualify for the youth mobility agreement would not be subjected to such requirements.

Other calls for a UK-EU youth mobility agreement

In January 2024, London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for young people to be able to move more freely between the EU and the UK.

He insisted that the UK government arrange a reciprocal youth mobility agreement with the EU. It would allow young people to study, travel, and fill job vacancies in critical economic sectors.

Khan stressed, “I’m clear that I’d be supportive of a youth mobility scheme, which would benefit us economically, culturally, and socially.”

In July 2023, former Conservative and Unionist Party cabinet minister and leading Brexiter George Eustice backed a similar idea.

A 2023 poll by the campaign group Best for Britain showed that 68 percent of 10,000 voters support a reciprocal youth mobility scheme with the EU.

The poll also revealed that 61 percent of the respondents supported the UK’s reintegration into the Erasmus program.

Naomi Smith, Best for Britain’s chief executive, said a “reciprocal youth mobility scheme with the EU is win-win.”

Luke Petherbridge, director of public affairs for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), agreed, as per The Independent.

“We strongly welcome today’s announcement and urge the UK government to be ready to begin negotiation,” he said.

However, according to the BBC, the UK government is not keen on the EU’s offer of an EU-wide youth mobility arrangement.  

“We are not introducing an EU-wide youth mobility scheme – free movement within the EU was ended, and there are no plans to introduce it,” a government spokesperson said a day after the EU’s proposal made the news.

The British government is more open to a country-by-country youth mobility scheme instead of an agreement that would apply across all 27 EU member states.

The UK currently has a youth mobility scheme visa that permits young individuals from 13  countries, such as  Australia and New Zealand, to study or work in the UK for a maximum of two years.