London’s Mayor wants freedom of movement in the European Union (EU), exempting young people from post-Brexit work and travel restrictions.
Sadiq Khan said young British citizens should have freedom of movement in the EU after the United Kingdom (UK) left the bloc.
The objective, he said, is to reduce the economic and cultural harm caused by Brexit.
“The government’s hard Brexit has done damage right across London, and it is young people who have been hardest hit in so many ways,” Khan said.
He added, “Not only is it more difficult for young people to move abroad for work, but the government’s wrong-headed decision to leave the Erasmus scheme has made it much harder for students to study abroad too.”
Erasmus+ is an EU program to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe.
The program offers opportunities for young people to travel and gain work experience, study, or train in another country.
Young people can participate from two days to 30 days or two weeks to a year, depending on the type of project.
A recent report from Cambridge Econometrics reveals that Brexit has resulted in a loss of almost 300,000 jobs in London.
The report, commissioned by City Hall, also showed that it had cost £30 billion of the capital city’s economy.
Mayor Khan, who is running for a third term of office in this year’s elections, has shared his ideas with the Observer and was reported by The Guardian.
Freedom of movement in the EU for young people
The London mayor advocates for freedom of movement in the EU. This will allow young people to study, travel, and fill job vacancies in critical sectors of the economy.
Khan said he is not in favor of rejoining the EU but supports a special “youth mobility” agreement with EU countries.
He is also open to lifting visa rules that restrict travel and the ability to work in other European countries post-Brexit.
Khan stressed, “I’m clear that I’d be supportive of a youth mobility scheme, which would benefit us economically, culturally and socially.”
“While the UK may no longer be part of the EU, London is, and always will be, a European city,” he added.
Naomi Smith of the internationalist think tank Best for Britain said a “reciprocal youth mobility scheme with the EU is win-win.”
She added it could be “a lifeline to UK businesses still suffering from acute labor shortages.”
Managing director of trade body Seasonal Businesses in Travel, Charles Owen, shared that a youth mobility scheme “is not a magic bullet.”
However, “it could relieve some of the pressure on labor shortages” and prevent some businesses from shutting down for good.
Exploring youth mobility schemes with the EU
This is not the first time British government officials have raised a youth mobility scheme with the EU.
In July 2023, former Conservative and Unionist Party cabinet minister and leading Brexiter George Eustice backed a similar idea.
Eustice urged the UK government to initiate bilateral negotiations with EU countries. The focus is to offer young EU citizens the right to a two-year UK work visa.
He suggested that deals should be reciprocal. Young UK citizens can also live and work for two years in the EU member states with which deals were made.
The Home Office said it is exploring the idea of a youth mobility scheme with EU member states.
Easing post-Brexit visa rules
The freedom of movement ceased for UK citizens after Brexit. Under post-Brexit visa rules, UK citizens could only spend 90 days in any 180-day period in the EU’s Schengen Area.
UK nationals do not need a visa for short trips to the Schengen Area. Soon, they must obtain an ETIAS or a European Travel Information and Authorization by mid-2025.
Conversely, EU citizens visiting the UK do not need a visa for short trips of at most six months.
However, they will require a UK Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) starting in 2024.
Extended stays or specific purposes like work will still need an appropriate UK visa or Schengen visa.
Still, easing post-Brexit rules for select individuals has been done recently.
In December 2023, the British government simplified travel for French school trips after a drastic decrease in educational trips post-Brexit.
Children who are EU, European Economic Area (EEA), or Swiss nationals can now use their national identity cards for school trips to the UK.
Non-EU children will still be required to travel on their passports but no longer need a UK visitor visa.
In January 2024, Germany is reportedly considering waiving passport requirements for educational trips.
Its goal is to make traveling to Germany more accessible and appealing to UK students.