London Mayor Urges UK Government to Reconsider Youth Mobility Deal with EU

| April 29, 2024
London Mayor Urges UK Government to Reconsider Youth Mobility Deal with EU

The United Kingdom (UK) should reconsider the youth mobility deal proposed by the European Union (EU) last week.

This is according to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has been pushing for more freedom of movement for young people.

“People should understand the difference between a youth mobility scheme and free movement of people when you’re inside the single market,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Khan “[fears] people are conflating the two” and hopes “the next Labour government understands the distinction.”

The mayor of England’s capital described having a youth mobility deal with the EU as “incredibly important” for London.

He said a UK-EU youth mobility deal would help the hospitality, health, and social care sectors facing skills shortages.

If the next government refuses to strike a youth mobility deal with the EU, Khan plans to proceed with a student exchange program with the bloc.

UK rejects EU-wide youth mobility proposal

Seeking re-election for a third time in May 2024, Khan’s comments are a departure from his political party.

The Labour Party had “no plans” for a UK-EU youth mobility deal. This is similar to the current position of the UK government.

“We are not introducing an EU-wide youth mobility scheme,” a government spokesperson said of the EU’s youth mobility proposal.

The spokesperson added, “Free movement within the EU was ended, and there are no plans to introduce it.”

However, the EU’s proposal stated it would be a limited arrangement, not a restoration of free movement.

The proposed youth mobility scheme would allow UK and EU citizens aged 18 to 30 to stay in an EU member state or the UK for up to four years.

Young citizens who meet the set criteria and qualify for the scheme would be allowed to work, study, undergo training, and travel.

For UK participants, this will be allowed only in the destination country. The proposal does not allow intra-EU mobility.

The proposed UK-EU youth mobility deal would also address what the EU called mobility barriers.

It aims to ensure fair tuition fee treatment for EU students studying in the UK. Post-Brexit, EU students must pay higher international tuition fee rates instead of “home” rates.

It also allows EU citizens to undergo traineeships in the UK, even when that training is related to studies in the EU.

Currently, EU citizens would need to comply with UK work visa requirements to undertake training since it’s considered work under UK laws.

This means meeting a salary threshold and paying a health immigration surcharge in addition to the UK’s visa fees.

Those who would participate in the youth mobility agreement would not be subjected to such requirements.

Other calls for a youth mobility scheme with the EU

The London Mayor is not alone in calling for the UK to negotiate a youth mobility deal with the EU.

Former Conservative and Unionist Party cabinet minister and leading Brexiter George Eustice backed a similar idea.

Eustice suggested that EU citizens wanting to work in the UK and British citizens in the EU should be offered the right to a two-year work visa.

On the other hand, campaign group Best for Britain’s 2023 poll showed that 68 percent of 10,000 voters support a reciprocal youth mobility scheme with the EU.

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

Many youth organizations across the UK and the EU also support the proposal.

However, when the UK rejected the EU’s youth mobility proposal, English UK’s membership director, Huan Japes, told The PIE News that it was disappointing but expected.

English UK is the national membership association of accredited English language teaching (ELT) centers.

“Their justification for this, that they do not wish to see a return to freedom of movement post-Brexit, is less than relevant,” Japes added.

He argues that “youth mobility schemes are both visa-based and time-limited.”

The UK currently has youth mobility deals with more than ten countries, including Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand.

It allows young individuals from those countries to study or work in the UK for a maximum of two years.

The British government has stated that it is open to a youth mobility deal that would apply to specific countries rather than all EU member states.

The European Commission confirmed the UK had reached out to a number of EU member states.

However, it underlined that only an EU-wide youth mobility deal would ensure fairness and equal treatment between participants.