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UK Firmly Declines EU’s Proposal for Free Movement of Young Individuals

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The UK has rejected a EU offer that would make it easier for people aged between 18 and 30 to study and work abroad in the wake of Brexit.

The European Commission had said the deal would be a limited arrangement, not a restoration of free movement.

But No 10 has rejected the offer, stating “free movement within the EU was ended”.

The UK already runs schemes with some non-EU countries to allow people to come to the UK for up to two years.

It says it is open to extending that to individual EU member countries, rather than throughout the EU.

“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 on Friday evening.

Downing Street said it prefers country-by-country deals to an agreement that would apply across all 27 member states.

And Labour has said it has “no plans for a youth mobility scheme” if it wins the general election later this year.

A party spokesperson said it had already pledged “no return to the single market, customs union or free movement” if it takes office.

It added it wanted to improve the UK’s relationship with the EU by agreeing new arrangements for recognising work qualifications, trading food and agricultural products, and touring performers.

The EU’s free movement rules were a key part of the 2016 Brexit referendum, with the Leave campaign pledging to exit them to give the UK greater control over immigration.

The proposed EU scheme would not exactly replicate the regime, as the freedoms would be time limited and UK participants would only be able to stay in the EU country that accepted them.

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But it would significantly reduce immigration controls on young people moving between the UK and EU, with the commission suggesting no quotas on overall numbers.

In a policy document, the European Commission said it was stepping in after the UK approached several unnamed EU countries last year to discuss individual deals.

It said this risked “differential treatment” of EU citizens, and instead there should be a bloc-wide deal to ensure they are “treated equally”.

Instead, the commission wants to negotiate a new international agreement, tagged on to the post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, which came into force in 2021.

It would be the first such mobility deal the bloc has struck with any country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), except Switzerland.

Fee cut urged

Any decision to open negotiations with the UK would ultimately be a decision for EU governments, which would also have to agree on the terms to be negotiated. A date for them to discuss the proposal is yet to be set.

The UK already has a youth mobility scheme visa allowing young people from 10 countries including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada to study or work in the UK for up to two years. However, it is not open to EU applicants.

The European Commission is proposing an EU-UK deal that would go further, lasting up to four years with no restrictions on time spent working, studying, training or volunteering.

It also says EU applicants should not have to pay the annual UK charge towards the NHS, which ranges from £776 for students and under-18s to £1,035 for workers.

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And EU students should pay the same tuition fees as UK students, rather than the higher fees they have had to pay since Brexit, and have rights to reunite with family members, under the proposals.

‘Valuable route’

In a statement, the Home Office said its existing youth mobility programmes had been “successful” and it remained “open to agreeing them with our international partners, including EU member states”.

“Our agreements provide a valuable route for cultural exchanges providing partner countries are also willing to offer the same opportunities for young British people,” the department added.

Levels of immigration from the EU to the UK have declined since freedom of movement rules ended in 2021, requiring EU citizens to get a visa to live the UK, study, or get a job.

The deal proposed by the commission is likely to have an impact on official immigration figures, with immigrants living in the UK for longer than a year showing up in the official statistics.

The UK turned down an offer to continue participating in the EU’s Erasmus student exchange scheme after Brexit, and has put in place a replacement, called the Turing Scheme.

 

 

Source: BBC

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