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EU wants to undo Brexit, a little bit, for people 18 to 30

April 18, 2024

The European Commission argues it was Europe's students and young graduates who were most affected by Brexit's mobility restrictions. The UK has reportedly responded cooly to the proposal.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (R) attend a joint press conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Windsor, west of London on February 27, 2023.
The European Commission is trying to negotiate mobility conditions similar to those which existed before BrexitImage: DAN KITWOOD/AFP

The European Union is trying to improve mobility between its 27 member-states and the UK, particularly for people between the ages of 18 and 30. But whether such a proposal would be welcomed by London remains to be seen.

The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, is trying to open bloc-wide talks with the UK on allowing youth from EU countries to study or work and live in Britain for up to four years, with the same arrangement for British youth.

The proposal would largely revert youth mobility to pre-Brexit times, when members of the then-28-member EU, including Britain, were allowed to work and study without visa requirements. The Commission's new plan would involve a visa, but one whose fees would not be "excessive."

Though the Commission suggests Britain has shown interest in such an agreement, the UK's initial response was cool.

Borders after Brexit

What is the Commission proposing?

The proposed agreement would allow EU and UK citizens aged between 18 and 30 to stay up to four years in the destination country.

EU citizens studying in Britain would also be allowed to pay the same university tuition fees as UK citizens, which could be less than half the amount they are now asked to pay as non-UK citizens. Prior to Brexit, fees were level regardless of the student's country of citizenship. 

"This situation has particularly affected the opportunities for young people to experience life on the other side of the Channel and to benefit from youth, cultural, educational, research and training exchanges," the Commission said, in reference to the post-Brexit reality.

The Commission also said it was "open" to Britain rejoining the European student exchange scheme Erasmus. London exited the scheme following Brexit, under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who argued it was too expensive.

Brexit regret, or Bregret, spreads in UK

What could happen next?

The Commission's recommendation will be discussed by EU member states, who must approve the plan before official negotiations with the UK kickoff.

However, initial reactions from the UK to the recommendation did not seem welcoming.

The UK already has its own Youth Mobility scheme, where it had already struck deals with 13 countries. However, the Commission believes its own proposal is more ambitious.

"We have spoken about wanting to reduce legal migration and also about wanting to support UK talent and skills and that's why we have a system in place whereby we have a number of agreements with individual EU member states where that works in our interests and we have that rather than a Commission-wide agreement," a No 10 spokeswoman said.

rmt/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)