News & Insights

Youth Mobility with the EU

The European Commission has approved opening negotiations over an agreement for youth mobility, which would allow young EU and UK citizens to study, work and live across borders.

Prior to the UK’s exit from the European Union, British citizens had the right of freedom of movement into and within the EU. This came to an end with the expiry of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

However, on 18 April 2024, the European Commission authorised the opening of negotiations for a youth mobility agreement between the EU and the UK. The agreement envisaged by the Commission would allow EU and UK citizens aged between 18 and 30 to stay in their destination country for up to four years.

In that way, the Commission’s proposal sounds not too dissimilar to the UK’s existing Youth Mobility Scheme. The UK also runs a similar India Young Professionals Scheme, albeit this is somewhat more restrictive.

However, the UK Government’s response has been less than positive. “We are not introducing an EU-wide youth mobility scheme,” a spokesperson for the Government commented. “Free movement within the EU was ended and there are no plans to introduce it.” This is a bit of a mischaracterisation of the proposal – a youth mobility scheme with the EU would not amount to a reintroduction of free movement, as it would be contingent on individuals obtaining time-limited visas.

The UK Government has indicated a willingness to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme to other countries – but only to individual EU member states, rather than the EU as a whole. This will almost certainly represent a red line for the EU.

The Labour party have indicated that they would also not support such a scheme, with a Labour spokesperson stating that they have “no plans for a youth mobility scheme”.

It remains to be seen whether the UK Government and Labour maintain their current positions on a youth mobility scheme with the EU. It is possible that both parties might be engaging in political posturing, to try and boost their chances of success ahead of the upcoming General Election. Particular areas of concern for any UK government (whether formed by the Conservatives or Labour) post-election are likely to revolve around net migration, which both parties have promised to reduce.

If there is a path to an agreement between the UK and EU, it is probable that the UK will demand that the Commission’s proposed four-year visa period be reduced. Currently, most nationals under the Youth Mobility Scheme are only entitled to come to the UK for two years – or three years for Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The UK might also find such an agreement more palatable if those who enter under the scheme are expressly prohibited from applying to switch to a different visa and thereby extend their stay in the UK beyond the ordinary visa period. Such a prohibition already exists for applicants under the Indian Young Professionals Scheme, so it does not seem out of the realms of possibility that this might be replicated for an EU scheme.

If you have any questions regarding the Youth Mobility Scheme or migrating to the UK from the EU, please get in touch at [email protected]