UK rules out EU-wide deal on work and study visas for young people

The government has ruled out striking an EU-wide agreement on allowing an exchange of young people to work and study for extended periods of time.

On Thursday, the European Commission announced its plans to begin negotiating with members of the bloc on a joined-up approach that could be taken with the UK.

But the government today ruled out doing a deal with the bloc en masse - saying it preferred negotiating bespoke deals with individual nations.

The proposals related to a Youth Mobility Scheme, a deal between nations allowing 18 to 30-year-olds the opportunity to work or study for up to four years in each other's territories. It also sets out terms for tuition fees.

In its proposal, the EU made clear it was not looking to give UK citizens free access to the Schengen zone, and instead would restrict them to the countries their visa was issued for.

A government spokesperson said: "We are not introducing an EU-wide Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS). Free movement within the EU was ended and there are no plans to introduce it.

"We have successful schemes with 13 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, and remain open to agreeing them with our international partners, including individual EU member states, where it's in the UK's interest and supports the skills and opportunities of our youth."

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YMSs still require someone to apply for a visa, and applicants can be rejected.

On its website, the European Commission explained its reasoning for wanting a joint negotiation.

It said: "Only an EU-level approach will ensure that all member states are treated equally in respect of mobility of young people to the UK. This is one of the key considerations of the 2018 European Council guidelines on relations with the UK.

"Parallel negotiations by member states neither guarantee that the UK would be interested in reaching an agreement with each member state nor would they guarantee that each Member State would be treated equally."

Labour also rules out proposal

Some saw the EU's move as a pitch to Labour, should Sir Keir Starmer win the next general election.

However, the Labour Party was also quick to rule out such a proposal.

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A Labour spokesperson said: "This is a proposal from the EU Commission to EU member states, not to the UK. It has come about because the UK government is reportedly approaching other European countries to try to establish mobility arrangements.

"Labour has no plans for a Youth Mobility Scheme. We have already suggested some tangible ways that we would look to improve the relationship and deliver for British businesses and consumers, including seeking a veterinary agreement to tackle trade barriers, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and improved touring opportunities for artists.

"A Labour government would seek to improve the UK's working relationship with the EU within our red lines - no return to the single market, customs union or free movement."