London mayor Sadiq Khan is to ask the Government to ease post-Brexit visa rules, which he warns are stopping young Europeans from visiting and working in the capital.
In a speech to business leaders on Thursday evening, Mr Khan will call on ministers to introduce a new travel visa for youth groups, designed to make the UK more open to visits from international school students.
A recent survey by the Tourism Alliance – the industry body for UK tourism – found that a group of EU-based tour operators expected that only 42 per cent of students will send to the UK in 2023 compared to how many which they sent in 2019. This compares to 95 percent for the Republic of Ireland, and 90 percent for other EU countries.
Mr Khan said he was concerned about the impact of “restrictive policies that only harm our economy and opportunities for growth”.
While the rise in travel costs has generally affected tourism across Europe, post-Brexit border rules – in particular the need for passports for all EU school children arriving – are thought to have had a particular impact. visiting – on the number of school visitors to date. United Kingdom.
Before Brexit, groups of EU school children could travel using their European Economic Area (EEA) state-issued identity cards – but from October 2021, all children entering the UK must have a passport, and children with non-EU passports, including refugees, also require a £95 visa.
Passport ownership is less common in many European countries than in the UK, as many people travel within the EU using their national ID card – and less than half the population of France and Germany have a passport.
The new rules are thought to be making many EU school trips to London extremely difficult and expensive to organise.
In his speech to business leaders at the opening of the new offices of the architectural firm Patriarche in the City, the Mayor will also ask that the Government’s Youth Mobility Scheme be extended, in a reciprocal agreement, with EU countries.
The scheme allows people aged 18-30 from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a number of other countries to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
The Government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee has long called for the scheme to be extended. Mr Khan believes this would promote cultural exchange and support sectors with a shortage of labour, such as hospitality and catering.
“Our post-Brexit future does not have to mean isolation from our European friends and partners and restrictive policies that only harm our economy and growth opportunities,” Mr Khan said.
The news of the proposed policy was welcomed by Richard Toomer, executive director of the Tourism Alliance, who said: “London and the rest of the country have so much to offer visitors of all ages.
“We should encourage tourists to come here, not put up unnecessary barriers. The number of young people visiting the UK, particularly on organized school trips, has had a huge impact, not accepting ID cards at the border.”
He added: “Youth Mobility is a great reciprocal scheme where young people get to travel and experience different cultures so they often bring the county back to their home nation a lifelong enthusiasm.
“Youth Mobility Schemes already exist and there is an urgent need to expand them to more countries such as France, Spain and Poland, so that more young people can benefit.”
Mr Khan’s policy proposals threaten to further highlight the difference in attitude between himself and Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, when it comes to the wider question of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
In January, the Mayor called for a “debate” on whether the UK should re-enter the European single market, but Sir Keir has said “there is no case to go back to the EU or return to the single market “.
The Labor leader instead said there is “a very good case for making Brexit work”.