...By Henry George for TDPel Media.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is calling on the UK government to ease post-Brexit visa rules that he says are discouraging young Europeans from visiting and working in the capital.
In a speech to business leaders, Khan will ask Ministers to create a new youth group travel visa to encourage visits from international school pupils.
A survey by the Tourism Alliance found that EU-based tour operators expect to send just 42% of the students they sent in 2019 to the UK in 2023.
For the Republic of Ireland, this figure was 95%, while for other EU countries, it was 90%.
The new visa rules have been particularly difficult for school visitor numbers from the EU to the UK.
Before Brexit, EU schoolchildren could travel using their state-issued European Economic Area identity cards, but since October 2021, every child entering the UK must have a passport.
Children with non-EU passports, including refugees, also need a £95 visa.
Passport ownership is less common in many European countries than in the UK, where many people travel within the EU using their national ID card.
As a result, the new rules are making EU school trips to London prohibitively expensive and difficult to organise.
In his speech, Khan will also call for the Youth Mobility Scheme to be extended in a reciprocal agreement with EU countries.
The scheme currently allows 18-30 year-olds from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and a few other countries to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
The independent Migration Advisory Committee has called for the scheme’s expansion, with Khan believing that this would promote cultural exchange and support sectors experiencing labor shortages, such as hospitality and catering.
The policy proposal was welcomed by the executive director of the Tourism Alliance, who said: “We should be encouraging tourists to come here, not putting up unnecessary barriers.
No longer accepting ID cards at the border has had a massive hit on the numbers of young people coming to visit the UK, especially on organised school trips.”
However, Khan’s policy suggestions have emphasized the differences between himself and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer regarding Britain’s relationship with the EU.
In response, a Home Office spokesperson stated that the UK’s visit rules are among the most generous in the world, and the standard visitor rules currently permit a range of short-term activities for which entry clearance is not required in advance.
However, most EEA and Swiss citizens require a passport.
The Government has also committed to easing the travel of school groups to the UK by making changes to documentary requirements for schoolchildren on organised trips from France.
Currently, the details and implications of implementing this commitment are being considered.
Analysis and Commentary:
The call by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to ease post-Brexit visa rules is important, as it highlights the negative impact of Brexit on school visitor numbers to the UK.
The new visa rules are not only making EU school trips to London prohibitively expensive and difficult to organise, but they are also putting off young Europeans from visiting and working in the capital.
The proposed new youth group travel visa could help to alleviate these issues and encourage more young people to visit the UK.
The extension of the Youth Mobility Scheme in a reciprocal agreement with EU countries is also significant, as it would promote cultural exchange and support sectors experiencing labour shortages.
With the UK’s departure from the EU, it is essential to maintain close ties with European countries, and schemes like this can help to foster positive relationships.
However, the differences between Sadiq Khan and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer regarding Britain’s relationship with the EU highlight the ongoing debate surrounding Brexit.
While Khan has called for a debate on whether the UK should re-join the European single market, Starmer has argued that there is no case for going back to the EU or going back into