Centre for London, the capital’s dedicated think tank, has called on government to implement three immigration reforms which would soften the impact of Brexit on young people from across the UK, and help sustain economic prosperity.
Another 1.5 million voters will have come of voting age by the time of the referendum anniversary in June 2018. 18-24 year olds voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU, and will be most affected by the decision to leave, so there is an urgent political need to mitigate the impact of Brexit on them, by giving access to some of the rights and freedoms that previous generations enjoyed.
Centre for London calls on government to:
- Extend the Youth Mobility Scheme to all EU countries and to ask them to reciprocate.
The Scheme (previously known as ‘working tourist visas’) allows people aged 18-30 to travel between participating countries and to work for up to two years. This scheme limits access to public funds, but bypasses the bureaucracy of sponsored work permits, allowing young people to spend time working in and learning about the culture of another country.
- Ensure maintenance of overseas study arrangements for EU nationals.
Currently, students from other EU countries pay the same fees as domestic students across the EU (compared to two to four times as much for non-EU students) and can also benefit from the Erasmus Scheme that supports them to study in another country for a year. Figures from earlier in the decade show 15,000 UK students studying overseas on the Erasmus scheme and 27,000 EU students studying in the UK, but these figures are only one part of a much wider process of cultural exchange: the UK has more than 127,000 EU students overall; 33,000 of these – ten per cent of student numbers – are in London.
- Re-introduce post-study work permits, to allow students to stay on for two years after graduation.
Post-study work permits were discontinued in 2012 and the Mayor of London has already called for these to be reintroduced. Doing so would not only cement London’s position as a magnet for talented young people from across the continent, but also offer the basis for agreeing reciprocal arrangements with other EU countries.
London and other cities depend on EU workers – not only in high skilled sectors such as healthcare, but also in accommodation and food services that keep the capital running – and are most easily accessible to young people, visiting for the experience of spending time away from home, learning a new language, and meeting new people.
The measures proposed would be an economic boon, but Centre for London argues that their social and cultural value could be just as important in years to come.
Richard Brown, Research Director, Centre for London, said:
“At least two generations of young people have benefited from the opportunities offered by cheap travel, and by working and studying abroad in the EU.
“Sustaining that easy interchange is the surest way of ensuring that leaving the EU does not mean leaving Europe, and of sustaining the cultural connections and – to use a thoroughly un-British term – social solidarity that has unified a continent for 70 years.”