‘Labour should grasp the chance to secure EU visa deal for young workers’

Stella Creasy

For some months now Tory ministers have been trying to do individual deals for youth mobility visa schemes with European countries – mirroring those the UK already have with Iceland, Japan, India and Australia.

It is a brutal admission of how damaging leaving the European Union has been to the prospects of our young people– This week the EU itself offered to short-circuit this process by negotiating a bloc-wide mobility scheme. For the sake of British business and British workers Labour must grasp this opportunity, not spurn it.

Quite how many times a young worker from the UK has been passed over for a job because a competitor has an EU passport is hard to quantify, but every MP will know of constituents it has affected across all sectors – whether banking, construction or research.

The number of students from the EU in our universities has halved in recent years, and businesses are crying out for European workers to bring their skills and expertise to the shortages we have. Tory backbenchers trumpet the ‘lump of labour’ fallacy that there’s only a limited number of jobs available so every EU young person takes one from a UK resident.

To secure the fastest growth in the G7, a deal is a no brainer

But the evidence shows that youth mobility brings multiple economic benefits to this country. For any government which wants to have the fastest growth in the G7 it’s a no brainer to see if a deal can be done.

For those shuddering at the thought of old wounds around immigration and Brexit being opened if we do, be reassured.

This is clearly not freedom of movement -the EU’s opening negotiation proposal is clear about time limits and conditions, and there’s no suggestion any participants will be able to access benefits or be able to stay in a country if their work, study or training place falls through.

It does seek to cap the charges involved to make a scheme financially accessible and there’s plenty to negotiate- for example how this interacts with current rules that mean you can only spend 90 days any 180 day block in the EU as a UK citizen. What matters now is a willingness to negotiate and give time to working out what could work.

Labour’s relationship with Europe is key

With the Tories you can’t trust a word they say when it comes to Europe.

As the Conservatives have continued to attack the international rule of law at home and demanded we leave the ECHR, so their own MPs have gone to Paris to help appoint the judges on it. They scream about immigrants whilst privately seeking to negotiate visa schemes across Europe.

They make bold claims about protecting our borders and ask us to pay the price in food inflation to do it, whilst privately admitting they won’t turn on the technology it requires.

The hope for our international partners that rests in the possibility of a Labour government is of basic decency – a Government that will act as a grown up in the room rather than an overtired toddler.

Labour has been diligent in not making demands of Europe but showing respect and recognition of the value of cooperation where we have mutual concerns- security, trade, the climate.

This matters not just to us but to many – If Labour wins the next election our relationship with Europe will be critical to a world facing not just a resurgent Donald Trump, but also Victor Orban, Georgia Meloni, the AfD, Marine Le Pen and more.

The EU is showing it recognises change is possible

For years now the received wisdom has been that the European Union has had enough of the UK.

Fuelled by the antics of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and topped off by Liz Truss questioning whether the French were ‘friends’, we didn’t just burn bridges we blew them up.

Now with this offer to negotiate the EU is showing it recognises change under a new Government is possible. By return we should show we’re not going to keep setting fire to connections but rebuild them for mutual benefit.

We don’t have to rejoin the European Union to work with it; nor do we have to commit to the myth that Brexit can be made to work to solve some of the problems it has created.

A youth mobility scheme could be a pragmatic solution to the challenges many sectors have – from our hospitality industry, our universities or our financial sectors- whilst also opening doors for our young people too.

Labour should show it won’t let Tory duplicity on Europe hold back the prospects of our next generation and say yes to negotiations on this if we win the next election.

If you agree please join us in the Labour Movement for Europe fighting for their future and so our nations too.

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