EU’s travel plan gives hope to young after Brexit

Among the perceived fallout of Brexit in some circles is a swathe of lost opportunities for young people in both Britain and the European Union.

In times past, Britain’s bright young things with a thirst for knowledge and adventure could study, work and travel freely in the EU. Likewise, Europe’s youth could do the same in the UK. These enriching journeys promised not just knowledge but experiences that transcended borders.

But four years ago, when Britain left the bloc, the system that let them move effortlessly across 28 countries was broken.

Now, however, the door could be reopening. On Thursday, the European Commission unveiled its proposal to restore some pre-Brexit rights for young people to live and work in each other’s countries.

This mobility scheme would be a version of free movement tailored for people aged between 18 and 30, and would apply both ways, for up to four years. Details would still have to be negotiated, but for students, the Commission envisages equal treatment when it comes to tuition fees and visas.

If the two sides could clinch a youth mobility deal, it would follow other rapprochements, notably last year’s Windsor Framework, and Britain’s return to the Horizon Europe research programme.

It may still prove too politically toxic for Rishi Sunak, who would effectively have to accept a form of free movement. If he declines, an incoming Labour government would be likely to have fewer qualms.

But beyond the political implications, this latest move is about opportunities. Younger voters overwhelmingly backed Remain and the plan gives them some hope that they can find broader horizons.