The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is today calling on the Government to ease post-Brexit visa issues which are putting off young Europeans from visiting the capital for work, education and tourism.
Prior to Brexit, more than 1.5 million children came to the UK each year to study English or on organised school trips. 750,000 came from France and Germany alone, with most spending at least some of their time in London.
Groups of children could travel using their state-issued European Economic Area (EEA) identity cards.
However, since October 2021 every child entering the UK must have a passport, and 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. Many people travel within the EU using their national ID car, rather than a passport. Less than half the population of France and Germany hold a passport. This is making school trips to London prohibitively difficult and expensive more many to organise. As a result, many tour operators report that school groups are choosing other English-speaking EU destinations, such as Ireland and Malta, over the UK.
These difficulties continue for older age groups, with language schools reporting seismic drops in trade, and workforce shortages in key sectors, such as hospitality, construction, and retail.
Tonight, the Mayor will address business leaders at the opening of Patriarche’s new offices in the City, a French architecture firm that is set to invest over €100m in London over the coming years. In his comments he will call on ministers to introduce a new youth group travel scheme which could be specially designed to make the UK more open to visits from school children from around the world.
The Mayor will also call for the Youth Mobility Scheme to be extended, in a reciprocal agreement, with EU countries. This would promote cultural exchange and support sectors experiencing labour shortages, such as hospitality. The Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee recently supported expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme in their report in March this year.
This summer, the Mayor will be working with London & Partners to launch a new tourism campaign, encouraging visitors from France and Germany to return to the capital.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Ensuring we can encourage more young Europeans to visit London is vital for both our tourism industry and the rich cultural exchange of ideas and experiences that underpins London’s place as a truly global city.
“I call on the Government to introduce a Youth Group Travel Scheme, which could be specially designed to make the UK more open to visits from school children from around the world. The Government should also extend the Youth Mobility Scheme in a reciprocal agreement with EU countries to allow further cultural exchange whilst also supporting sectors, such as the hospitality and catering industries, which have been on the frontline of post-Brexit labour shortages.
“Our post-Brexit future does not have to mean isolation from our European friends and partners and restrictive policies that only damage our economy and opportunities for growth.”
Executive Director of The Travel Alliance, Richard Toomer said: “The tourism industry warmly welcomes the Mayor’s commitment to encouraging youth travel to and from our nation’s capital.
“London and the rest of the country have so much to offer visitors young and old. 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. Last year there was an 83% reduction in the number of students that operators in Europe sent to the UK.
“And Youth Mobility is a great reciprocal scheme where young people get to travel and experience different cultures and so often bring back an enthusiasm for the county to their home nation which lasts a lifetime. Youth Mobility Schemes already exist and urgently need expanding to more countries such as France, Spain and Poland, so that more young people can benefit.”