Sadiq Khan calls out Starmer as he urges Labour to U-turn on snubbed EU visa deal | Politics | News

Sadiq Khan is urging Labour to U-turn after it rejected an UK-EU youth mobility plan last month. The demand signals a growing split among senior Labour figures over how close the UK should be to the European Union as Sir Keir Starmer desperately tries to shed his Remainer label.

Last month, Brussels offered the UK a visa deal that would entitle British young people aged 18-30 to move to the EU — and vice versa — for up to four years for any purpose.

Rishi Sunak swiftly rejected the offer, stating “free movement within the EU was ended”.

Labour followed suit, insisting the party had “no plans for a youth mobility scheme” if it wins the general election. Sir Keir has desperately sought to shore up support among Leave-backing swing voters in recent months. 

It is thought that many within the Labour leadership feared that the visa deal resembled the free movement of people, which was a major driving force in the Brexit vote.

A Labour Party spokesperson said it had already pledged “no return to the single market, customs union or free movement” if it takes office.

While the proposal stops short of full EU free movement and would require people to apply for some kind of permit, it would make it easier for millions of British and European citizens to work, study, travel, or volunteer abroad.

The European Commission itself denied that the proposal was a restoration of free movement, insisting it was a limited arrangement.

However, in recent weeks, Labour has signalled that it wants closer ties with the EU over defence and trade.

Mr Khan is pressing Sir Keir to rethink his snub, calling the deal a “win-win” for the UK that would secure both economic and “soft power” benefits.

The London Mayor, who was recently re-elected for a historic third term, said the proposal has value “not just from a social and cultural perspective, but an economic perspective.”

He told Politico: “I can’t introduce a youth mobility scheme without the government supporting this. So one of the points I’ll be making to a new Labour government is how a skill shortage and the labour shortage is affecting our economy.

“Allowing those between 18 and 30 to come to London — and vice versa by the way — is so important in relation to hospitality, in relation to the night-time economy, in relation to culture, in relation to social care, healthcare and other sectors where there’s record numbers of vacancies.

“I’ll be making that case to Rachel and Keir should they have the privilege of being the chancellor and prime minister.”

Labour currently holds at least a 20-point poll lead over Mr Sunak’s Tories and is widely expected to form the next British government with a large majority.

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