The European Commission has proposed restoring much of the pre-Brexit freedom that allows British travellers aged 18 to 30 the opportunity to travel, work or study for up to four years in the EU.

One of the most-mourned European freedoms that the UK chose to remove with Brexit was the opportunity for young Brits to travel, study and work in any EU country without restriction.

Boris Johnson’s government successfully negotiated for UK citizens to become “third-country nationals”, on a par with Venezuelans. As a result of the Brexit deal, British passport holders can stay a maximum of 90 days in the European Union and wider Schengen area – and must then leave for at least a further 90 days.

Post-Brexit work or study in continental Europe is possible only after fulfilling complex visa requirements.

“Beneficiaries should be able to undertake different activities during that period, such as studying, training, working or travelling,” says the commission in a briefing document.

The European Commission adds: “The UK has shown interest in the issue by reaching out to a number of member states on youth mobility.”

Under the proposals, young EU citizens would have a reciprocal opportunity to spend time in the UK.

Maros Sefcovic, executive vice-president responsible for inter-institutional relations, said: “The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union has hit young people in the EU and the UK who would like to study, work and live abroad particularly hard.

“Today, we take the first step towards an ambitious but realistic agreement between the EU and the UK that would fix this issue. Our aim is to rebuild human bridges between young Europeans on both sides of the Channel.”

The proposed requirements look simple, comprising “a valid travel document, valid comprehensive sickness insurance, proof of sufficient means of subsistence”. But applications could be rejected if the individual is believed to pose a threat to “public policy, public security or public health”.

Young people would pay for a visa or residence permit; the European Commission says this “should not be disproportionate or excessive”.

Technically, the commission is merely recommending the move to the European Council, comprising the leaders of EU member states. But it is likely to be rubber-stamped.

The question is: how will Rishi Sunak’s government respond to the offer? Ministers have already backtracked on some of the hardline rules introduced with Brexit, such as a complete ban on EU children on school trips using identity cards.

Any such deal would be welcomed by the UK hospitality industry, which has struggled with recruitment since Brexit.

But with immigration high on the Conservatives’ election agenda, the government may not wish to confer freedom on young Europeans.

The Independent has asked the Home Office for a response.

Abta, the travel association, welcomed the move from Brussels. Luke Petherbridge, director of public affairs for the association, said: “We strongly welcome today’s announcement and urge the UK government to be ready to begin negotiations.

“Post-Brexit restrictions on UK-EU labour mobility have undoubtedly been detrimental to the UK travel and tourism industry, whether outbound, inbound or domestic.

“The impacts are being most keenly felt by young people, who are now less able to access the roles that have previously proven a springboard for successful careers, as well as providing enriching and rewarding experiences.

“Abta has long argued that youth mobility should be a priority for both sides as we seek to rebuild relations post-Brexit, and we hope that negotiations can now begin quickly.”

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