As part of the negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday tried to dispel the perception that visa requirements for Indians would be loosened.
On Monday during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Johnson was asked by a member of his Conservative Party to comment on reports that had appeared in the UK media over the weekend about easier visas for Indian professionals and students in order to make an FTA with the country more attractive to Indian business and students.
Asked by Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh whether India was considering relaxing visa restrictions in order to win a trade deal, Johnson said that it wasn’t on the table at the time.
The narrative he’s provided doesn’t ring true to me in the least. According to Johnson, “we do not enter into free trade agreements on this premise.”
Because of Brexit, net immigration has decreased since we regained power. According to him, “our new Borders Bill, which is presently being debated in the House of Lords, would allow us to properly regain control of our borders and combat illegal immigration.”
Following the 2016 Brexit vote, free movement of people from inside the European Union (EU) was a major talking point, with Johnson vowing to “take back control” in order to establish a “fairer” visa system for applicants from both within and outside of the EU after Brexit.
The government of India is reportedly considering lowering visa requirements in order to secure a free trade agreement. In the Commons, Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh said that “although a free trade agreement is beneficial in and of itself, we should not be kept hostage.”
His question in the Commons comes in the wake of reports that UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is expected to travel to Delhi later this month to kick-start FTA talks, and that the UK is expected to offer a visa scheme similar to that agreed as part of the UK’s FTA with Australia, according to the Financial Times and the Guardian.
The opportunity to come and work in the United Kingdom for a period of up to three years would be provided by such a plan for young Indians. Yet another alternative that is apparently being studied is to reduce visa payments for students and to enable them to remain in the country for a period of time after they graduate, potentially expanding on the Graduate Route visa that is now available under the points-based immigration system.
According to the spokesman, “companies throughout the nation, from manufacturing in the West Midlands to IT professionals in Belfast, can look forward to the advantages,” and “we look forward to commencing discussions early this year.”
Obtaining a “wide and comprehensive” free trade agreement that provides both short- and long-term advantages to British firms is the UK government’s declared objective in the trade negotiations. In order to ensure that British businesses get the most advantages from any agreement, DIT officials said that a number of measures would be considered.
As part of its strategy for improving competitiveness in the Indian market, the United Kingdom would seek to decrease tariffs on important exports such as automobiles and Scotch whiskey by up to 150 percent.