Boris Johnson: 'No question' Indian skills can make a difference
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Boris Johnson was pressed today on whether a move to widen visa-free access to Indian workers would scupper a pledge to Brexit voters to prioritise British workers. During a press conference in Delhi, Macer Hall, political editor at the Daily Express, asked how Mr Johnson would defend the immigration plan to Brexit voters. The Prime Minister insisted in response that he was still focused on “skilling up the British people to do those jobs but I’m not going to be dogmatic”.
This comes after Mr Johnson said a trade deal with India could be secured by autumn.
On his flight to India, the Prime Minister hinted that relaxed rules for Indian immigrants could be offered in exchange for a speedy tariff-free deal.
He said: “We have a massive shortage in the UK, not least in experts in IT and programmers.
“We’re short to the tune of hundreds of thousands in our economy.”
At today’s press conference, Mr Hall asked whether “widening visa access to the UK from India means a relaxation of your points-based immigration policy?”
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He added: “And how would you explain to Brexit voters that you have identified gaps in the labour market but that you’re going to fill them through immigration rather than encourage firms to raise British skills and wages?”
Mr Johnson responded: “Currently we have 1.5 million vacancies and we have 1.8 million unemployed.
“What I want to see is those people on the unemployment register off benefits and into work.
“We have set ourselves a challenge to get half a million people off benefits and into work. That’s making progress.
“I want to see people in our country get the skills that the UK is begging for.
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“But we have some particular shortages if you look at IT and computer programming and these are areas where Indian skills can make a difference.
“I will prioritise skilling up the British people to do those jobs but I’m not going to be dogmatic in refusing people with skill and talent who aspire to come to the UK.
“Our country has done brilliantly well for having people of talent, skill, and genius come to the UK. We need to control it, and that is what we are doing.”
He rejected claims that it would weaken his points-based immigration policy.
Instead, he claimed, the points-based system was precisely what gives the country “the ability to decide how we can deal with immediate shortages”.
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At the start of the trip, Mr Johnson confirmed more than £1billion in new investments and export deals, creating 11,000 jobs across the UK.
The UK has already seen a significant uptick in Indian skilled workers and students coming to Britain post-Brexit, thanks to changes in the points-based system used to grant visas.
According to the Home Office, 61,351 Indian students were accepted to the UK on a sponsored study visa in 2021, a 164 percent increase compared to 2019.
The figures show a total of 150,000 more people came to the UK under the skilled visa route in 2021.
India, Pakistan, and Nigeria accounted for the highest intakes of these work visas.
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