India: Possibility of UK trade deal 'much higher' says expert
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The UK Government is set to take a tough stance in Brexit trade deal negotiations and not allow more Indians to come to the UK through new visa routes as part of any trade deal between the two countries. The possibility of special Indian visas has reportedly not been discussed in the opening two rounds of negotiations, and that International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has not put the issue on the table.
This would be in contrast to speculation earlier this year indicating Ms Trevelyan and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss wanted to ease immigration rules for Indian nationals as part of any trade pact.
The UK and India will meet for the latest round of talks in New Delhi later this month.
Ms Trevelyan will be looking to secure deeper access for City services firms who want to do business in India, while also slashing tariffs on key UK exports such as Scotch whisky.
There has been growing speculation India is chasing increased access to immigration visas for its citizens as a part of any deal.
The latest figures from the Home Office recently showed there was a 14 percent jump in British visas handed to Indian nationals between 2019 and 2021.
But a source close to Ms Trevelyan told City AM “the prospect of more Indian visas has not even been discussed in the first two rounds of negotiations” and that “it’s just not on the table”.
A senior official from the Department for International Trade said: “Trade and immigration are separate policy areas, and immigration is not routinely discussed in trade negotiations.
“We would only agree a deal that is in the UK’s interests and all trade negotiations, including on immigration, are subject to approval by cabinet.”
A free trade deal with India would be a major win for Brexit Britain as the Asian supoerpower is home to one of the fastest growing large economies in the world.
UK Government estimates suggest a trade with India would increase the UK’s total trade by a massive £28bn a year – up from thee percent on last year’s levels.
Mr Johnson will meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi this week as the two countries look to deepen trade and security relationships.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister will make his first major trip to India – which has been repeatedly delayed by the Covid pandemic – since taking power in July 2019.
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He will also meet business leaders and focus on trade during a visit to Gujarat, where he is expected to announce a significant investment in key industries in both the UK and India, as well as new partnerships on science, health and technology.
Ahead of his trip this week, Mr Johnson described India as a “major economic power and the world’s largest democracy”, emphasising the importance of a close partnership “in these uncertain times”.
He said: “As we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together.
“India, as a major economic power and the world’s largest democracy, is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK in these uncertain times.”
A Government spokesperson outlined what Mr Johnson plans to announce when he is India.
They said: “During his trip to India this week, the Prime Minister is expected to announce major investment in key industries in both the UK and India to boost jobs and growth, and also drive progress in securing a free trade deal that is predicted to boost our total trade by up to £28 billion annually by 2035.”
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