In a recent announcement, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that the UK has no plans to alter its strategy for reducing net migration in pursuit of a free trade agreement with India. This statement comes just one day before Sunak is set to attend the G20 summit in India.
The spokesperson emphasized the UK’s stance on immigration, stating, “The prime minister believes that the current levels of migration are too high… To be crystal clear, there are no plans to change our immigration policy to achieve this free trade agreement, and that includes student visas.”
This reaffirmation of the UK’s immigration policy follows last year’s controversy when Interior Minister Suella Braverman expressed concerns about the potential impact of Indian migrants on trade talks. Braverman had cited worries about an “open borders migration policy with India” and individuals overstaying visas.
However, as trade talks between the two countries commenced earlier this year, Trade Minister Kemi Badenoch clarified the UK’s position. While Britain is willing to discuss temporary business visas as part of trade talks, it is not open to broader immigration commitments or granting Indian workers access to its labor market.
India’s High Commissioner to Britain, Vikram Doriaswamy, clarified that India’s focus has never been on obtaining more visas. He stated, “We never said that the visas are part of our ask,” adding that India is more interested in establishing simpler ways for companies to move UK and Indian nationals between the two countries. “We are not asking for migrants to be able to come here,” he emphasized.
Both India and the UK are optimistic about finalizing a trade deal this year, although there are still several challenging topics to address. Prime Minister Sunak expressed his enthusiasm for the trade agreement, describing it as a “modern, forward-looking free trade agreement” that can help achieve the shared goal of doubling UK-India trade by 2030. Sunak also highlighted the significance of being the first European country to negotiate a free trade deal with India.
While the UK remains steadfast in its immigration policy, it is actively working towards strengthening trade ties with India in the pursuit of mutual economic benefits.