Britain has no plans to change its immigration policy to secure a free trade deal with India, the spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday. Sunak earlier this week said that he would agree to a deal that would benefit the whole of Britain.
“The prime minister believes that the current levels of migration are too high,” Sunak’s spokesperson said according to Reuters just a day before the UK Prime Minister is to land in India for the G20 Summit. “To be crystal clear, there are no plans to change our immigration policy to achieve this free trade agreement and that includes student visas.”
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India and the UK are working on a trade deal, for which 12 rounds have taken place. In June, UK trade minister Kemi Badenoch said Britain would discuss temporary business visas as part of trade talks but not broader immigration commitments or access to Britain’s labour market for Indian workers.
According to reports, the Indian industry is seeking greater access for its skilled IT and healthcare professionals in the UK market, besides market access for several goods at zero customs duties.
In October last year, then UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman sparked a controversy after she branded Indians as the “largest group of people who overstay” their visas in Britain. Braverman also said she had concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because she did not think that’s what people voted for with Brexit.
While there have been reports that India has been pushing for a liberal visa policy, India’s High Commissioner to Britain Vikram Doriaswamy said that the notion New Delhi wanted more visas had been in the British press but not in Indian media. “We never said that the visas are part of our ask,” he told Times Radio.
(With inputs from Reuters)