City AM | 19 April 2022
UK will not offer Indians more visas in post-Brexit trade talks
By Stefan Boscia
The government will not allow more Indians to come to the UK through new visa routes in any UK-India free trade deal.
City A.M. understands the prospect of special Indian visas has not been discussed in the first two rounds of trade negotiations and that international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has not put the issue on the table.
This is despite media reports earlier this year suggesting Trevelyan and foreign secretary Liz Truss wanted to relax immigration rules for Indian nationals as a part of any deal.
The UK and India will hold a third round of formal trade negotiations in New Delhi this month, with Trevelyan looking to win deeper access for City services firms wanting to operate in India and to cut tariffs on British exports like Scotch whisky.
There has been speculation India wants increased access to immigration visas for its citizens as a part of any deal. New Home Office figures revealed there was a 14 per cent increase in British visas handed to Indian nationals between 2019 and 2021.
However, a source close to Trevelyan said “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 DIT official added: “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.”
It comes as Boris Johnson will travel to India on Thursday, for the first time since becoming Prime Minister, to meet with Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Number 10 said Johnson will speak about the “UK and India’s strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership”, while also using “the visit to drive progress in the free trade agreement negotiations launched earlier this year”.
£28bn in trade
A free trade deal with India, one of the fastest growing large economies in the world, would be a major post-Brexit prize for the British government.
Government estimates suggest a deal with India would increase the UK’s total trade by £28bn a year – a more than 3 per cent rise on 2021 levels.
Modi has shied away from signing trade deals over the past decade, however Department of International Trade (DIT) officials are increasingly confident his government is now willing to open up the Indian economy.
“India is projected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2050, and a free trade deal will open huge opportunities for UK businesses to trade with India’s £2.25 trillion economy.” A government spokesperson
“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,” a government spokesperson said.