LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office has ruled out any changes to the UK’s immigration policy as a condition for a free trade agreement with India, according to Reuters.
The spokesperson of Sunak said that the prime minister thinks that the current migration levels are too high and that there are no plans to alter them for the sake of the trade deal, including student visas.
Sunak, who is visiting New Delhi for the G20 summit this weekend, may discuss the option of offering corporate visas to Indian businessmen, The Guardian reported. However, the spokesperson clarified that the only aspect of people’s movement covered by a trade deal is business mobility, which is the temporary movement of business people for specific purposes.
The trade deal has been under negotiation for over two years, but the UK’s latest position could further delay its completion. One of the main sticking points has been immigration, with British Home Secretary Suella Braverman saying last year that Indians are the largest group of visa overstayers in the UK.
India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had hoped that the deal would be concluded by the end of this year, but The Guardian said that it is unlikely to happen before both countries hold elections next year. India wants an early agreement on goods, but the UK wants more fundamental things that India may not agree to, according to reports.
Sunak and his Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch have also scrapped an “early harvest” deal proposal, which would have seen India reduce import tariffs on some goods in exchange for benefits for Indians living in the UK. The Sunday Times had reported last month that India was willing to cut tariffs on scotch whisky by a third if the UK gave tax reliefs to Indian workers.