Britain does not intend to change its strategy for reducing net migration to facilitate the negotiation of a free trade agreement with India, the spokesperson for prime minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday (7).
There is growing optimism that a free trade deal between the countries could be concluded this year, as both sides agree on the broad contours of the pact, though the remaining topics to be discussed are somewhat difficult.
Sunak, who heads to India for a G20 summit this weekend, told his ministers this week that negotiations were progressing but that he would only agree an approach that worked for the whole of Britain.
In June, 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.
“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,” Sunak’s spokesperson told journalists.
Interior minister Suella Braverman last year sparked a row with comments about the possible impact of Indian migrants in trade talks, citing concern both with any “open borders migration policy with India” and those who overstay visas.
However, India’s High Commissioner to Britain Vikram Doriaswamy said that the notion India 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, adding that India instead sought simpler ways for companies to move UK and Indian nationals between the countries.
“We are not asking for migrants to be able to come here.”