British Prime Minister May Have to Relax Immigration Controls if She Wants Modi to Cement Trade Partnership
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister and her International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrived in India today for a series of meetings. It is to be expected that they will have four major points that they want to get across to the Indian government.
- A review of the India-UK Strategic Partnership, with talks between Theresa May and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This will follow on from David Cameron’s visit to India in 2010 where the ‘Enhanced Partnership for the Future’ was launched and cemented with Modi’s visit to the UK last year where a Vision Statement was set out for the UK-India partnership.
- A free trade agreement between the two countries to follow on from Theresa May’s talk at October’s Tory Party conference where she claimed that many countries including India had provisionally welcomed debate of future trade agreements. The UK is 18th out of the top 25 trading partners of India, and with doubts over Britain’s future access to the single market of the European Union, the trade will be a major focus of this visit.
- Brexit: Theresa May will want to allay any fears that Brexit will change Britain’s stature globally. Indian companies such as Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys have all expressed concern about the impact of Brexit on business, so the British PM will want to get across a message of ‘business as usual’ to Indian firms.
- Small-medium businesses: Along with the members of the UK government, there is also a delegation representing small to medium-sized British businesses, who are keen to develop trading links with India.
These may be the points that the British government wants to negotiate with Prime Minister Modi and India, but there will be plenty of questions that India will want to raise in return such as a relaxation of work and study visas for Indian citizens visiting the UK, a return to the postgraduate visa which allowed Indian graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduation, and less controls on immigration from India, particularly for IT professionals who currently are hit with exorbitant costs for a work visa, which has had a negative impact on the Indian IT industry. Both sides are hard-headed negotiators so it remains to be seen if Modi and May can thrash out their problems and find working solutions that will benefit the UK and India.