Anti-Brexit party fields 14 Indian-origin candidates in UK election
The Liberal Democrats have held out the prospect of reinstating the post-study work visa that was popular with Indian students.world Updated: May 21, 2017 23:41 IST
The Liberal Democrats – the third pole in British politics after Conservative and Labour – hope to win the support of the large number of people who voted to remain in the European Union, and 14 Indian-origin candidates are part of its anti-Brexit appeal.
The party was in a coalition government with the Conservatives under then Prime Minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2015, but lost heavily in the 2015 election (reduced to 8 from 57 MPs in 2010). It now hopes to recover by being the only party to promise another referendum on Brexit.
Dadabhai Naoroji was one of the first MPs of the party in its earlier incarnation as the Liberal Party. He was elected from Finsbury Central in 1892, but has struggled to enlist substantial support from the British Indian community.
The party had also fielded 14 Indian-origin candidates in the 2015 election. The Conservative party has fielded 13 Indian-origin candidates for the June 8 election, while Labour has 14 from the community, which had voted largely to remain in the EU.
Positioning itself as the party of “Remainers”, it has also held out the prospect of reinstating the post-study work visa that was popular with Indian students. The visa allowed Indian and other non-EU students to work for two years after completing studies, but was abolished in 2012.
Party leader Tim Farron told Hindustan Times: “It is ludicrous that we take in Indian students, train them, and then as soon as they are skilled and ready to work, the Conservatives boot them out of the country.”
“British universities are world leaders that attract some of the most talented individuals from India to the benefit of the UK economy. But instead of encouraging them to stay here and contribute to keeping Britain at the forefront of cutting-edge research, this Conservative Brexit government forces them out.”
Vince Cable, senior party leader who was Business secretary in the Cameron government, has been critical of the Theresa May government’s enthusiasm to forge a free trade agreement with India after Brexit.
He told HT: “Her ministers seem not to have taken on board that the attempted EU-India agreement foundered not because of the rest of the EU but, in substantial part, because Britain rejected it, when May was the home secretary.”
“Attempts to open the UK to more Indian IT specialists and other professionals (the so-called Mode 4) foundered on her objections. The main irritant in UK-India relations is visas. In the absence of creative ideas on freeing up immigration and visiting rights from India, ministers will continue to get a flea in their ear in Delhi. I don’t think it (free trade pact) will happen,” he said.
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