The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) on Wednesday expressed concern over the British government’s plans to curb visas for Indian and other non-EU professionals and students in a post-Brexit Britain.
The plans, announced by home secretary Amber Rudd in the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham last week, evoked sharp reactions, particularly in view of promises made by pro-Brexit leaders before the June 23 referendum of an easier visa regime for India and other Commonwealth countries.
Urging the British government to exercise caution, Ficci said in a statement that implementing the plans will impact business mobility and competitiveness, even as London mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated his call to Indian companies that his city remained open for business.
More than 900 Indian companies use London and Britain as a base to access the European market. Khan sounded the pro-business note at a meeting with representatives of 17 Indian companies that have a presence in London and the deputy mayor for business, Rajesh Agarwal.
Khan said: “London is open for investment and business from around the globe and the city already has an excellent trading relationship with India. I am looking forward to meeting with leading Indian businesses to reassure them that our great city remains open to the best global talent, and I’m keen to discuss how we can strengthen and support further investment in London.”
A Ficci survey in July revealed concern among its members over a dip in export realisations, additional compliance to competition regulations, rise in operating costs of doing business and possible curbs on immigration leading to brain drain from the UK in the near future.
The statement said: “International students contribute £8 billion a year to the UK economy and in recent years the attractiveness of the UK as an education destination for Indian students has diminished because of restrictions on part-time work rights in 2012, followed in subsequent years by the removal of post-study work visas, expansion of credibility interviews and the creation of the NHS levy.”
Ficci said it understood migration was a key part of the debate during the Brexit campaign, but added that in an globalised world, it was important to work together to reduce barriers to mutual economic progress.
“We are concerned such proposals, which impact students and professionals alike, risk sending the wrong message to companies already nervous about the risks of Brexit,” the statement said.
India is among the top investors in London, according to official estimates that put India second to the US but ahead of China and Japan.