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Vince Cable bins claims of India-UK trade surge after Brexit

The Liberal Democrats leader said India’s concerns about immigration and related issues would be key to any future trade talks with Britain.

world Updated: Oct 04, 2017 16:12 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable addresses members of the Indian Journalists Association (IJA) in London on October 3, 2017.
Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable addresses members of the Indian Journalists Association (IJA) in London on October 3, 2017. (HT Photo)

Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable, who was business secretary in the David Cameron government, has rubbished claims by the Theresa May government that Brexit will enable Britain to sign a special trade deal with India.

It is no longer sensible to harp on historic links with India to try to increase trade or improve bilateral ties, Cable said while addressing members of the Indian Journalists Association (IJA) here on Tuesday. He called the claims a “joke”, “hogwash” and a “chimera”.

Recalling his longstanding personal and professional links with India – his first wife was of Goan-origin – Cable said New Delhi had real concerns about immigration and related issues, which would be key to any future trade talks, notwithstanding claims by Prime Minister May and her ministers.

“There has to be some realism on the British side while seeking improved trade ties with India. All the claims made are foolish and complete hogwash. The EU-India free trade deal floundered not due to any EU country but due to objections on mobility by Britain,” he said.

The MP from Twickenham, which has a large number of Indian professionals,recalled that May already had a taste of the hurdles ahead during her visit to India, when the visa issue overshadowed talks as the trip attracted much criticism in the British media.

Cable also came down heavily on promises made by pro-Brexit leaders such as foreign secretary Boris Johnson of relaxing immigration for Indians: “It’s not going to happen. There is not going to be any relaxation for Indians.”

He recalled that as a cabinet minister in the Cameron government during 2010-15, he had often sought easier visa norms for students and professionals when May was the home secretary. Cable said the curbs on student visas were “self-harming” and damaging the economy, universities and relations with friendly countries.

“It was the idiotic policy of the government I was part of. The student visa issue is part of May’s personal prestige,” Cable said, adding that future India-UK relations will depend on what exactly happens with Brexit which, according to him, was “sucking up energy” in Whitehall.

As leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cable said one of his priorities is to rebuild links with the Indian community in Britain. The party had Britain'sfirst Indian and Asian-origin MP in the House of Commons - Dadabhai Naoroji, who was elected from Finsbury Central in 1892.

Cable, who often interacted with former commerce ministers Anand Sharma and Nirmala Seetharaman (now the defence minister) while in government, has published his latest novel, Open Arms, which is partly set in India. He will travel to the Jaipur Literature Festival “as an author” in January.