Visa leniency central to post-Brexit trade with India: UK business body
A leading business organisation in Britain on Friday said that easing visa rules for India will be key to forging a trade deal with the country after leaving the European Union in March 2019, and reviving the popular post-study work visa for Indian students is one way forward.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the Theresa May government needs to recognise the strong links between people and trade as the UK forges new economic relationships on the world stage after Brexit.
In a 41-page report on a new approach to immigration after Brexit, it recalled that the 2016 visit of Prime Minister Theresa May to India was evidence that countries around the world will want to talk about immigration rules when discussing trade deals.
The visa issue hung heavy during May’s visit, when she set out the principle for easing of norms - her government will consider improving the visa offer if, at the same time, India speeds up the return of illegal Indians in the UK.
The issue has been atop the agenda for the bilateral relationship in recent months. A memorandum of understanding on the return of illegal Indians was not signed during the April visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while London awaits progress on the sensitive issue.
Formal trade talks can only begin after the UK leaves the EU, but informal talks have been held between British and Indian ministers, and it was conveyed by New Delhi that the mobility or visa issue of professionals and students will be part of negotiations.
Focusing on students from India and other countries, the CBI report said the post-study work visa route will be needed. There is a strong positive correlation between post-study work options and the growth of international student enrolments, it said.
“To support Global Britain and ensure that the UK retains a leading share of international students, reform is required to give students from the likes of India and China more time to find work in the UK after they graduate,” the report said.
Closure of the post-study work visa in 2012 was one of the reasons for a drop in the number of Indian students coming to British universities.
“Putting migration on the table in future trade negotiations will also increase the chance of getting the best deal for the UK. As well as making it easier to conclude agreements with countries like Australia, the EU and India, negotiating both migration and mobility arrangements will support exports and investment,” the report said.