Theresa May has dashed Indian hopes for a more liberal visa system for its nationals wanting to work in the UK by arguing that the current offer is generous enough.Speaking on the way to her first bilateral meeting in Delhi, the prime minister argued that Britain was already able to attract the “brightest and best” from outside the EU. “The figures show that we issue more work visas to India than I think US, Australia and China put together. Nine out of 10 visa applications from India are already accepted. We have, I believe, a good system,” she said.
The comments will prove disappointing for some in the Indian government and business community who have argued for more of their highly skilled professional workers to be able to get six-month visas for the UK and other European countries.The demand for more freedoms for Indian workers moving abroad was a part of trade negotiations with the EU, which stalled because of failure to agree on it and other issues.
Vince Cable, the former Lib Dem business secretary, said May’s refusal to agree to any such liberalisation in the past was a key stumbling block to trade talks between the EU and India. Although he admitted they were complex negotiations, he claimed that her unwillingness to budge was down to an obsession over getting the net migration numbers down as home secretary.May said she hoped that her three-day visit to India would pave the way for a future trade arrangement after Brexit as she sought to break down barriers. However, she suggested she did not think a more generous visa system was necessary.
“Trade is an important part of our relationship with India. India is the third-biggest investor into the UK – second-biggest creator of private sector jobs in the UK. And the UK is the biggest G20 investor into India, but there is more we can do,” she said.May was joined by a delegation of business representatives for a trip during which she attended the India-UK tech summit in Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi before a bilateral meeting.
Modi used a speech to heavily hint that he wanted young people to be more able to travel abroad to study, after stricter rules in Britain on how long graduates can stay contributed to a halving of the number of Indian students coming to the UK to study over five years.“Education is vital for our students and will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in education and research opportunities,” he said.
May used her speech to the tech summit to insist she wanted an open relationship with India, laying out plans for India to become the first visa country to be put on a registered traveller scheme which helps speed up the experience of visitors in British airports.
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