The new UK PM Rishi Sunak faces a spate of challenges, one among those that concerns India the most is a UK-India visa deal. The deal could however potentially stir up a huge clash between the Indian-origin PM and his top team – the UK Home Secretary in particular.
According to a Bloomberg report, Rishi Sunak’s government is currently in talks with India to decide an increase in number of business visas granted to Indian nationals as part of a potential trade deal.
Business visas continue to be an area of “active negotiations” in the discussions, Trade Minister Greg Hands told the House of Commons on Wednesday adding that talks are complete on the majority of the deal, per Bloomberg.
Tussle over Visa Deal
The visa deal is likely to force a face-off between Sunak and the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, whose comments on ‘Indian visa overstayers’ raked a massive controversy recently. Indian-origin Conservative MP Suella Braverman, who had quit the Liz Truss government last week, returned as the UK Home Secretary as part of Prime Minister Sunak’s new his team.
Braverman had resigned after there was a “mistake” in using her private email for ministerial communication in London. Braverman’s resignation letter led to the start of a crisis culminating in Truss’ exit from Downing Street last week. It was also during this time that Braverman spoke about Indian visa overstayers and how it was causing much damage to the ongoing India-UK free trade agreement talks.
Braverman, whose parents are also both of Indian origin, appeared to oppose a more generous visa policy in an interview with the Spectator earlier this month, where she said: “I do have some reservations. Look at migration in this country — the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants.”
Voicing concerns about the deal signed by her predecessor Priti Patel to send back illegal migrants and overstayers, she had reportedly said it had “not necessarily worked very well”.
“I have concerns about having an open-borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit,” Braverman had reportedly said.
Visa Deal Mar UK-India Ties
India is pushing for more work and study visas similar to those agreed by London in deals with Australia and New Zealand which allow under-35s to live in Britain for up to three years.
The Times newspaper in London earlier reported that the comments by Braverman had infuriated the government in New Delhi and left the talks on the “verge of collapse”.
Braverman is a noted right-wing Brexit supporter who has promised a tough line on immigration.
A spokesman for Johnson’s successor Liz Truss, who helped negotiate the early stages of the deal in her former role as international trade minister had earlier told reporters that the government was still confident of securing a “high-ambition, free trade deal” by the deadline.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman had also said that “migration mobility is an important element” in the negotiations, as per AFP adding that there had been an “understanding in this regard” and “we would expect that both sides honour it”.
After taking over as the UK PM, Sunak has promised to put the crisis-hit country’s needs “above politics” and “fix the mistakes” made by his predecessor Truss. The 42-year-old investment banker-turned-politician is the youngest British prime minister in 210 years. He is also Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister.
(With inputs from agencies)
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