The India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) is reportedly on the “verge of collapse” after the Indian government was angered by comments made by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman questioning action over visa overstayers from the country, a UK media report claimed on Wednesday.
‘The Times’ quoted government sources to say that ministers in New Delhi were “shocked and disappointed” by the “disrespectful” remarks made by Braverman, who said she had concerns of an “open borders” offer to India as part of an FTA. The likelihood of meeting the Diwali deadline for the pact, set by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is now believed to be diminishing.
“There’s still a lot of goodwill but if certain individuals are still embedded in the [UK] government it will paralyse the talks,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.
A report in ‘Politico’ claims that any plans of a UK visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Diwali to sign off on an FTA is also now not likely to go ahead.
Last week, the Indian-origin Home Secretary said in an interview that she feared a trade deal with India would increase migration to the UK when Indians already represented the largest group of visa overstayers.
“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 told ‘The Spectator’ weekly news magazine.
Asked about visa flexibility for students and entrepreneurs under an India-UK FTA, she said: “But I do have some reservations. Look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants.”
“We even reached an agreement with the Indian government last year to encourage and facilitate better cooperation in this regard. It has not necessarily worked very well.” Braverman was referencing the Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) clinched between her predecessor in the Home Office, Indian-origin former Home Secretary Priti Patel, and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in May last year.
The Indian High Commission in London responded by pointing out that action had been initiated on all cases referred to it under the MMP.
With inputs from NDTV