Rishi Sunak vows not to give more student visas to India as part of historic post-Brexit free trade deal – as the country’s High Commission says they want an agreement that covers ‘areas of mutual interest’
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Rishi Sunak has insisted he has no plans to relax immigration from India amid reports of a Cabinet row over the potential price of a historic post-Brexit trade deal.
As the Prime Minister last night flew to Delhi for this weekend’s G20 summit of world leaders, No10 denied planning to hand out more student visas to India as part of the agreement.
It came after reports of a clash with the Home Secretary over the prospect of inviting more migrants on top of the 1.2million arrivals last year. But the PM’s spokesman said Mr Sunak and Suella Braverman are ‘united’ in believing ‘the current levels of immigration are too high’.
He added: ‘There are no plans to change our immigration policy to achieve this deal, and that includes student visas.’
The PM arrives in Delhi today for talks with Indian premier and G20 host Narendra Modi, amid growing expectations the huge trade deal will be signed off within weeks.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with journalists onboard the Voyager aircraft as he travels to India for the G20 Summit
The agreement would allow Mr Sunak to demonstrate the benefits of quitting the EU. Only yesterday, the PM hailed the ‘vast and often untapped opportunities’, adding he would be working with Mr Modi ‘towards our shared ambition of doubling UK-India trade by 2030’.
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However the two leaders will meet amid mounting concerns among Tory MPs over the failure to bring down immigration levels even after Brexit. The number of sponsored study visas granted to Indian nationals rose by 63 per cent in the year to March 2023 to 138,532.
And yesterday, India’s High Commissioner in London, Shri Vikram Doraiswami, said his country hoped for a deal which would allow British and Indian nationals to move more easily between the two countries.
He said: ‘We’re asking for a good free trade agreement which covers a number of areas of mutual interest… which is simplification of the ease of specialists on both sides for the investment companies to be able to move people.’
But Mr Doraiswami added: ‘We never said visas are part of our ask. We are not asking for migrants to be able to come here.’
Mrs Braverman reportedly raised her concerns about Indian immigration at Cabinet on Tuesday, with Mr Sunak stressing the deal would ‘benefit the UK for decades to come’.
The UK is hoping that India will cut tariffs on luxury British imports such as whisky and cars, and open access to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Mr Sunak talks to the media during a visit to the international manufacturing centre at University of Warwick earlier today
Mr Sunak’s visit to India, his first as PM and the first by a British premier of Indian origin, is being billed by Downing Street as a ‘historic moment’ and ‘powerful reminder of the living bridge between our two countries’.
The cricket-loving PM, who will be accompanied by his Indian-born wife Akshata Murty, has spoken this week of how he is ‘hugely proud of my Indian roots’.
The G20 summit will focus on climate change and security. But Mr Modi urged the West to realise that tackling global warming must be ‘complementary’ to development rather than restricting progress in the developing world.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to represent Vladimir Putin at the summit, and No10 said Mr Sunak would ‘remind Lavrov to his face about the incredible damage’ caused by Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine.
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