PM presses to speed up trade deal with India after signaling visa turnaround

Boris Johnson has said he wants to accelerate a post-Brexit trade deal with India, bringing his late-2022 deal target date forward to the fall.

The announcement came after the prime minister signaled a potential move to break the deadlock in negotiations, suggesting he is ready to roll back immigration visas for thousands of Indians.

Visas to study, work and settle in the UK have been a top priority for Delhi in negotiations with the UK to improve trade ties. London’s reluctance to open its doors is seen as the main obstacle to the trade deal, which both sides have said they want to complete by the end of this year.

But Johnson appeared willing to take a more flexible line as he travels to India for a two-day visit that will include talks with the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

Asked by reporters if he had anything to offer Modi on visas, the prime minister immediately referenced the UK’s need for “hundreds of thousands” of workers with in-demand skills, who receive privileged treatment under post-Brexit points. based immigration system.

“I’ve always been in favor of people coming into this country,” Johnson said. “We have a huge shortage in the UK, particularly in IT and programming specialists. We are short of the hundreds of thousands in our economy.

“We need to have a professional approach, but this needs to be controlled.”

Speaking later during a visit to a JCB factory in Gujarati’s capital Ahmedabad, the prime minister made it clear he was impatient for a deal, which would be the biggest since Britain formally left the EU last year.

“We hope to conclude another free trade agreement, with India, by the end of the year, in the fall.”

The negotiating teams will begin their third round of formal talks in India next week on a trade deal. But sources have indicated that the process is at a very early stage for progress to be expected during the prime minister’s visit.

Johnson said the trade and export deals to be announced during his trip are worth a total of £1 billion and will create around 11,000 jobs, mostly in the UK.

They include a deal for a satellite company rescued from bankruptcy by Dominic Cummings using £400m of UK taxpayer money, which aims to launch rockets from India.

Johnson said relations were boosted by the “living bridge” of people of Indian origin living in the UK and that he himself has relatives by marriage who live in India.

He said British politicians have to “respect and understand the sensitivities” of the UK’s history as India’s imperial ruler, but added: “The great thing about the relationship today is that it’s in a different place and it’s less burdened by it. Baggage.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Boris Johnson in Glasgow last year

(Getty Images)

The long-awaited trip – twice postponed because of the Covid pandemic – means Johnson is from Westminster for Thursday’s crucial vote in a parliamentary inquiry into allegations he has committed contempt for the Commons by lying about Partygate.

The visit threatens to be overshadowed by India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or to reduce its trade ties with Moscow. India remains a significant consumer of Russia’s military and energy exports.

However, Downing Street insists the prime minister will not try to “sermon” Modi, but will offer “constructive” proposals to alternative sources in an effort to reduce the country’s dependence on Russia.

Former adviser Cummings convinced Johnson to authorize the bailout of OneWeb over objections from public officials, after identifying the little-known company as a means by which post-Brexit Britain could establish a presence in the satellite communications market.

The goal is to put hundreds of small, relatively inexpensive satellites into low orbit to provide broadband coverage around the world, but it faces competition from big players including Elon Musk and Amazon.

Today’s agreement follows last October’s letter of intent, jointly signed by OneWeb and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) – a commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – in which OneWeb Executive Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, established plans to use two India-built Vehicles as potential platforms to launch satellites from the country.

The company recently canceled planned launches from the Russian space facility Bakonur, Kazakhstan, due to last-minute demands from Moscow.

Other agreements Johnson announced upon arriving in the Indian state of Gujarat included:

  • a new Switch Mobility electric bus research and development center in the UK and the opening of the company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Chennai, generating over 1,000 jobs in the UK and India
  • investment by Indian manufacturer Bharat Forge and electric truck maker Tevva Motors to finance expansion to a new location in the southeast and create 500 new jobs
  • Indian software company Mastek invests £79m to create 1,600 jobs over the next three years in the UK
  • an agreement for Hertfordshire-based Smith & Nephew to sell robotic surgical systems in India

The UK will confirm new science and technology collaborations, including a digital health partnership, new AI grants for Indian students and a £6m investment from Qure-ai AI health experts to fund the opening of a center of excellence in the UK. United Kingdom.

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