Theresa May’s hopes of building a stronger relationship with India and negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal may be scuppered by her stance on UK visas for Indian students.
While Home Secretary, the Prime Minister scrapped the post-study work visa scheme, which allowed graduates who had studied in the UK to stay and seek employment in Britain. Now Mrs May is set to face questions over the policy during her trip to India this week.
Indian government spokesman, Vikas Swarup, told the Observer: “Indian students and people-to-people relations are important pillars of India-UK ties.
“In the last five years or so, the number of Indian students enrolling in UK universities has gone down by almost 50 per cent; from around 40,000 to about 20,000 now. This has happened because of restrictions on post-study stay in the UK.”
Mrs May is on a trade mission to India with 30 businesses from around the UK. She is hoping to secure a number of deals with India which would result in the creation of more than 1,000 UK jobs.
However, former Business Secretary Vince Cable warned that the Prime Minister’s tough stance on immigration would overshadow any talks with the Indian government.
He said: “The chances of them getting anything out of India are pretty remote pending a complete volte-face on immigration and visas.”
Mr Cable said that when he was in office during the Coalition Government, Mrs May had refused to allow better access to Britain for skilled Indian workers. The former Liberal Democrat MP said that Mrs May’s stance had “screwed up” the opportunity to negotiate an EU-India trade agreement.
He said: “May in particular was very obstructive of any attempt to make a genuine generous concession, and that was one of the things that screwed up the negotiation.”