The government must accept higher levels of UK immigration from India if it wishes to secure a free trade agreement post-Brexit, according to a senior Indian diplomat.
According to YK Sinha, India’s High Commissioner to Britain, it could take up to a decade for the UK and India to negotiate a free trade deal following Brexit if the government fails to allow “freer movement of people and professionals”.
Currently, the British government is pursuing plans to reduce UK immigration to the “tens of thousands” and has expressed openly its intention to end free movement following Brexit in 2019.
However, Mr Sinha argues that this attitude will not allow for a mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries, and so may delay negotiations until as late as 2030.
“For instance, you’ve all read about issues of freer mobility of professions,” Mr Sinha said. “That is something right up there as far as India is concerned.”
“I’m not talking about unfettered access or unrestricted travel, I’m talking about movement of professionals, movement of doctors, technicians, engineers,” he added.
This is not the first time that Britain has been encouraged by India to relax UK immigration policy if it hopes to secure a trade deal.
In fact, during a visit in January 2017 foreign secretary Boris Johnson was reportedly warned that post Brexit Britain must consider loosening restrictions on skilled Indian workers, which they argue could hamper the growth of British businesses following the country’s departure from the EU.