Theresa May rejects calls to relax UK visa rules

07 Nov 2016


Theresa May Britain's Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday rejected calls to relax Indian visa rules saying the UK already has a "good system" for applications even as she described India as one of the UK's "most important and closest" friends and a leading power in the world, ahead of her visit to India beginning Sunday.

May, who is in Delhi on a three-day trip to pave the way for the UK's first post-Brexit trade deal, said the UK was already able to attract "the brightest and the best" from outside the EU.

However, she said, Indians on work visas will also be able to join the Registered Travellers Scheme, which will mean they can get through UK border controls more quickly.

The British prime minister flew into Delhi late last night accompanied by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and trade minister Greg Hands as well as representatives from 33 UK companies.

"Nine out of 10 visa applications from India are already accepted," she said. But May announced the UK would make it easier for wealthy Indian business executives to come to the UK.

She made it specific that her government would encourage businesses and not workers to migrate to the UK. Britain will offer a small group of high net worth individuals and their families offered access to the `Great Club' - a visa and immigration service tailored to make visa applications smoother for the rich.

"As we leave the EU, we want to ensure that the UK remains one of the most attractive countries in the world to do business and invest," May said.

But, with a shrunken market post Brexit and no specific incentives for doing business, businesses are confused as to what is in store for them in a standalone UK devoid of EU access. It will take a few years to realise the after effects of Britain's exit from the European Union.

While the UK wants better access to Indian markets, New Delhi wants relaxed visa rules for Indian students to allow them work there. For India, trade and immigration are linked.

The number of study visas issued to Indian nationals fell from 68,238 in the year to June 2010 to 11,864 five years later, official UK figures show.

While Britain hopes to wrap up specific deals in India over the next 24 hours, any clarity on bilateral trade relationship is unlikely to emerge during the three days of interactions.

Deals expected to be confirmed during the trip include: A £1.2 million joint venture between the Pandrol Group UK and Rahee Group in India to set up a manufacturing plant for rail projects; a £15 million imaging and diagnostic centre in Chennai by Lyca Health UK; and a £350 million investment from UK start-up Kloudpad in high-tech electronics manufacturing in Kochi.

Theresa May today said she will hold talks with counterpart Narendra Modi to bolster bilateral strategic ties in areas like defence, security and trade.

Ahead of her visit to India, an article published in the Sunday Telegraph quoted her as saying that she plans to "promote the best of Britain" during her three-day trade mission to New Delhi and Bengaluru.

She write, "One of our most important and closest friends has to be India, a leading power in the world, with whom we share so much history, culture and so many values, and which is led by a Prime Minister who is undertaking a far-reaching programme of reform.

"In other words, we are two countries with strong ties, a mature relationship and an opportunity to make that even deeper.

"That is why today I will be travelling to India for my first bilateral visit outside Europe and first trade mission as Prime Minister, accompanied by a range of top British businesses, including some of our brightest small and medium enterprises.

"We will be promoting the best of Britain, sending out the message that we are open for business, and making the most of the opportunities offered by Bruit as the world's foremost champion of free trade."

"I will be using this visit to reaffirm the importance of the strategic partnership we already have, which delivers huge benefits for both our countries, and to work with Prime Minister Mode to agree to concrete steps to realize our shared vision of going even further in our cooperation across trade, investment, defense and security.

"Building 100 new 'Smart Cities', encouraging firms to 'Make in India', getting the country online with 'Digital India', delivering better healthcare, infrastructure, skills and finance - these form Prime Minister Modi's vision - and with our world-class architects, lawyers, financiers, engineers, medics, academics and tech experts, Britain is the ideal partner to help achieve that, creating jobs and growth in both our countries."

She, however, dismissing any talk of a free trade agreement (FTA), saying an FTA cannot be signed until the official Brexit process, engagement with countries outside the EU can be stepped up.

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