- India is not “in a rush” to sign a trade deal with Britain, its high commissioner to the UK has said.
- Yashvardhan Sinha added that India wants any free trade deal with Britain to make it easier for Indian nationals to travel to the UK.
- Britain will be able to negotiate and sign new trade deals during the proposed transition period.
LONDON – India is no rush to do a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain and will demand easier access for Indians to migrate to Britain as part of a future trade relationship, the country’s high commissioner has said.
Many Brexiteers, including Trade Secretary Liam Fox, argue leaving the European Union will allow Britain to sign prosperous new trade deals with global economic powerhouses, including India, the USA and China.
Speaking to Politico, Yashvardhan Sinha, the Indian High Commission in London, said India would like to the “best deal possible” with Britain, however, it is not a priority for its prime minister, Narendra Modi.
“I don’t think India is in a rush. I think India would like certainly, and I’m sure the U.K. would too … to get the best deal possible,” Sinha said.
Sinha also reiterated previous warnings that India will want a trade deal with post-Brexit Britain to make it easier for Indian nationals to travel to and work the UK.
“I think for us it is very important that if we need to step up our engagement we need to have that easier access, the ease of travel has to be looked into,” he said.
In November, Sinha told The Telegraph that Britain must be prepared to accept more Indian migrants as a price of any free trade deal agreed between London and New Delhi.
“You’ve all read about issues of freer mobility of professions. That is something right up there as far as India is concerned,” he said.
“I’m not talking about unfettered access or unrestricted travel, I’m talking about movement of professionals, movement of doctors, technicians, engineers. I think both sides will benefit from this exchange.”
That could be dangerous political ground for Theresa May, who remains committed to bringing net migration to the UK down to below 100,000 and has vowed to “respect” the Brexit vote by “taking back control” of national borders.
Britain currently cannot sign its own free trade deals as part of the EU’s customs union. It will be able to sign new deals during the proposed transition period, but these cannot be implemented until the transition is over.
Writing for Business Insider on Thursday, trade expert Sam Lowe warned that countries will make tricky and in some cases unacceptable demands in free trade deal negotiations with post-Brexit Britain.
“When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the most valuable lesson we learn from our first post-Brexit forays into the world is that, when lofty free trade ambition runs up against domestic political reality, the UK is really quite ‘European’ after all,” the Centre for European Reform research fellow wrote.
Sinha also expressed disappointment with the “very dated or very incomplete” knowledge of Indian culture and history he has encountered in Britain.
“I don’t know whether it is what is taught in schools here … what is taught about India for instance, whether it is the old Raj-based history, or whether anything at all,” he told Politico.
“As a people we are so close and there is so much interaction, so we need to do something there in terms of reaching out to the youth, to important decision-makers in the country.”
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