UK ‘must welcome more Indians to get trade deal’

The government should ease migration rules for Indians coming to Britain if it wants to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, says the Commons foreign affairs committee.

The cross-party group of MPs has warned that Britain is falling behind other countries in the battle to forge ties with India as it becomes an economic giant. In 1999, the UK was India’s second-biggest trade partner but it has since fallen to 17th.

Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chair of the foreign affairs committee, said: “The government needs to make sure the UK is making its support for India clear, reawakening the ties between us and building bridges that are made to last.”

Launched at the start of UK-India week, the committee’s report told ministers they must either reform migration rules or accept that strict controls will prevent a “global Britain” trading around the world after Brexit.

“There is a tension between the FCO’s [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] promotion of a ‘global Britain’ and some wider government efforts to reduce net migration,” says the committee’s report.

“While the global Britain strategy is barely being communicated in India, the ‘hostile environment’ message is being heard loud and clear.”

The committee has told ministers they “urgently” need to update their strategy on India and “cannot rely on historical links from the days of empire”.

There must be greater priority for post-Brexit trade talks with India, continues the MPs’ report, which is calling on the government to prioritise the easy movement of people to come to Britain.

Although more than one million people of Indian heritage live in the UK, skilled workers, students and tourists find the migration system confusing, expensive and hostile, says the report.

“Facilitating the movement of these groups is inseparable from the goal of increasing trade with India,” it insists.

“We are concerned that government policy has been driven by the single-minded objective of reducing net migration.”

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