UK poised to strike immigration deal with India

The deal will permit 3,000 young professionals to work in Britain for two years

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi of India hold a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Bali. PA
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The UK is poised to seal an immigration deal with India, which will give thousands of young professionals permission to work in Britain.

The agreement between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will permit 3,000 young Indians to work in the UK for two years.

The visa agreement comes as Mr Sunak attempts to finalise a delayed trade deal with India, but it could set him on a collision course with Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who has opposed relaxing immigration controls as part of any trade talks.

The UK is said to be on the cusp of signing the long-awaited free trade deal with India, with the majority of sections completed.

The Prime Minister used the first session of the two-day Bali summit to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which he blamed for worsening global economic challenges.

He has used his trip to Indonesia to emphasise the Indo-Pacific tilt to the UK's foreign policy.

With Mr Modi, he was planning to give the go-ahead for the reciprocal scheme allowing 18 to 30-year-old degree-educated Indians to work in the UK from early next year.

The UK is still seeking a trade deal with New Delhi, after the government missed a Diwali cut-off point set by Boris Johnson to seal an agreement.

Ms Braverman was accused of scuppering negotiations with her controversial remarks about Indians overstaying visas.

Asked about concerns that the young professionals route could lead to more people overstaying visas, Mr Sunak's spokesman said: “Overstaying is illegal and in fact part of this agreement makes it easier to return Indian nationals who have no right to be here.”

The Prime Minister said he would discuss the trade deal with Mr Modi during their meeting, describing it as a “fantastic opportunity” for the UK.

“But I wouldn't sacrifice quality for speed, and that goes for all trade deals,” he said at the G20 summit.

He noted that trade was just one part of the relationship as he promised “progress” on “multiple different aspects of policy”.

It echoed remarks he made after a former cabinet minister's scathing criticism of the UK's trade agreement with Australia.

Former environment secretary George Eustice said the deals negotiated with Australia and New Zealand included provisions that were not in the economic interests of the UK, with the Government giving away “far too much” to secure the post-Brexit accords.

Asked if he would ratify the Australia deal, Mr Sunak told the BBC on Tuesday: “In trade deals there's always a degree of give-or-take and there are many positives from this deal but it is right going forward that we don't sacrifice quality for speed.”

Updated: November 16, 2022, 11:17 AM