BALI, Indonesia — The U.K. has finalized a reciprocal migration deal with India ahead of Rishi Sunak’s first face-to-face meeting with Narendra Modi.
Under a deal struck on the margins of the G20 summit in Indonesia, up to 3,000 visas will be granted to degree-educated young Indian nationals to work in the U.K. for up to two years.
The same number of visas will be offered by India to Britons and will be available to people aged between 18 and 30. The scheme, plans for which were first announced last year, will open early next year.
Sunak, the U.K. prime minister, said: “I know first-hand the incredible value of the deep cultural and historic ties we have with India. I am pleased that even more of India’s brightest young people will now have the opportunity to experience all that life in the U.K. has to offer — and vice-versa — making our economies and societies richer.”
The deal will be seen as a signal that the U.K. is open to granting more work and study visas to Indian citizens as part of a hoped-for trade agreement. Talks to agree a U.K.-India trade deal by Diwali on October 24 were scuppered after Suella Braverman, the home secretary, expressed concerns about a potential increase in Indian migration to the U.K.
The visas agreement was announced on the eve of Sunak’s bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi, and after he stressed that he didn’t want to “sacrifice quality for speed” in talks for a U.K.-India trade deal. The two leaders had a brush-by on the margins of the summit on Tuesday morning.
Speaking to reporters joining him on his trip to the G20 summit, Sunak said a trade deal with India was “a fantastic opportunity for the U.K.” but he added: “I wouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed. And that goes for all trade deals. It’s important that we get them right, rather than rush them and so that’s the approach I’ll take.”
The comments come after POLITICO reported that the new British prime minister is breaking with his predecessors on trade by trying to prioritize depth over speed in the country’s post-Brexit deals.
Sunak added: “The other thing with India, remember that the trade deal is just one part of a broader relationship we have which is incredibly strong and indeed strategic and happens across multiple different aspects of policy. You know, trade is an important part of it, but it’s not the only part and we’ll be making progress in all of them.”
Nearly a quarter of international students in the U.K. are from India and trade with the country is worth £24 billion.
Sunak is also due to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of the U.S., Japan, Australia and Indonesia on Wednesday. He plans to emphasize the importance of the Indo-Pacific region to global security and prosperity.
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