Let more Indian workers into Britain, says CBI’s Bilimoria

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Lord Bilimoria, the CBI president, has pressed for looser visa restrictions between India and the UK ahead of the formal launch of trade talks between the two countries this week.

The intervention of the Cobra beer founder, one of the UK’s most prominent British-Indian businessmen, comes as the International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, prepares to fly to Delhi in pursuit of a deal.

The peer said that “no one is asking for open borders” but added: “Mobility has historically been important and will continue to be important in both countries’ interests – and both ways.” 

Indian workers were granted more than 40,000 skilled worker visas in the year to June, mostly in health and IT. 

Reports suggest Indian negotiators will demand changes to a complex and costly system to improve access for workers and students in return for an agreement, although the Prime Minister has come under pressure from backbenchers not to cede ground on immigration.

Prising open India’s fast-growing but protectionist economy is a key post-Brexit goal of the Johnson administration, expanding goods trade and improving access to a country where foreign lawyers are not allowed to practice.

Lord Bilimoria said: “Both India and the UK are very strong services economies and services exports also need mobility. If we’re going to have the ability to have better mobility between our countries that will help our services trade, which should be very important for Britain and also for India – Indian IT workers for example. 

“The less restrictions they face in coming to work here, the more they’re able to work over here will be better for Indian companies.” 

A Department for International Trade spokesman said: “This Government is determined to secure the best trade deals possible to ensure the UK goes from strength to strength.

“Trade and immigration are separate policy areas. Immigration is not routinely discussed in trade negotiations. We took back control of our borders when we left the European Union and have the freedom to now set our own border rules which are in the interests of the UK.”

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