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UK home secretary has concerns over trade deal with India, wary of increase in immigration

Largest group of people who overstay their visa in the United Kingdom are Indians, Suella Braverman tells The Spectator.

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New Delhi: Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman has reservations about an upcoming trade deal with India, saying that an open-border migration policy with the country — triggered by a free-trade deal — would be contrary to what the Brexit vote stood for.

In an interview with the magazine The Spectator, Braverman voiced concerns about the impending free trade agreement to be signed by Diwali, as it could increase immigration.

Braverman said: “Look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants.” The home secretary also pointed out that a cooperation agreement with the Indian government signed in 2021, to curtail overstaying Indian migrants, has not “necessarily worked very well”.

However, The Guardian reported: “Home Office statistics show that 20,706 Indians overstayed their visas in 2020, higher than any other nationality, although other nationalities recorded a higher proportion of overstayers. Of the 473,600 Indians whose visas were due to expire in the 12 months to March 2020, 452,894 are known to have left, meaning 4.4% of them overstayed their visa.”

While the home secretary has been critical of the knock-on effects of the free-trade agreement, Prime Minister Liz Truss is keen to complete the agreement with India. This comes amid economic turmoil in the UK. A huge depreciation in the pound — falling to its lowest value against the dollar — triggered by tax cuts announced late September by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has compounded woes for an economy struggling with high inflation.

For Braverman, a policy solution would be to go back to former prime minister David Cameron’s dictum of reducing migration to “tens of thousands”. The home secretary tells The Spectator that it would serve as a better policy measure to reduce job vacancies domestically than increase immigration.

“Part of the Brexit restoration – I don’t call it revolution, I call it restoration – was about actually weaning employers off foreign labour,” she added.

Also read: Indian-origin UK minister Suella Braverman wins Queen Elizabeth II award


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