January 2022 \ Cover Story \ COVER STORY
UK PM shoots down proposal for Indians

By Ashis Ray
  • Mr Boris Johnson

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shot down speculation that the UK will ease immigration rules for India as part of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Negotiations on an Indo-British FTA are scheduled to begin this month.

Sir Edward Leigh, a right-wing Conservative party MP, concerned about reports that Britain was contemplating making such a concession, asked in the House of Commons: “Apparently, the government is thinking of relaxing visa controls for India in order to get a free trade deal. While a free trade deal is valuable in itself, we should not be held to ransom.

“Does the Prime Minister agree that our new working-class voters who voted for Brexit did not vote to replace immigration from Europe with more immigration from the rest of the world, any more than that when they were told that we would take back control, we would lose control of the channel? Will he convince us that he is determined to connect to our supporters and control immigration?”

To this, Johnson replied: “I do not recognise the account that my honourable Friend has given. We do not do free trade deals on that basis. Indeed, I can tell him that since we took back control, net immigration has gone down. That is all the Opposition wants—their answer is, everywhere and always, uncontrolled immigration. That is their approach to the economy, and it is not the right way forward. That is why our Nationality and Borders Bill, currently in the House of Lords, is so important—it will enable us to take back control of our borders properly and tackle illegal immigration.”