As part of her trip to Delhi, Theresa May has told the press that she will not be making things easier for Indians to get into the UK.
“The figures show that we issue more work visas to India than I think US, Australia and China put together. Nine out of 10 visa applications from India are already accepted. We have, I believe, a good system.”
I picked this news up from several sources, yet in every one I noted a similar tone to the way this is being reported in Britain. For instance, in the Guardian’s handling of it, there were phrases such as “dashed Indian hopes” and “disappointing for some in the Indian government and business community”. May’s announcement on this is being treated in a pre-Brexit fashion, as if this is just Britain as a first world country that doesn’t need much poo-pooing the hopes and dreams of a developing country. The problem is, Britain wants to strike trade deals with large countries, most notably China, the US – and India. So whether India is prepared to accept that the current system is a “good” one or not isn’t academic any longer.
The Chinese and the Indians will want to do trade deals with a non-EU Britain (the US, we’ll wait and see). The only thing is, they will want something out it, and it will in each case be something major. With India, it will be immigration. If Britain wants to deny this to India – and one can see the rationale for not doing so – then India can deny Britain access to their market on favourable terms. I’m not saying India is going to do this, by the way – just that they can do this, and such a move could be material to a non-EU UK.
If things don’t work out with the larger countries, I guess Britain can trade as much as possible with smaller countries (apparently Columbia is interested). But one has to wonder what happens to a Great Britain frozen out of good trading terms with the emerging four largest trading blocs: the EU, China, India, USA. Won’t it make the UK by default a less attractive place to do business in, unless you slash some combination of taxes, workers’ rights and workers’ pay? I’m trying to square this circle otherwise and struggling.
Perhaps there is already a plan to get a great trade deal with India that doesn’t involve a better UK immigration policy from an Indian perspective. Maybe this is all being sorted. I certainly hope so. Otherwise, the UK had better be hiring some very good negotiators, because there is going to be a lot of work to do.