8 November 2016

The recent visit to India by Prime Minister Theresa May has given her an idea of what to expect when she triggers Article 50 and begins the process of negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU.

The main arguments in the Brexit talks are likely to centre on the degree to which the UK maintains trade with the other Member States and whether it is prepared to allow any access to its labour market by their workers.

Both issues were to the fore in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear that any trade deal with the UK would depend on the extent to which Mrs May’s Government was prepared to soften its curbs on foreign workers and students.

Formal trade talks between India and the UK cannot begin until the Brexit talks are completed so the Government has time to consider its position. Chancellor Philip Hammond has already indicated that “he could not see why” firms should be restricted from recruiting high level workers.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is one of several business groups making it clear to Mrs May that access to foreign workers is vital to plug the UK’s skills gaps.

Head of Trade Policy Allie Renison said: “The Prime Minister must recognise that labour mobility and visas are key to deepening trade for a services-based economy like the UK.”

Pointing out that applications from Indian students to British universities are significantly down in recent years she called on the Government to stop counting students in its net migration target.

The Deputy Mayor of London for Business has also called on the Prime Minister to relax the rules on Indian visas for high-skilled workers coming to Britain.

Rajesh Agrawal said: “In the aftermath of Brexit it is more important than ever that companies in London and across Britain have access to the global talent they need to grow and create jobs and prosperity.”