Vidya Ram

Brexit will present challenges and opportunities: Indian envoy to UK

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 15, 2018

Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha

There is political will on both sides for a trade pact, says Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha

Brexit will present opportunities as well as challenges for India, and its bilateral relationship with Britain, Indian High Commissioner to London Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha said this week, as the UK gave the European Council the formal notification that it plans to leave the union.

While Britain is unable to negotiate free trade deals with other nations until its exit from the EU is concluded in March 2019, Britain has made clear its eagerness to forge international trade accords, including with India, and is hopeful that it would be able to establish a free trade agreement with India, succeeding where the EU failed despite years of negotiations.

The terms under which Britain will emerge from the EU have become clearer in recent months, most recently as the government unveiled details of legislation on how it would incorporate existing EU legislation into British legislation to leave the country in the position to be able to conclude a free trade agreement with the EU and beyond.

“We will constantly be monitoring developments especially those that impact on our bilateral relationship,” said Sinha. He added that there was the “political will” on both sides to reach an agreement on trade, once Britain was able to do so.

Announcing the triggering of Brexit earlier this week, Prime Minister Theresa May sought to set Brexit, and the movement to leave the EU apart from the populist movements elsewhere, with which they have often been identified. Britain was not protectionist and wanted to be a truly global trading nation, she said.

However, hopes of a deal with India have encountered a mixed reaction: while India was the first non-EU country that May visited as Prime Minister, and large sections of the Indian Diaspora voted in favour of Brexit with the hope that changes to immigration rules for non-EU citizens might be a possibility, there are also concerns that immigration policy could stand in the way, among other things.

Among the specific issues highlighted by Sinha and others in the past is the position of those in the services sector, as well as students, whose numbers from India have been declining dramatically in recent years. While some of the decline could be accounted for by Britain’s crackdown on bogus education institutions — that had caused great distress and financial problems for some who were taken in by them — this could not account fully for the decline, he said, particularly given the strong growth of Indian students in other countries.

“Both sides have their own wishlist,” said Sinha, regarding a potential future trade agreement. He added that in its negotiations on trade with any country, “freer movement of people is a priority, particularly with developed nations.” He said that it would be India’s expectation in post-Brexit Britain for IT professionals to be able to work freely and return home. “We look forward to engaging on issues of concern to both us and them.”

Published on March 31, 2017

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