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British Prime Minister Theresa May Eyes Stronger Trade Ties with India Post Brexit

India wants to expand trade ties with Britain, it also wants easier access for its students and skilled workers

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FILE- Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street in London, July 20, 2016. VOA

November 6, 2016: British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives in India Sunday on her first bilateral visit outside the European Union to lay the groundwork for stronger trade ties post Brexit with the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

But India will press the British leader on tighter visa rules that have diminished the number of Indian students going to British universities and that could impact Indian professionals in the country.

Ahead of the visit, the British leader said the trip was about “expanding our horizons and forging stronger partnerships with countries around the world” following Britain’s exit from the European Union.

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In India, immigration concerns

In New Delhi, observers say the visit will test how stricter immigration policies will impact Britain’s efforts to build stronger business partnerships.

While India wants to expand trade ties with Britain, it also wants easier access for its students and skilled workers.

Ahead of the visit, India foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup underlined those concerns, saying, “Indian students and people-to-people relations are important pillars of India-UK ties … we expect mobility issues to be raised during this visit.”

He said restrictions have impacted Indian students staying in Britain after graduation.

“In the last year or so, the number of Indian students enrolling in U.K. universities has gone down by almost 50 percent from around 40,000 to around 20,000 now,” he said.

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Those restrictions were introduced into legislation by May when she was interior minister. Changes to visa rules announced last week also will impact Indian professionals in Britain.

“The impression Britain is giving to countries such as India is, we want your business but we don’t want your people,” said London-based political strategist Manoj Ladwa in the Hindu newspaper.

Both sides seek trade deals

However expanding trade ties with Britain is a priority for India, which is the third largest investor in Britain with about 800 Indian companies operating there. Britain is also a major investor in India.

There will be no trade deals on the table during the visit because Britain cannot formally negotiate these until it officially leaves the European Union, but the two countries will explore the possibility of a free trade deal post Brexit.

And while New Delhi has struggled to seal a free trade pact with the European Union for years, it might be easier to do it with Britain, which shares historical ties with India dating back to the colonial era.

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“This is a partnership about our shared security and shared prosperity. It is a partnership of potential. And on this visit I intend to harness that potential, rebooting an age-old relationship,” May said in a statement ahead of the visit.

The British leader is scheduled to address a trade-focused technology seminar in New Delhi, meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and visit India’s IT hub of Bengaluru on Tuesday.

May is accompanied by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Trade Minister Greg Hands, and business leaders from medium- and small-sized companies. (VOA)

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Brexit Deadlocked: “The Only Option Is To Find A Way Through Which Allows The U.K. To Leave With A Deal”

Brexit minister Steven Barclay said after the results were announced that the default position was still that Britain would leave the EU on April 12 without a deal, the nightmare scenario for many international businesses.

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Brexit
A pro-Brexit protester demonstrates outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, April 1, 2019. VOA

Britain was no nearer to resolving the chaos surrounding its departure from the European Union after parliament failed on Monday to find a majority of its own for any alternative to Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal.

After a tumultuous week in which May’s divorce strategy was rejected by lawmakers for a third time, despite her offer to quit if it passed, the future direction of Brexit remains mired in confusion.

In a bid to break the impasse, lawmakers on Monday voted on four last-minute alternative Brexit options for what is the United Kingdom’s most far-reaching policy change since World War II. All were defeated.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after a round of voting on alternative Brexit options at the House of Commons in London, Britain, April 1, 2019 in this still image taken from video.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks after a round of voting on alternative Brexit options at the House of Commons in London, Britain, April 1, 2019 in this still image taken from video. VOA

The option that came closest to getting a majority was a proposal to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, which was defeated by three votes.

A proposal for a confirmatory referendum on any deal got the most votes, but was defeated by 292-280.

Brexit minister Steven Barclay said after the results were announced that the default position was still that Britain would leave the EU on April 12 without a deal, the nightmare scenario for many international businesses.

“The only option is to find a way through which allows the UK to leave with a deal,” Barclay told parliament.

He hinted that May could put her deal to a fourth vote this week in the hope of securing an orderly exit before European elections are held from May 23 onwards.

“If the house were to agree a deal this week, it would still be possible to avoid holding European parliamentary elections,” Barclay said.

Sterling Falls

Sterling fell almost 1 percent to $1.3048, after the vote results were read out by the speaker, John Bercow, to stand around 0.5 percent lower on the day.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow announces the results of a round of voting on alternative Brexit options at the House of Commons in London, Britain, April 1, 2019, in this still image taken from video.
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow announces the results of a round of voting on alternative Brexit options at the House of Commons in London, Britain, April 1, 2019, in this still image taken from video. VOA

Last Friday, the third defeat of May’s own withdrawal agreement left one of the weakest British leaders in a generation facing a spiraling crisis over Brexit.

Her government and her Conservative Party, which has been trying to contain a schism over Europe for 30 years, are now riven between those who are demanding that May pilot a decisive break with the bloc and those demanding that she rule out such an outcome.

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If May were to throw her weight behind either camp, she would risk tearing her party apart and bringing down the government. Some Conservative lawmakers have warned they will support a motion of no confidence if she accepts calls for a Brexit that maintains many of the existing close economic ties with the EU.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on March 29 but the political deadlock in London forced May to ask the bloc for a delay. As things stand, Britain will now depart at 2200 GMT on April 12 – unless May comes up with another viable option. (VOA)