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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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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May Survives Through Vote Of No-Confidence

If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?

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Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Wednesday, one day after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against her plan to divorce Britain from the European Union.

Surviving the vote enables May to refocus on getting a Brexit deal through parliament. She has until Monday to offer a new proposal to the House of Commons, but it isn’t clear what she will propose.

Shortly after the 325 to 306 vote allowing May to remain in office, she invited party leaders for Brexit talks Wednesday night.

More talks?

May said before the vote Wednesday that Britain would leave the EU on the March 29 target date, and that the bloc would only consider extending the negotiating period if there were a realistic exit plan.

Aides to the prime minister said she will try to buy more time and return to Brussels to try to cajole EU leaders into a renegotiation.

EU leaders have repeatedly rejected the possibility of renegotiations since the deal was concluded in November, but British officials hope Brussels now may offer enough concessions to secure parliamentary backing on a replayed vote on an amended deal.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, filed a motion of no confidence in the government immediately after the result Tuesday.

Britain would have held a general election had May lost the vote. Most analysts said they expected her to survive the vote, and the minority Northern Ireland party she relies on to keep her minority government in office had said it would back the government.

Tuesday’s vote was the biggest parliamentary reversal ever handed a sitting government, with lawmakers — including more than 100 rebels from her ruling Conservative Party — refusing to endorse the highly contentious Brexit deal.

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Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party, talks during a no-confidence debate after Parliament rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal, in London, Jan. 16, 2019. VOA

The government’s defeat plunged into greater disarray Britain’s scheduled March 29 exit from the EU. Major questions remain about how and whether it will happen.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that after the British parliament’s rejection of a draft agreement detailing the country’s divorce from the EU, the risk of reaching the deadline with no deal in place is higher than ever.

The vote against the agreement was the biggest parliamentary reversal ever handed a sitting government, with lawmakers, including more than 100 rebels from her ruling Conservative party, refusing to endorse the highly contentious Brexit deal.

Just 202 lawmakers backed May’s deal with 432 voting against it. The defeat dwarfed the previous 1924 record when then-Labor Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald lost a vote by 166, triggering the collapse of his government and a general election, which he lost.

After the vote, May said, “The vote tells us nothing” about what the House of Commons would agree to regarding Brexit.

Second referendum

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A pro-European demonstrator protests in front of a Leaver campaign board opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, Jan. 15, 2019, ahead of lawmakers’ vote on whether to accept British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Later, the plan was soundly defeated. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. VOA

The defeat of May’s plan will give further momentum to a burgeoning campaign in the House of Commons, and among Remainers in the country, for a second referendum, according to analysts. Remainers hope a replayed referendum would reverse the Brexit plebiscite of 2016, which Leavers narrowly won.

The vote on the deal — which originally was due in December but was delayed by the government when it became clear there was insufficient backing for it to pass — also leaves hanging in the balance May’s future as prime minister. Her aides maintained at the end of a day of high political drama that she wouldn’t resign.

“She is the person who has to deliver Brexit,” said British Business Minister Claire Perry, who said May didn’t need to resign.

“There will be other attempts at this. There will be strenuous efforts to improve on the deal,” Perry said.

The sheer scale of the defeat throws into doubt whether even a reshaped Brexit Withdrawal Agreement would secure parliamentary approval in the future, even if the EU is prepared to reopen negotiations.

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British Business Minister Claire Perry arrives to attend a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

‘Hopelessly optimistic’

“Her Plan B, more of the same, is hopelessly optimistic,” said commentator Isabel Oakeshott.

Also Read: British Lawmakers Rejects Brexit Deal, PM Faces Vote Of No-Confidence

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted when news of the historic vote broke: “I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening. I urge the UK to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”

EU President Donald Tusk reflected the frustration of many in Brussels, tweeting: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” (VOA)