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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
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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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EU Says Little Progress Made in Brexit Talks With Britain

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Brexit talks
British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis left, and European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier participate in a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels. voa

he European Union’s Brexit negotiator said Thursday that that little progress was made with the U.K. in a fifth round of talks on the country’s departure from the EU in 2019 and that he cannot yet recommend broadening negotiations to include trade.

Michel Barnier said that despite the “constructive spirit” shown in this week’s negotiations in Brussels, “we haven’t made any great steps forward.” On the question of how much Britain has to pay to settle its financial commitments, he said: “We have reached a state of deadlock, which is disturbing.”

Barnier said he would not be able to recommend to EU leaders meeting next week that “sufficient progress” has been made to broaden the talks to future EU-British relations like trade.

The leaders meet in Brussels on Oct. 19-20, and it had been hoped they would agree to widen the talks.

The EU says this can only happen when there has been progress on the issues of the financial settlement, the rights of citizens affected by Brexit and the status of the Northern Ireland-Ireland border.

But Britain says these issues are closely intertwined with their future relations like trade and must be discussed together.

“I hope the member states will see the progress we have made and take a step forward” next week, British Brexit envoy David Davis told reporters.

“We would like them to give Michel the means to broaden the negotiations. It’s up to them whether they do it. Clearly I think it’s in the interests of the United Kingdom and the European Union that they do,” Davis said.

Barnier said the two sides would work to achieve “sufficient progress” in time for a subsequent meeting of EU leaders in December.

Britain must leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but the negotiations must be completed within about a year to leave time for EU states’ national parliaments to ratify the Brexit agreement.(VOA)