Britain’s Indian-origin home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments criticising migrants may have jeopardised Prime Minister Liz Truss’s flagship trade deal with India, as the country reacted furiously with ministers saying the deal is on the “verge of collapse”.
Braverman’s migrant comment did not go down well with the Centre, sources from Indian and British governments told The Times. Last week, the home secretary had said the “largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants”.
She said she had “reservations” about the trade deal as she felt it will increase migration to the UK, and that Indians represented the largest group of visa overstayers, The Times report stated.
“I do have some reservations. Look at migration in this country — the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants,” she was quoted as saying by The Spectator.
Truss, possibly in damage control mode, said Britain still wanted to agree to a free trade deal with India by Diwali, which is later this month. The UK prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed this on Wednesday and said, “Yes, we are working on this high ambition free trade deal that would put the UK at the front of the queue to supply India’s growing middle class.”
Former PM Boris Johnson, who met his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in April, had set an ambitious target to sign the free trade agreement by Diwali.
But, it looks like Braverman’s comments may have caused some serious damage. Sources in the central government said “disrespectful” comments had left the ministers and officials “shocked and dismayed”, as per The Times report. Sources quoted in the report said the India-UK “relationship has taken a step back” as a result of the remarks and if Truss wanted to save the deal, she must “disassociate” herself from Braverman’s remarks.
Under the free trade agreement, India is seeking additional work and study visas for its residents, as well as a new visa modelled after an agreement with Australia and New Zealand that permits people below 35 years to live in UK for up to three years.
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