Boris Johnson said that he had “always been in favour of having people come to this country”. He said that he hoped to strike a trade deal, reportedly worth £28bn a year, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the end of the year. Mr Johnson went on to suggest that more relaxed rules for Indian immigrants could be offered by the Government in exchange for a quicker deal that involves trading without tariffs.
This comes after statistics revealed a huge surge in migration to the UK since it introduced a points-based immigration strategy – with the largest contingent coming from India.
Mr Johnson said: “We have a massive shortage in the UK, not least in experts in IT and programmers.
“We’re short to the tune of hundreds of thousands in our economy.
“We need to have a professional approach but it has to be controlled.”
The PM’s citation of skills shortages as a reason for encouraging immigration comes after Tony Blair suggested dealing with the shortage by boosting the number of people attending university to 75 percent by 2040.
Mr Modi has presented easier immigration as a key part of a trade deal with India.
This could take the form of cheaper work visas, which can cost over £1000, or a scheme for young Indians to live and work in the UK for three years.
The Telegraph report that Downing Street hopes the long-delayed visit to India can deepen defence and economic ties between Britain and the country, and represents a key part of Mr Johnson’s post-Brexit strategy.
The “tilt to the Indo-Pacific” was announced as formal government foreign policy last year following a strategic review.
Furthermore, the diplomatic trip means that as MPs vote today on launching an investigation into whether Mr Johnson misled Parliament, he will be in India.
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This could help to promote his message of “getting on with his job” – which he had given as the reason for refusing to resign despite being the first Prime Minister in history to be sanctioned for breaking the law.
The new points-based immigration system has lowered the salary and skill thresholds for those looking to work in the UK, prompting a surge in immigration, primarily from India.
67,839 work visas were granted to Indian migrants last year – a 14 percent rise from 2019.
The trip to India also represents an opportunity for Britain to encourage further resistance to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine from the country, which has so far been limited.
India has made no promise to scale back Russian oil and gas imports or public condemnation of Mr Putin over the invasion, despite public pressure from Liz Truss.
Around two-thirds of Indian military equipment is estimated to have been purchased from Moscow.
Mr Johnson “said the UK had a deep and long-lasting partnership with India and would seek to further expand that during his visit”, as part of the official readout of the meeting issued by Downing Street.
“The UK will continue to work with other countries to provide alternative options for defence procurement and energy for India to diversify supply chains away from Russia.”
However, he added that the UK would not be looking to lecture other democratically elected governments, but instead “look to offer new opportunities which benefitted both the people of UK and India.”