Rishi Sunak 'won't rush' UK-India trade deal amid wrangle over visa rules

8 September 2023, 16:08 | Updated: 8 September 2023, 16:13

Rishi Sunak has landed in India for G20 summit
Rishi Sunak has landed in India for G20 summit. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Rishi Sunak said he "won't rush" into a UK trade deal with India as he arrived for a G20 summit of world leaders.

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The UK prime minister said he would not set an deadline for negotiations, which began early last year, to conclude. If agreed India would become the biggest country yet to strike a trade agreement with the UK since Brexit.

Mr Sunak told reporters that progress has been made, but "we're not there yet".

A UK-India deal is not on the agenda, but Mr Sunak is expected to discuss progress so far with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the summit this weekend.

It is understood that Mr Modi’s negotiators had been demanding more visas for nurses and IT professionals as the price of a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

Currently Indian students are allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduating, but Mr Modi wants to enshrine that in an agreement after Home Secretary Suella Braverman suggested the rules could change.

However, a No 10 spokesman insisted that any free trade agreement (FTA) would only focus on “trade and business”, adding: “Immigration is a separate issue.”

Mr Sunak was given a colourful welcome on his arrival in Delhi on Friday, with traditional dancers and music greeting him as he stepped off his plane.

He later met local school children with his wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of the billionaire co-founder of Indian IT giant Infosys.
Ahead of touching down Mr Sunak described the country as "very near and dear to me"

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty meet local schoolchildren at the British Council
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty meet local schoolchildren at the British Council. Picture: Alamy
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty are met on the tarmac by dignitaries
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty are met on the tarmac by dignitaries. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Rishi Sunak says he's 'India's son-in-law' as he touches down for G20 summit amid wrangle over trade deal

Read More: Rishi Sunak refuses call for more UK visas for Indians in free trade deal talks

Mr Sunak was given a colourful welcome on his arrival in Delhi on Friday, with traditional dancers and music greeting him as he stepped off his plane.

He later met local school children with his wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of the billionaire co-founder of Indian IT giant Infosys.
Ahead of touching down Mr Sunak described the country as "very near and dear to me"

Mr Sunak is the first British prime minister of Indian descent and was a regular visitor to the country before being promoted to Chancellor by former No 10 incumbent Boris Johnson shortly before the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, 43, was born in Hampshire, to Indian migrant parents – a pharmacist mother and a GP father.

He is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of NR Narayana Murthy, the founder of Indian IT giant Infosys and a major figure in the country.

Preparation Of G20 Summit
Preparation Of G20 Summit. Picture: Getty

Asked what it meant to him to be returning to India, he said: "Of course it is special. I'll be visiting a country that is very near and dear to me.

"I haven't been back for a few years. I was meant to go actually in 2020.

"We take our family typically in February half term every year, and I got made chancellor right before and I didn't get to go with the rest of my family then, so I haven't been for a little while.

"It is obviously special. I saw somewhere that I was referred to as India's son-in-law, which I hope was meant affectionately.

"But look, I'm excited to be back. It is nice to have Akshata with me as well."

In 2020, he told reporters: "I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my cultural heritage is Indian."

During his time in New Delhi, Mr Sunak is scheduled to visit important Indian cultural and religious sites, with a trip to a Hindu temple planned during his three-day stay.

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