UK Policy Update: Foreign Affairs Committee report on UK-India Relations
The UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) recently published a report titled Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties, following their “Global Britain” inquiry, to which NASSCOM submitted written evidence in September 2018. The report is very positive about the UK-India relationship and makes a number of recommendations on skills, migration and trade policy. Specifically, the report recommends that the UK Government should prioritise trade talks with India and do more to lay the groundwork for an eventual deal; and that the UK’s relations with India be considered as the post-Brexit immigration system is established.
In particular, we want to highlight that the NASSCOM submission to the Committee was highly impactful – it is specifically cited two times in the report, with regards to the impact of the constraints of the UK immigration system on Indian IT services sector (citation 41, p9); and NASSCOM’s proposal that short-term, high-skilled workers be considered separately from long-term migration within the UK immigration system (citation 61, p12). Elsewhere, the committee makes arguments in the course of its report that are also made by NASSCOM in its submission. For example, the report notes that the high minimum salary levels associated with the UK’s visa regime could “still damage Indian businesses” (p10).
Key Recommendations of the Report relevant for NASSCOM
- UK-India Trade: The Government should prioritise trade talks with India and do more to lay the groundwork for an eventual deal. The challenges of concluding a full trade deal should not mean that the Government places economic ties with India on the back burner. The FAC encourages the Foreign Secretary to visit India as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of 2019
- Immigration: The FCO should ensure that the goal of improving the overall relationship with India is woven into the broader Government migration policy.
- It should push for reforms to make it easier for India’s skilled workers, students, and tourists to enter the UK.
- This should include offering Indian nationals a bespoke multiple-entry visa on at least equivalent terms to those available to Chinese nationals, and steps to facilitate the movement of skilled Indian professionals for short-term projects.
- In its response to this report, the FCO should set out its assessment of how far proposals in the Immigration White Paper would meet this goal.
- The Government should urgently review its policies towards Indian students, particularly the decision to exclude them from the “low risk” list.
Implications for NASSCOM
- Big positive for NASSCOM: demonstrates the effectiveness and success of NASSCOM’s messaging and continued policy advocacy in the area of skills, trade and migration
- Will serve as a helpful point of reference for our engagement with this audience going forward, as well as with third parties and officials
- However, as with all Select Committee reports, these recommendations are advisory-only and it will therefore be important to review the Government’s response to this report once published to determine the implications for NASSCOM’s engagement with Government ministers on these issues
- It is also important to consider that the UK’s final immigration system could be affected by ongoing Brexit negotiations, both ahead of the UK’s official leaving date and during the subsequent transition period. This means that the UK Government is somewhat constrained in what they can concretely commit to at this stage, particularly given current uncertainty over the Conservative leadership, potential for a general election in the near future and the overall direction of Brexit.
The UK Government typically publishes its response to Select Committee reports within 3 months. We will monitor this closely and share our analyses once the report is available. More broadly, we will take note of the specific arguments from the NASSCOM FAC submission that have landed successfully with the Committee and build on them, as we progress with our UK Government engagement strategy going forward. A big thanks to all our members for contributing to the FAC submission.