Labor accused the Home Secretary of ‘undermining’ the UK’s negotiating position in trade talks with India and attacked the Tories for ‘broken promises’ on delivering deals.
Trade Minister Greg Hands said the majority of chapters in a possible UK-India trade deal were “closed” and the next round of talks would start “soon”.
Boris Johnson said in April, during a visit to India when he was still prime minister, that he had asked negotiators to complete the deal by Diwali on October 24.
Asking an urgent question in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labor Shadow Cabinet International Trade Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said negotiations appeared to have “stalled”.
He accused Home Secretary Suella Braverman of causing “offence” through remarks she made about Indians overstaying their visas.
Ms Braverman, when she was Home Secretary under Liz Truss, said she had ‘reservations’ about relaxing immigration controls as part of any trade deal with India, telling The Spectator that she had “concerns about opening up a border migration policy with India because I don’t have ‘I don’t think that’s why people voted with Brexit”.
“Look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants,” she told the magazine.
Business visas remain an area of ”active negotiation”, Mr Hands told MPs.
Speaking on behalf of Labour, Mr Thomas-Symonds said: ‘The Home Secretary has completely undermined the UK’s negotiating position.’
“Promised progress on new free trade agreements has not materialized, they are all talk and no delivery,” he said, adding of the proposed deal with India: “There seems like progress in trade talks has stalled, yet another product of Tory infighting.
He asked if there was a completion target and said: ‘The delay in this deal and the US deal means there is no prospect of the Conservative Party meeting its manifest target of 80 per cent of the trade covered by free trade agreements by the end. of the year.
“And doesn’t the minister accept the simple truth that when it comes to trade, the Tories have simply broken their promises?”
Mr Hands told the Commons: “We are negotiating an ambitious free trade deal that works for both countries. We have already closed the majority of chapters and look forward to the next round of talks shortly.
“We have made it clear that we have concluded, as we said, the majority of the chapters of the agreement, 16 chapters in 26 policy areas have been agreed so far,” the trade minister said in response to the Tillage.
On visas, he said, “In trade, we talk about mode four arrangements. These are not immigration agreements. These relate to business visas not intended for permanent establishment. With regard to mode four arrangements, this remains an area of active negotiation.
He said the government had a ‘good deal’ with Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and said: ‘This government is delivering on its trade promises, it’s the opposition that’s in Chaos and confusion, she hasn’t been able to back a single trade deal to date, and it looks like they won’t be backing this one either.
He told the Commons earlier: “We are working towards the best deal for both parties and will not sign until we have reached a deal that is fair, reciprocal and ultimately in the best interests of the British people. and the British economy.”
Former Labor minister Ben Bradshaw said: “British people are the only nationality in Europe currently excluded from India’s e-tourist visa system.”
He said the issue is “doing a lot of damage”.
Mr Hands replied: ‘We are of course always interested in the ability of our citizens to travel overseas and access other counties.
“But I would like to stress again that the trade negotiation covers what is called the movement of people under mode four, that is to say business visas, and there I am convinced that we can obtain a good agreement with India on mode four.”
Tory MP Scott Benton (Blackpool South) called on the minister to balance the ‘economic growth boost’ plan with the trade deal against the Tory manifesto pledge to cut net immigration.
Mr Benton told MPs: ‘The Minister will be mindful of our demonstrated commitment to reducing net migration and the perception among many of my constituents that we are not succeeding in this objective.’
Mr Hands said: ‘The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear about the importance of our manifesto commitments, but I remind him, as I have reminded the whole House, that this deal is not about immigration, but mode four business visas, which I think will be really important for both countries to continue to trade.”