Britain’s new Home Secretary Suella Braverman has warned against signing a free trade deal with India, saying that it would lead to a huge increase in immigration.
Ms Braverman, the daughter of Indian-origin migrants from Mauritius and Kenya and an arch Brexiteer who has championed free trade with economies like India and China, said Brexiteers did not vote for an open borders policy with India and alleged that a majority of visa overstayers in the UK were from India.
Speaking to the right-leaning Spectator magazine, Ms Braverman said the UK must limit new arrivals, and wants job vacancies filled by older workers from the UK.
The Home Secretary’s comments are certain to anger the Prime Minister Liz Truss who wants to lift caps on immigration as part of her wider plans to turbocharge economic growth.
Ms Braverman told The Spectator: ‘I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India. Look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants.
‘We even reached an agreement with the Indian government last year to encourage and facilitate better co-operation in this regard. It has not necessarily worked very well.’
According to the official government statistics 20,706 Indians overstayed their visas in 2020, higher than any other nationality, although other nationalities recorded a higher proportion of overstayers.
Of the 473,600 Indians whose visas were due to expire in the year to March 2020, 452,894 are known to have left, meaning 4.4% of them overstayed their visa.
Ms Braverman also dismissed claims that immigration rules must be relaxed to fill the hundreds of thousands of job vacancies in the UK, claiming that more than 5 million Britons were on out-of-work benefits.