India and Britain Ink Migration Deal; UK May Get ‘Outsourced’ IT Jobs

Jaishankar and Patel Sign Migration Pact, But There’s Fine Print: Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar has signed a Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement with British Home Secretary Priti Patel at a meeting during Jaishankar’s current visit to the UK. Jaishankar later tweeted: “A fruitful meeting this morning with Home Secretary Priti Patel. Signed the Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement that would facilitate legal travel and encourage talent flows.” The keyword here appears to be “legal”. The flipside of the agreement is the tricky bit – Britain has sought Indian assistance in removing large numbers of illegal migrants from India. Determining who they are, and then deporting them will be a challenge.

Britain Flaunts Trade Deal with India as Brexit Success: The billion-pound deal announced by the prime ministers of Britain and India is being held up as a Brexit success in Britain. Trade Secretary Liz Truss told LBC Radio in London that the deal could not have been agreed had Britain still been a member of the European Union. Leaving the EU, she said, has made Britain “more flexible and nimble”. An India deal has long been heralded as the way for the UK to go once freed from the EU. The agreement now is a strong political message across Britain going beyond its business dimensions – it is being offered as evidence already of the success of Brexit.

Trade Pact Means More Jobs for UK: The new billion pound deal between India and Britain will have effects on several fronts. Among these is the creation of an expected 2,000 jobs in Britain by India-based IT companies Infosys and HCL Technologies. MPhasis, Wipro and Mastek are also due to create new jobs within the agreed investment. These will be among an expected 6,500 new jobs to be created around the UK under an agreed 533 million pounds of new Indian investment in Britain over the next three years.

‘Nursing’ the NHS Back to Health: Indian nurses working in Britain have been facing an alternating on and off policy for some years now. The agreement reached this week between India and the UK suggests a switch to the green light again. The deal agreed between the two prime ministers includes a facility to provide more training and then jobs for Indian nurses in Britain’s National Health Service. That measure comes amid reports of growing dissatisfaction among medical staff working in Britain; a significant number wants to leave. Britain is running short of both nurses and doctors. The agreement should help fill the gap in Britain, and bring some sought-after jobs in the UK for Indian nurses.

More Oxygen Concentrators May Give India a Breather: New efforts are on to raise funds to support India through the crisis concentrate on oxygen concentrators. These are devices that use oxygen in the air to give a patient boosted supply rather than the more conventional use of oxygen cylinders. The concentrators can, however, only boost oxygen up to a limited level, and are recommended for home use in relatively mild cases; they are not always a substitute for hospital-level oxygen supply. Of those in supply, the low-flow concentrator costs about 600 dollars, and a high-flow concentrator about 1,000 dollars. Several Indian community organisations have between them raised a few million dollars already. Others are looking for ways to send concentrators to their families as a standby if not for immediate need.

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COVID-19 scare at G7 meeting after Indian delegates test positive

LONDON: India’s entire delegation to the Group of Seven summit in London is self-isolating after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19, the British government said on Wednesday (May 5).

“Two delegates tested positive so the entire delegation is now self isolating,” a British official said.

“The meeting had been enabled by a strict set of COVID protocols, including daily testing of all delegates,” the British official said. British rules require a 10-day self-isolation period.

READ: India accounts for 46% of world’s new COVID-19 cases, quarter of deaths

India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he would hold his talks virtually after being exposed to possible coronavirus cases.

“Was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases,” Jaishankar tweeted.

“As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode. That will be the case with the G7 Meeting today as well.”

The meeting is a precursor to the main G7 summit due to take place at a rural English resort in June, with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders set to attend.

Britain G7

G7 Foreign Ministers (left to right) European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas, Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a family photo at the start of the G7 foreign ministers meeting in London on May 4, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Jaishankar met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in-person on Monday evening on the sidelines of the foreign ministers summit.

The US State Department said it had been advised, including by public health professionals in Britain, that its health protocols “would permit us to continue with our G7 activities as planned”.

“We have no reason to believe any of our delegation is at risk. We will continue to follow the guidance of public health professionals going forward and abide by the same strict COVID-19 protocols,” spokesman Ned Price said.

READ: G7 seeks common front on China in first talks since COVID-19 pandemic

The Indian delegation had not yet attended the main summit venue at Lancaster House, and so meetings scheduled for Wednesday went ahead as planned.

British foreign minister Dominic Raab was seen greeting and fist-bumping other G7 members as they arrived at the venue.

“We deeply regret that Jaishankar will be unable to attend the meeting today in person,” a senior UK diplomat said. “This is exactly why we have put in place strict COVID protocols and daily testing.”

On Tuesday, pictures from inside the grand Lancaster House conference venue showed the reality of diplomacy in the coronavirus age – delegates separated by plastic screens, and a “family photo” of ministers carefully spaced 2m apart.

Jaishankar was pictured meeting British interior minister Priti Patel on Tuesday, although Patel did not have to self-isolate because the meeting had been held in line with existing rules. Both were wearing masks in the photograph.

G7 meeting May 4, 2021

Talks at the start of the G7 foreign ministers meeting in London on May 4, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Stefan Rousseau)

The Indian High Commission in London did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier, British vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was unaware of a report that delegates from G7 countries were self-isolating because of a COVID-19 scare.

India is not a G7 member but was invited by Britain to this week’s summit, along with Australia, South Africa and South Korea.

India has been hit by a devastating wave of infections in recent weeks that has taken its total number of cases to more than 20.6 million.

The massive spike has pushed the healthcare system to breaking point, overwhelming hospitals and leading to severe shortages of beds, oxygen and other critical medical supplies.

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India to Take Back Illegal Migrants From UK in Return for Visas for 3,000 Young Workers

PM Narendra Modi and British counterpart Boris Johnson (Reuters)

PM Narendra Modi and British counterpart Boris Johnson (Reuters)

The pact will provide enhanced employment opportunities for 3,000 young Indian professionals annually.

  • Reuters New Delhi
  • Last Updated:May 04, 2021, 22:16 IST

The United Kingdom and India on Tuesday signed an agreement on migration and mobility between the two countries, an Indian foreign ministry official said.

The pact will provide enhanced employment opportunities for 3,000 young Indian professionals annually, in return for India agreeing to take back any of its citizens who are living illegally in the UK, Sandeep Chakravorty told a news conference.

“It is our solemn duty that Indian nationals who are undocumented, or are in distress abroad and not being given nationality or residence permits, have to be taken back,” he said.

Migration has long been a source of friction between the two countries, with a similar proposal collapsing in 2018 due to disagreements.

At the time, London claimed there were as many as 100,000 Indians living illegally in the UK, though New Delhi disputes this figure.

Tens of thousands of Indians study in the UK each year, and New Delhi has complained about a lack of employment opportunities available to them when they finish their studies.

The migration pact comes after the two countries announced 1 billion pounds ($1.39 billion) of private-sector investment. Talks on a full trade deal are due to begin in the autumn.

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France warns of retaliatory measures over post-Brexit fishing rights

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The French government warned Tuesday that it was weighing reprisals after Britain set new rules governing access for French fishing boats near the Channel Islands, the latest skirmish in a deepening post-Brexit dispute.

“We are ready to use these retaliation measures,” Maritime Minister Annick Girardin told lawmakers in parliament.

She mentioned in particular consequences involving the underwater cables that supply electricity from France to Jersey, the largest Channel island.

“I am sorry it has come to this,” Girardin said, but “we will do so if we have to.”

Paris and London have increasingly clashed over fishing in recent weeks, as French fishermen say they are being prevented from operating in British waters because of difficulties in obtaining licences.

In the latest move, Britain on Friday authorised 41 ships equipped with Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) technology – which allows ships to be located – to fish in waters off Jersey, a self-governing British Crown Dependency. 

But this list was accompanied by new demands “which were not arranged or discussed (with France), and which we were not notified about”, the French fisheries ministry said. 

The measures effectively create new zoning rules for the waters near Jersey – “where the ships can go and cannot go”, as well as the number of days the fishermen can spend at sea and using what machinery, the ministry added. 

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Girardin said. “If we accept this for Jersey, it would imperil our access everywhere.”


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PM Modi, Boris Johnson Discuss Extradition of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi During Virtual Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday held a virtual summit with his British counterpart Boris Johnson wherein the leaders discussed the extradition of fugitive Indian businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. Modi sought an early extradition of the economic offenders, and the UK PM assured to do everything possible, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The meeting also aimed at further bolstering bilateral ties between the two countries in a range of areas including healthcare and trade, as the UK Prime Minister announced GBP 1 billion worth of UK-India trade and investment. According to a statement from Johnson’s office, “more than 6,500 new jobs will be created around the UK thanks to the one billion pounds of new UK-India trade and investment announced by the Prime Minister today.”

The package contains over 533 million pounds of new Indian investment into the UK, which is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in vital and growing sectors such as health and technology, Downing Street said. This includes a GBP 240 million investment by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the UK into its vaccine business and a new sales office in the country, expected to generate new business worth over USD 1 billion, it added.

During the meeting, the two leaders had substantive discussions on the entire gamut of India-UK ties, and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, said Sandeep Chakraborty, Joint Secretary, Europe West, MEA. They also discussed the Covid-19 pandemic situation and ongoing cooperation in the fight against it.

Modi thanked Johnson for a prompt medical assistance provided by the UK, in wake of a severe second wave of Covid-19 in India. UK was one of the first to respond to the medical crisis in India, and sent critical medical equipment, like oxygen concentrators, cylinders, ventilators, amongst others. The successful vaccine partnership through Oxford/AstraZeneca-SII collaboration was also discussed during the meet, said Chakraborty.

The two sides are also expected to unveil an ambitious 10-year roadmap to further broaden ties at the end of the summit. Ahead of the summit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Sunday said the meet will be an important opportunity to elevate the multi-faceted strategic ties and enhance cooperation on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

“A comprehensive roadmap 2030 will be launched during the summit, which will pave the way for further expanding and deepening India-UK cooperation over the next decade across five key areas,” the MEA had said. Johnson was scheduled to visit India late last month. But days before the visit, he called it off in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

In January too, Johnson’s planned trip to India to participate in the Republic Day parade as the chief guest was cancelled following a surge in COVID-19 infections in the UK. Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and British Home Secretary Priti Paten signed a migration and mobility partnership agreement.

Jaishankar is currently on a four-day visit to the UK to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of G7 countries. “A fruitful meeting this morning with Home Secretary @pritipatel. Signed the Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement that would facilitate legal travel and encourage talent flows. The living bridge between India andthe UK will get stronger as a result,” he tweeted.

(With inputs from PTI)

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UK, India to start formal FTA talks within months

LONDON: Britain and India will begin formal free trade deal talks later this year, the UK government said Tuesday (May 4), after they agreed an initial package to boost bilateral trade and investment.

With its massive population and growing economy, India has been high on London’s list of trade deal targets since Britain left the European Union last year.

Under a post-Brexit “Global Britain” strategy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is pivoting its foreign policy priorities towards the Asia-Pacific region, signing trade deals with countries including Japan and Singapore.

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said India and Britain would start negotiations on an agreement “in the autumn”, following the announcement of a preliminary “Enhanced Trade Partnership” deal.

“We want to get these negotiations completed as soon as possible,” she told Sky News during a round of broadcast interviews touting the partnership package worth £1 billion ($1.4 billion, 1.2 billion euros).

“Of course, FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) take longer, this is the immediate gains that we can get for both countries, driving jobs here in Britain and in India,” Truss added.

She said both countries were looking for “early wins” reducing barriers to trade from an FTA, noting Britain wants tariffs lowered or removed on various exports to India, from cars to whiskey.

The comments come ahead of virtual talks between Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi later on Tuesday.

That follows Johnson postponing for a second time an official visit to India last month, due to the worsening coronavirus situation there.

– ‘Self-Reliant India’ –

The partnership announcement with India includes lower trade barriers for some UK exports such as fruit and medical devices.

It also includes investment in Britain by vaccine maker the Serum Institute of India, which could eventually see more of its inoculations made in the UK.

Johnson’s office said it expects the deal preceding FTA talks to create over 6,500 jobs.

But there are signs India may be reluctant to sign a more wide-ranging trade pact, as Modi pushes “Made in India” and “Self-Reliant India” agendas.

Last year he abruptly baulked at joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement among 15 Asia-Pacific nations, because New Delhi feared its agricultural, dairy and services sectors would be disadvantaged.

Former US president Donald Trump disparaged India as the “tariff king” for its duties on imported goods, hobbling trade talks despite his friendly relations with Modi.

Talks are due to resume between India and the EU on a free-trade deal later this month, eight years after 16 rounds of talks broke up in deadlock.

Trade negotiations are also reportedly set to resume with Canada soon after a gap of four years.

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Jaishankar to Join G7 Ministers to Agree on Action Against Threats to Democracy

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will have his first interaction with the G7 leaders in London on Tuesday evening, when he joins foreign ministers from some of the world’s leading democracies to agree on decisive action on the most critical global issues such as threats to democracy.

In the first major in-person diplomatic gathering since the coronavirus pandemic began and the first gathering of G7 Foreign Ministers since 2019, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will lead discussions on pressing geopolitical issues that threaten to undermine democracy, freedoms and human rights. This includes relations with Russia, China, and Iran as well as the crisis in Myanmar, the violence in Ethiopia and the ongoing war in Syria.

At the end of a daylong set of sessions at Lancaster House in London involving foreign ministers from the G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, US, UK and the European Union (EU)ministers from guest countries India, Australia, the Republic of Korea and South Africa and the Chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will join the discussions at a working dinner for the first time as the focus shifts to the Indo-Pacific region. The UK’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats, Raab said.

“The addition of our friends from Australia, India, the Republic of Korea and South Africa, as well as the chair of ASEAN reflects the growing significance of the Indo Pacific region for the G7,” he said.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the UK, as the host nation, will use the working dinner to outline Britain’s vision for cooperation between the G7 and the nations of the Indo-Pacific region to develop stronger trade ties, ensure stability and tackle climate change. Jaishankar, who arrived in London on Monday, is scheduled for a bilateral meeting with Raab on Thursday at Chevening in Kent, around 50 km from London.

The G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ discussions during the day on Tuesday will cover the coup in Myanmar as attendees watch a video from the National Unity Government which will update them on the situation on the ground. Raab will urge G7 nations to take stronger action against the military junta. This includes expanding targeted sanctions against individuals and entities connected to the junta; support for arms embargoes and increased humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable in the country. The discussions will then turn to the situation in Libya and the ongoing war in Syria.

The afternoon session will cover the situation in Ethiopia as well as Somalia, the Sahel and Western Balkans. The foreign ministers will also discuss Russia’s ongoing “malign activity”, including through the build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine and its imprisonment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the situation in Belarus.

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Modi-Boris Virtual Summit Brings GBP 1Bn Worth of Deals, Enhanced Trade Partnership

The British government has finalised GBP 1 billion worth of trade and investment with India, creating over 6,500 jobs in Britain, ahead of the virtual summit between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday. The investments confirmed by Downing Street on Monday evening form part of an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP), which the two leaders will formally sign off during their talks. The ETP will set the ambition to double the value of UK-India trade by 2030 and declare a shared intent to begin work towards a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Like every aspect of the UK-India relationship, the economic links between our countries make our people stronger and safer, said Johnson. Each and every one of the more than 6,500 jobs we have announced today will help families and communities build back from coronavirus and boost the British and Indian economies. In the decade ahead, with the help of (the) new partnership signed today and a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, we will double the value of our trading partnership with India and take the relationship between our two countries to new highs, he said.

The trade and investment package unveiled by the British government contains over GBP 533 million of new Indian investment into the UK, covering areas such as healthcare and technology. This includes a GBP 240 million investment by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the UK into its vaccine business and a new sales office in the country, expected to generate new business worth over USD 1 billion. Serum Institute’s investment will support clinical trials, research and development and “possibly” manufacturing of vaccines, to help the UK and the world defeat the coronavirus pandemic and other deadly diseases, Downing Street said.

British businesses have also secured new export deals with India worth more than GBP 446 million, which is expected to create more than 400 British jobs. This includes CMR Surgical exporting its next-generation Versius surgical robotic system, which helps surgeons perform minimal access surgery being rolled out to hospitals in India. This export deal is worth GBP 200 million and will result in the creation of 100 new jobs in the UK.

With almost 1.4 billion people, India’s population is bigger than the EU and US combined and by far the largest market the UK has committed to negotiating a trade deal with to date, Downing Street said. The ETP agreed between India and the UK is said to create immediate opportunities for British businesses in India across industries including food and drink, life sciences and the service sector. Non-tariff barriers on fruit and medical devices will be lowered, allowing British businesses to export more of their products to India and boosting UK growth and jobs. It also commits both sides to addressing immediate market access barriers as well as continuing to seek further opportunities on the road to an FTA.

A future UK-India trade deal will support hundreds of thousands of jobs and boost the economies of both the UK and India by potentially lowering or removing current tariffs such as those of up to 150 per cent on whisky and up to 125 per cent on automotives as well as on other British products. It would also create huge benefits for British services — four out five of India’s fastest growing imports are for services like IP and telecommunications, Downing Street said.

The trade barriers addressed by the ETP include lifting restrictions to enable fruit producers across the UK to export British apples, pears and quince to India for the first time and improved access for medical devices through the acceptance of UK Certificates of Free Sale in India, removing the requirement for additional accreditation of UK medical devices when exporting to the Indian market before they can be sold.

There is also a commitment to deepening cooperation in educational services and concluding work on the recognition of UK higher education qualifications, which will encourage an increase in student flows, skills transfer and knowledge sharing between the UK and India. It has also been agreed for both sides to work on removing barriers in the Indian legal services sector preventing UK lawyers from practising international and foreign law in India, a step that Downing Street could significantly increase UK legal services exports and UK legal services imports from India. According to official statistics, trade between the UK and India is already worth around GBP 23 billion a year, supporting more than half a million jobs.

Last week, Johnson spoke to Indian business leaders from companies Infosys and HCL and the software majors are among the Indian firms listed as part of a series of investment deals, set to create 1,000 jobs each in the UK. Some of the others on the list include the likes of biotech firm Global Gene Corp, TVS Motors and Goila Butter Chicken. The UK companies clinching export deals with India include Morningside Pharmaceuticals with an R&D pact, Kloudpad with a data centres deal, BP in a partnership with Infosys and GoZero Mobility with an e-bicycles deal.

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France rejects UK’s post-Brexit provisional changes to fishing licences

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France has called on the European Commission to intervene after rejecting Britain’s provisional changes to fishing licences under the Brexit agreement, which would affect fishing rights in the Channel Islands.

France’s ministry for maritime affairs said Monday that it considered the new requirements put forth by the UK as “null and void” and called for a strict compliance on fisheries as negotiated under the Brexit agreement.

“If the UK wants to introduce new provisions then it must submit these to the European Commission, who then notifies us, which enables us to engage in a dialogue. At this stage, we find that these new technical measures are not applicable to our fishermen as they stand,” the ministry told AFP.

The new provisions concern new fishing zones, particularly around the waters of Jersey Island, “where vessels can and cannot go”, while specifying the “number of days” fishermen can spend at sea and “with what gear”, the department said.

On Friday, the UK published a list of 41 fishing vessels equipped with Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and authorised to fish in waters around Jersey Island since Saturday.

The European Commission had been informed of the new provisions and was expected to “enter into a dialogue with the United Kingdom to understand what the changes mean and to provide us with some clarifications”, the ministry said.  

“It is clear that there will need to be a response to what the Jersey authorities have done in relation to fishing authorisations. We hope that the state will take retaliatory measures,” said Dimitri Rogoff, president of the Normandy regional fisheries committee.

The regional fisheries committees of Brittany and Normandy have threatened “a suspension of all economic relations with Jersey, including the ferry link between Jersey and the Continent”, in a joint statement sent to AFP.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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Back to the dance floor? Test events set stage for return of nightclubs and festivals

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Liverpool in the UK held a two-day mini-festival over the weekend, which saw around 5,000 attendees flock to the city’s Sefton Park, while on Friday night, the city hosted a club night at a warehouse on the docks. These are just the latest events testing whether it is safe for large crowds to gather in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – and may be the first sign of a long awaited return to nightlife and live music.

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