- Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images
- Leaving the EU and signing new trade deals with countries elsewhere will mean continued high levels of immigration to Britain, leading businessman warns UK government.
- Lord Bilimoria, co-founder of Cobra beer, told BI that India will not accept any trade deal with the UK government unless its workers are allowed to move to Britain.
- Theresa May’s visit to India “was a disaster,” Bilimoria claimed.
LONDON – Britain will struggle to sign new free trade deals with economic powerhouses like India after Brexit unless it is willing to accept high levels of immigration from these countries into Britain.
That’s according to Lord Bilimoria, co-founder of Cobra beer, and one of Britain’s most well-known entrepreneurs.
Bilimoria spoke to Business Insider on Friday following International Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s claim that his efforts to make Britain a great trading nation are being undermined by the unwillingness of British businesses to export.
The Indian-born British businessman described Fox as “utterly unfit” to serve as International Trade Secretary and claimed that nobody “across the board” in British business “has any respect” for the Conservative minister.
“Nobody takes him seriously. That’s a fact,” Bilimoria told BI.
Bilimoria then described what he felt was a contradiction at the heart of the case for Brexit, in that Britain will not be able to significantly reduce inward migration – as many have Brexiteers promised – if it wants any hope of ambitious and wide-ranging free trade deals with countries like India.
“What trade deals has he [Fox] actually done?” the life peer said.
“The Indian high commissioner has warned that an agreement [between Britain and India] might not be in place until 2030 – and said talks haven’t even begun.
- REUTERS/Toby Melville
“He said India will want the movement of professionals; the movement of doctors, the movement of engineers. He said both sides will benefit from this exchange. It won’t be a one-way street.”
The life peer was quoting YK Sinha, India’s High Commissioner to the UK, who told the Telegraph:
“You’ve all read about issues of freer mobility of professions. That is something right up there as far as India is concerned.
“I’m not talking about unfettered access or unrestricted travel, I’m talking about movement of professionals, movement of doctors, technicians, engineers. I think both sides will benefit from this exchange.”
Bilimoria: PM May’s visit to India “was a disaster”
Bilimoria went on to accuse Theresa May of ignoring these issues in a visit to India at the end of last year, claiming the manner in which the prime minister dealt with her Indian counterparts was “no way to get a new trade deal.”
“When Theresa May went to India in November 2016 it was a disaster,” he said.
“It would have been better if she had not gone.
“In the opening bilateral speech she made, she didn’t mention the movement of people at all, didn’t mention international students, didn’t mention universities, let alone meet with the university leaders who were part of the delegation.
“And then the Indian PM – one of the most powerful people in the world – humbly said that the free movement of our people is very important to us.”
He added: “Trade deals are very difficult. India has only nine bilateral trade deals. Not one with a western country. Liam Fox thinks he can strike lots of trade deals. What deal is he going to do with India?”