The free trade agreement between India and the United Kingdom will miss the deadline to be signed by Diwali or October-end, British Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said on Thursday, BBC reported.
“We are close...We are still working on a deal,” Badenoch said. “One of the things that has changed is that we are no longer working to the Diwali deadline.”
During his visit to India in April, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said that he has told negotiators to wrap up the free trade agreement by Diwali. Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the deal in May 2021.
The trade deal is expected to boost Britain’s trade by up to £28 billion (over 27.91 lakh crore) annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the United Kingdom by up to £3 billion (more than Rs 29,901 crore). The deal also includes the easing of immigration rules for Indians as part of the agreement.
Badenoch’s comment came a day after, The Times reported that the deal was on the “verge of collapse” after British Home Secretary Suella Braverman raised concerns over the prospect of visa concessions for India in the deal.
On October 6, Braverman had said that Indians are the largest group that overstays their visa in the United Kingdom.
“I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit,” she had told London-based magazine The Spectator in an interview.
Her remarks were reportedly seen as “disrespectful” by officials in New Delhi, according to The Times.
On Thursday, Badenoch said that the United Kingdom wishes to focus on the quality of the deal rather than how quickly it is signed.
“The negotiations are progressing well,” Badenoch told the BBC. “Given the changes that have taken place – not just in government but the mourning period [after Queen Elizabeth’s death] and so on, it makes sense for us to focus on the deal rather than the day.”
When asked about the remarks by Braverman, the trade secretary said that her comments were on a much broader basis and not specifically related to the deal.
“That’s not the conversation that I am having with my [Indian] counterpart,” she said. “We are very much focused on the content of the deal.”