London: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met British Home Secretary Priti Patel in London Tuesday and signed a “landmark” new Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement, which he said would strengthen the “living bridge” between the two countries.
According to the UK Home Office, the new agreement will lead to a bespoke route for young professionals aged 18-30 years from either country to work and live in the other country for up to 24 months under a professional and cultural exchange programme.
It also covers enhanced and accelerated processes to return Indian nationals with no legal right to stay in the UK and vice versa, and ensure greater cooperation around organised immigration crime.
“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,” Jaishankar tweeted alongside images of his meeting with the British Indian Cabinet minister.
“The living bridge between India and UK will get stronger as a result,” he said.
The agreement, agreed in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), is one of the outcomes of a Virtual Summit between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
“This landmark agreement with our close partners in the government of India will provide new opportunities to thousands of young people in the UK and India seeking to live, work and experience each other’s cultures,” said Patel.
“This agreement will also ensure that the British government can remove those with no right to be in the UK more easily and crack down on those abusing our system,” she said.
Dubbed as a first-of-its-kind agreement between the two countries, both governments have agreed enhanced mobility provisions for young professional Indian and British citizens which will allow people to live and work in the two countries for up to two years.
On illegal migration, the new Partnership will ensure swifter and more efficient returns by accelerating timescales for removals, by committing appropriate resources to facilitate returns, and steps to make it easier for Indian nationals to be identified and returned.
The Home Office said that both governments are determined to tackle a wide range of immigration and homeland security issues and this agreement commits both sides to regular dialogue in this area for the first time.
“I am committed to delivering for the British public a fair but firm New Plan for Immigration that will attract the best and brightest talent to the UK through our new points-based immigration system, whilst clamping down on those who are abusing the system. This ground-breaking new agreement with India is an important milestone in delivering on this pledge,” Patel added.
The new route adds to previous announcements under the UK’s points-based immigration system, which includes a new Graduate post-study visa route for Indian students to gain work experience.
According to the most recent statistics, more than 53,000 students from India came to the UK to study last year, up 42 per cent on the previous year. Nearly a quarter of all international students in the UK are from India, the Home Office said.
The issue of illegal Indian migrants in the UK has long been on the agenda of bilateral negotiations, with both sides failing to agree on the numbers in question.
While the UK maintains around 100,000 Indians are living illegally in the country, India has questioned the veracity of those numbers in the past because that figure is believed to also cover nationals from other parts of the Indian subcontinent. The two sides were close to signing an agreement on the issue in 2018 before it fell through over this ambiguity.
Jaishankar’s meeting with Patel coincides with an announcement by Downing Street of an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) agreed at the virtual prime ministerial summit.
The UK government said it has finalised 1-billion pound worth of trade and investment with India and that the ETP sets an ambition to double the value of bilateral trade by 2030 and declares a shared intent to begin work towards a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Jaishankar is in London for the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers Meeting at the invitation of host UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and will join other guest nations at a working dinner later Tuesday evening to agree on action on critical issues such as threats to global democracy.