UK prime minister Boris Johnson will visit India in January 2021 to boost jobs and investment in Britain.
The UK government is expecting the trip to enhance cooperation in key areas throughout 2021 and beyond, including trade and investment, defence, security as well as climate change.
Johnson has also invited India’s prime minister Narendra Modi to attend the G7 as one of three guest nations, alongside South Korea and Australia, when the UK hosts the leaders’ meeting in 2021.
The British prime minister’s decision to visit India first “underlines his commitment to step up the UK’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific region,” according to a government press statement.
The COVID-19 pandemic as hit the UK economy hard, severely impacting jobs as unemployment and redundancies have risen. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced on Tuesday that unemployment in the UK rose to 4.9%, up from 4.8% a month earlier.
The UK and European Union (EU) are also attempting to work out a post-Brexit agreement.
The UK government forecasts a no-deal scenario will reduce UK GDP by 7.6% after 15 years, while reaching a free trade agreement with the bloc will lead to a 4.9% decline.
This could further dampen the economy and jobs outlook, making Johnson’s first major bilateral visit since taking office all the more important. It will also mark the first trip after the UK’s departure from the EU.
During former prime minister Theresa May’s last visit to India in 2016, visas became a major sticking point, with her rejecting calls to raise the Indian visa quota. Yet from 1 January, the UK’s new points-based system will be in place, which would put Indians at par with EU citizens on immigration criteria. The candidate will need to secure a job offer from an approved sponsor, speak English at a required level, and have a salary of at least £20,480 unless the industry has a shortage of workers or they have a PhD.
Meanwhile, UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab met India’s external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Tuesday to set out the UK’s ambition for a strengthened UK-India relationship over the next decade.
The foreign secretary is due to meet Modi on Wednesday to discuss a ‘10-year roadmap’ for a new era in closer collaboration on an enhanced trade partnership, and working together to end the coronavirus crisis and to tackle climate change.
The enhanced trade partnership will unlock economic benefit for the UK and India. Ahead of a future Free Trade Agreement, it will boost bilateral trade and investment, which already stands at almost £24bn and grew by 11% in the last financial year. UK-India investment supports over half a million jobs in each other’s economies, according to official data.
WATCH: UK foreign secretary meets India’s external affairs minister