Suella Braverman has warned she will resist an “open borders” migration policy with India as part of a trade deal.
The Home Secretary said she had “concerns” about including looser migration controls for workers and students as part of any trade deal that is currently being negotiated with India.
The Indian government is pushing for a significant liberalisation of visa routes for workers and students, while Liz Truss is said to be prepared to include migration as part of the deal.
However, in an interview with the Spectator, Mrs Braverman said: “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 said there could be flexibility for students and entrepreneurs but added: “I do have some reservations. Look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants.
“We even reached an agreement with the Indian government last year to encourage and facilitate better cooperation in this regard. It has not necessarily worked very well.”
It comes amid concerns the Treasury could push for an increase in visas for foreign workers in the drive for growth, raising the prospect of tensions with the Home Secretary who told Tory conference this week that her “ultimate aim” was to bring down net migration to “tens of thousands”.
She indicated that she would be targeting foreign students on “substandard” courses in “inadequate” universities, their dependants and “low skilled” workers in areas like agriculture where farmers should be turning to automation and local UK employees.
She told the Spectator that lowering migration numbers was a crucial part of the post-Brexit social contract.
'Employers need to pay their workers'
“Part of the Brexit restoration – I don’t call it revolution, I call it restoration – was about actually weaning employers off foreign labour,” she said.
“Ultimately, paying more is going to be the way you get people to take up these jobs. That’s going to be where we go: with a high-wage, high-skilled economy. Employers need to pay their workers.”
Kemi Badenoch, the International Trade Secretary, is also said to be unwilling to sign any agreement that would provide “open access” to a population of 1.4 billion.
Net migration is running at 230,000 people a year - similar to pre-Brexit levels - and Home Office figures this summer revealed that the number of visas for foreign nationals to live, study and work in the UK had exceeded a million for the first time.
Students account for a large proportion of overall immigration, with numbers up by 60 per cent in a year, from 256,000 to nearly 411,000 in the year to June 2022. The number of dependants increased by 170 per cent from 29,700 to 81,100.