A group of 45 British lawmakers including Indian-origin MP Shailesh Vara have written to the UK Home Secretary calling for easier post-Brexit visas for citizens of Commonwealth countries, including from India. In their letter to Amber Rudd, they urged the UK Government to “extend the hand of friendship to our Commonwealth partners” and make the UK more welcoming for Commonwealth citizens. The letter reads: “The lack of consideration for Commonwealth citizens is at its starkest at our border. In 2015, the last year for which figures are readily available, from Australia, Canada and India alone, Britain welcomed 2.2 million visitors who spent over 2 billion pounds.
“These three Commonwealth states are consistently found among the top five non-EEA (European Economic Area) nationalities arriving in the UK and travel for both business and pleasure.
“However, while EU citizens are collecting their luggage or exchanging greetings with loved ones, our Commonwealth friends wait tirelessly in the ‘All other passports’ queue.” “A key starting point in the renewal of our ties with our Commonwealth partners should be a reconfiguring of our border control system,” it added.
The recommendations in the letter are due to be debated in the Parliament on February 26, the ‘Daily Telegraph’ reported.
Lord Marland, the former energy minister and current chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, who is organising the first ever meeting of 25 Commonwealth trade ministers in London on March 9-10, welcomed the letter.
He told the newspaper: “Visas are a constant source of antagonism for Commonwealth countries. If the government is going to turbo-charge its relationship with the Commonwealth when it becomes chair of the Commonwealth next year, it will have to take into consideration visas, as well as making it easier for students to come and study in this country as part of the rebuilding of relationships with the Commonwealth post-Brexit.”
They point out that the 52 Commonwealth countries, which includes five G20 countries, offers a “ready-made, English language trading network” for Britain as it leave the EU.
India is one of the five Commonwealth countries who are also part of the influential G20.
A UK Home Office spokesman said: “Once we have left the European Union it will be the Government that sets our immigration rules.
“Voters made it clear during the referendum that they wanted the country to take back control of immigration.
“This Government will deliver on that by building an immigration system that works for everyone.”