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It's time to recognise the truth – a trade deal with India means concessions on immigration

Since 2010, there has been a decline of more than 50 per cent in Indian international students coming to the UK.

There is a portrait of Sir Thomas Roe hanging in the Palace of Westminster. Just over four centuries ago, Sir Thomas Roe sought Emperor Jahangir’s blessings to bring British trade to India, then the richest empire in the world, and thereby separate Britain’s interests from Europe’s destiny at a time when Britain’s ambitions were too often stifled by those of greater European powers.

This might all sound very familiar. Four centuries on, we are celebrating the UK-India Year of Culture and the UK government is tackling the EU exit negotiations with a confidence that betrays none of the growing uneasiness and lack of trade negotiation expertise in the civil service.

It is clear that the UK government has catastrophically misjudged the difficulty it could face in striking trade deals with large and complex nations such as the US and India once the UK leaves the EU.

For example, I will not be eagerly awaiting the results of the Migration Advisory Committee’s study of the economic impact of EU Migration when next September rolls by. At the level of bilateral trade talks, new rules on the movement of people are already a must.

A trade deal with India – not necessarily a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which may even be unachievable – is going to require significant skill and diplomacy, which this government has not shown, particularly on the movement of people.

Those responsible for laying the groundwork for the UK’s trading negotiations with bilateral trading partners should look for a new approach.

India is rightly one of the UK’s top targets for bilateral trade; it is one of the largest markets in the world with over 1.25 billion citizens. Bilateral trade and investment is strong, and more than 800 Indian companies in the UK add an estimated £26 billion to our economy and support over 110,000 jobs, according to a Grant Thornton report.

There is a great relationship between the oldest democracy in the world and the largest democracy in the world. Brexit will not drive a wedge between them.

But bilateral relationships consist of more than equity and trading volume. They are about allowing trade to transform the two countries so that they can tackle different challenges together.

Deepening this relationship takes dedication, huge investments of time and several factors in common – including defence and security, science and research objectives, digital skills, and other shared endeavours.

India and the UK have great scope for much of this. The UK has highly enviable research bases, a shared interest in India’s fast-growth technology centres and a large number of joint defence operations with the Indian Army. 

It goes without saying that there would have to be concessions made on the freedom of movement if the UK and India are going to negotiate constructively.

The UK's immigration policies are restrictive enough when it comes to Indians - restrictions on the availability of Tier 2 visas have led to a more than 50 per cent decline in Indian international students studying in the UK since 2010.

This is a huge stumbling block. In Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own words, addressing Prime Minister Theresa May at the India-UK Tech Summit last November: “Education is vital for our students and will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in education and research opportunities.”

PM May's obstinate deafness to this advice means we face a perception problem now too. Not only are Indian students declining in number for practical reasons, many now consider themselves unwelcome in the UK, too. Worse, questions are widely being raised as to how open for business a Brexit-bound UK really is.

The government must open up to the voice of the higher education sector, previously dismissed by PM May, during her time as Home Secretary, as "university lobbyists". The UK needs to be able to attract more foreign researchers and students. 

That portrait of Sir Thomas Roe hanging in the Palace of Westminster should not fool our politicians into thinking that they are the trade ambassadors that we need today.

Our ambassadors need to come from every sector and we need to let every UK community guide the plan for the UK’s future outside of the EU.

This includes EU citizens living in the UK – an estimated three million individuals – and also the many diaspora communities – whether they are Spanish, Italian, Polish, Bangladeshi, Ghanaian – and it especially includes our international students.

Living and working shoulder-to-shoulder with Nobel laureates, politicians and senior business leaders, international students and graduates of UK universities are the best possible ambassadors for the UK anywhere in the world.

And the passage of people from one part of the world to another is what lets ideas take root. For its size, the UK attracts a lot of new ideas – look at the start-up rates of new enterprises and in the rate at which the UK publishes highly-cited scientific papers.

In the last two decades, the advances of developing nations such as India and China have seen their share of wealth and technological prowess increase beyond that of the developed world. They still envy the UK’s ability to develop new ideas, and threatening our power to do so will halt negotiations over trade deals for all time.

Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc, which publishes titles including India Global Business Magazine and the editor of a new study of the UK and India's partnership, Winning Partnership: India-UK Relations Beyond Brexit.

Photo: Getty
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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.