The new system focusses on talent, and treats everybody on a level playing field, says Oliver Ballhatchet

The UK government’s new visa rules and the country’s exit from the European Union will greatly help India and further strengthen the trade and business relationships between the countries, said Oliver Ballhatchet, the British Deputy High Commissioner, on Thursday.

Ballhatchet, who took charge as the British Deputy High Commissioner in October 2019, was addressing journalists over a virtual briefing about the potential areas of business and trade partnership between the two countries. He represents the UK in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

“The Brexit transition phase ends at the end of this year. We will be moving into a whole new phase and hopefully, India will be one of the major benefactors of that change,” Ballhatchet said.

The UK, which left the EU on January 31, is currently under a transition period which ends on December 31.

Points-based system

“Something that foretells that (growth in trade and business) might be the new visa policy which now treats everybody the same regardless of where they are from,” Ballhatchet said, adding: “We are moving towards a points-based system which is focussed on talent and treats everybody on a level playing field. Just this week, we moved to that new system for students.”

On October 5, the UK government introduced new student visa routes, replacing the Tier 4 visa route, which allows international students to get visas more easily and stay in the UK even after studies. Indians already make up the third-largest foreign student population in the UK after China and the US.

“Visas are going to become simpler, more straight forward and fairer for those who apply based on talent, and I hope that favors the most who are coming from India do business in the UK,” Ballhatchet added.

In other areas of trade relations between the two countries, Ballhatchet said automotive, advanced engineering and electric vehicles (EVs) are some of the areas of focus for the UK in India.

“Health care is another big area for partnership, which reflects in the number of Indians working in the NHS, which is close to 25,000. The target is to increase it in the years to come.”

Highlighting that the UK has the largest capacity of offshore wind anywhere in the world, Ballhatchet said: “We are quite optimistic about the potential of offshore wind energy, but it is currently at a nascent stage in India.”