Indian negotiators have repeatedly told their British counterparts that the talks, under the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), are about movement of personnel and professionals and have nothing to do with immigration. But there has been a sense that the UK is reluctant to ease rules for genuine business workers.
Besides, social security contributions made by Indian workers in the UK are proving to be the other stumbling block. India wants the UK to do away with social security contributions, which add up to 20% of the salary in several cases, arguing that none of the benefits accrue to them unless they spend a long period in the UK. But given the visa restrictions, the time frame is never met, and the social security contribution turns into a tax of sorts for which no credit is available to the employees.
Alternatively, the Indian side is of the view that contributions towards social security should be refunded or credit should be provided for contributions made in India. So far, however, there has been little progress on this front. “There has been some progress in the talks but there has not been much headway on the services side,” an official said, adding that proposals are still being discussed. Another official familiar with the negotiations told TOI that some of the issues were taken up by commerce & minister Piyush Goyal during his bilateral meeting with his counterpart Kemi Badenoch. In fact, Goyal is learnt to have clearly conveyed that immigration was noton India’s agenda and the government was looking at making it easier for technology and other professionals to work in the UK.
For instance, negotiators have sought to impress upon the British negotiators that even for delivery of IT services by an Indian company, some visas for temporary stay may be required to execute the contract. Besides, Indian companies which have set up shop in the UK, while loo-king to find qualified workers in Britain, may also need to tap into their workforce in India and visa rules should allow for mobility.
Besides, officials said that even in the case of workers going on visas, there were eligibility conditions that needed to be met.