Rishi Sunak has signalled there is optimism the UK can conclude a trade deal with India after saying the two countries can “work through” the final negotiation hurdles.
Statements made by the Prime Minister and No 10 following a meeting with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on the fringes of the G20 summit suggested fresh trade terms could be in sight.
Mr Sunak, who described his conversation with Mr Modi as “warm and productive”, told broadcasters in New Delhi on Saturday: “There is a desire on both of our parts to see a successful trade deal concluded.
“The opportunities are there for both countries, but there is a lot of hard work that is still to go and we need to work through that, as we will do.”
Downing Street said the premiers signed off on ministers and negotiating teams continuing to work “at pace” towards a free trade deal.
A trade pact with India, an agreement that could grant more favourable access for British companies to a market of 1.4 billion people, is seen as a major post-Brexit prize by the Conservative UK Government.
The Prime Minister, who is the first British leader of Indian descent, told reporters during his flight from London to New Delhi on Thursday that an agreement was “not a given” but his comments have gradually become more positive since arriving at the G20.
On Friday, he told Indian broadcaster Asian News International that “enormous progress” had been made before going further with his most recent remarks, suggesting the final obstacles could be worked through.
The deal is reportedly being held up by a variety of issues, including a disagreement over the number of visas for Indians to work in the UK and differences over the level of access British car manufacturers should be given to India’s market.
Mr Sunak, unlike his predecessor Boris Johnson, who wanted to seal a deal in time for October 2022 Diwali celebrations, said he would not set “arbitrary deadlines” for finalising an agreement.
With reports suggesting he could return to India in the autumn, the Indian government’s aim of ratifying fresh trade terms by the end of the year could be met.