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UK IT professionals could lose out in a free trade deal between UK and India

There could be an increase in Indian IT professionals coming to work in the UK post-Brexit if a new trade deal is signed with India

UK IT professionals could face increased and unfair competition from India if the UK signs a trade deal with India after Brexit.

Speaking in London recently, India’s high commissioner to the UK YK Sinha said any future trade agreement the UK has with India, which is the world’s sixth biggest economy, will require the UK to relax rules on the movement of Indian professionals to work in the UK.

He told the Telegraph: “I’m not talking about unfettered access or unrestricted travel, I’m talking about the movement of professionals, movement of doctors, technicians and engineers. I think both sides will benefit from this exchange and obviously it has to be a two-way exchange, not just one way.”

A huge proportion of Indian professionals working in the UK are IT professionals. Many of these are working in large businesses as part of IT outsourcing agreements with big Indian IT suppliers such as Tata consultancy Services, Infosys and HCL.

IT workers brought to the UK to work on contracts from overseas – from India in particular – use intra-company transfer (ICT) visas, part of the Tier 2 skilled worker category to work in the UK. This route means that, if the offshore parent company has a UK presence, it can bring workers to the UK for limited periods of time. 

UK IT professionals claim this enables businesses to use lower cost staff and make it impossible for them to compete. There are also accusations that Indian staff are brought to the UK on ICTs and are then trained up to do certain roles remotely when they return to India so they can replace more expensive UK staff.

The UK government sets a minimum pay threshold for migrant staff to try to ensure UK staff can compete on price, but allegations persist that suppliers manipulate this by including expenses in migrants’ salaries and not paying tax on them in the UK.

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