Britain is launching a 14-week consultation on a future trade deal with India, seeking the views of the public and business before trade minister Liz Truss hopes to begin talks later this year.
A trade accord with India is seen as a key target for post-Brexit Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reluctantly called off a trip to the capital Delhi in April this year after COVID-19 cases spiralled across India.
Johnson’s critics suggest the leader went so far as to risk the British public’s health by delaying putting India on the travel “red list” – which all but bans travel to England from countries with high coronavirus cases – because of the trip.
The government denies the accusation. Britain’s top medic has said a coronavirus variant first identified in India will over time become dominant in the United Kingdom.
“We’re firing the starting gun on a free trade deal with India – the world’s largest democracy, fifth biggest economy, a nation of 1.4 billion people and a huge market for British goods like whisky, cars and services,” Truss said in a statement.
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