Macron outreach to Indian students has U.K. fuming

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. AP

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. AP  

Post Brexit stand on issue remains unclear

French President Emmanuel Macron’s overtures to India during his four day visit last week, have hit a raw nerve in Britain, particularly as he sought to reach out to Indian students, encouraging them to study in France.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson took to Twitter to defend Britain’s record when it came to Indian students, pointing out that over 14,000 came to study in Britain in the first quarter of 2017 alone — a rise on the year before.

“#educationisgreatinEnglish” he wrote, responding to the French President’s tweet that sought to stress the benefits that a connection to France would bring. “I want to double the number of Indian students coming to France. If you choose France you gain access to francophonie, you gain access to Europe,” Mr Macron tweeted during his visit to New Delhi.

British concerns

His comments touch upon a couple of contested political issues in Britain — concerns around its stance on international students, and fears that European markets will seek to capitalise on Brexit-related uncertainty to lure businesses and others out of the U.K.

Last week Transport for London (TFL) banned a campaign by the Normandy Development Agency (representing the northern French region) which sought to attract British businesses through a campaign encouraging them to “vote with their feet.”

“The campaign won’t be able to advertise on the city’s transport network (such as on buses and the Tube), because it dealt with a matter of “public controversy or sensitivity,” TFL said.

The issue of international students remains particularly sensitive in the U.K., with the total numbers of Indian students making a modest recovery last year, but still below 2010 figures. Many believe a tough policy regime contributes to the declining numbers, including the fact that international students remain in the government’s official net migration figures. This has resulted in pressure on the government to maintain a tough stance on students. Meanwhile numbers of Indian students in other European countries such as Germany, have risen sharply.

There are also concerns around Britain’s hope’s of securing a trade deal with India, with Indian Deputy High Commissioner to London Dinesh Patnaik warning that Britain needed “to get its act together” and deliver on three fronts relating to goods, services and the free movement of people if it hoped to deepen its relations and conclude a formal trade deal.

“Far from opening our arms to the world, we will be tearing up preferential trade deals we already have with 27 countries in the EU and 74 outside it,” said Vincent Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats in a speech on Monday.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 3:23:33 AM |

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