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Open letter to Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Business Secretary on visa rules

Dear Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary & Business Secretary,


It was with a sense of great alarm that we read press reports of the apparent intention by the Government to impose visa restrictions on Brazilian visitors to the UK.  


As advocates for business we must tell you that such a course of action would have the potential be highly damaging to future British economic interests.


As you will know many other EU states are actively competing with the UK to build trade links with the BRIC emerging markets like Brazil.


Our understanding was that the Government was keen to support efforts by British companies to develop trade and exports. Officials within your own departments have on-going liaison with British businesses to support trade promotion and facilitation efforts with Brazil and the BRICs, while various Ministers have made speeches talking-up the importance of trade with new, emerging markets.  


Of course, the Brazilian visa issue comes on the back of continued frustration by China at the administrative paperwork burden its citizens must complete if they decide to come over to the UK while visiting the EU.


Alongside that, several of our own member companies at LCCI have also reported visas becoming an issue for Russian counterparts while the situation with India has, apparently, been partially resolved following the Prime Minister's recent visit.  


Many observers may regard the government's approach to visas for BRIC nation as confused. Most will likely regard it as a signal that the UK is not open for business.


This year, LCCI will operate fourteen trade missions including to Brazil, Russia, China and other important new markets. 


Our objective is simple: to motivate and encourage greater numbers of British businesses to forge trade relationships with new overseas partners and for those partners to see the UK as a receptive market-place for them.


We regard overseas trade as an important component of the British economy going forward.  We would hope the Government shares that view.


However frequent media reports about new visa restrictions against one emerging nation or another are unhelpful and undermine the efforts of those working hard to foster trade and exports - particularly when in-country on a trade mission.  


While of course it is the duty of any national government to keep its borders safe, it is also a primary duty of national government to maintain a strong economy. That requires effort to encourage investment and growth.


A clear lack of joined-up thinking on visas and the importance of internal trade will threaten the UK economy going forward. 


Business looks to government departments to work together on co-ordinated policy, not fuel continued uncertainty surrounding the visa conditions pertaining to the emerging economies that the UK needs to build close relationships with, if we hope to have future prosperity.   


Yours sincerely,


Colin Stanbridge