Rishi Sunak has told how is optimistic the UK can sign a post-Brexit free trade deal with India after meeting with the country’s leader Narendra Modi at the G20 summit.
Mr Sunak said he believed the two countries can “work through” the final negotiation hurdles and described his conversation with Mr Modi as “warm and productive”.
He said at the event in New Delhi, India: “There is a desire on both of our parts to see a successful trade deal concluded,” adding there was “hard work” still to be done on the trade deal, but he was “confident there is a deal there to be done”.
“Trade deals of this size and ambition are never easy,” adding he would never put an “arbitrary deadline”.
“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 in a statement following the talks that negotiating teams are 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, said during his flight from London to New Delhi on Thursday (7 September) 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.
According to reports, Mr Sunak could return to India in the autumn, meaning the Indian government’s aim of ratifying fresh trade terms by the end of the year could be met.
The meeting between the pair came after G20 leaders made a declaration which calls for “durable peace in Ukraine”.
In a statement they said: “We call on all states to uphold the principles of international law including territorial integrity and sovereignty, international humanitarian law, and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability.
“We…welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine.”
“The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”
Mr Sunak has been outspoken in condemning Russian president Vladimir Putin’s 19-month assault on Kyiv while India has kept ties open with the Kremlin since Moscow’s forces crossed the Ukrainian border in February 2022.
The Tory leader would not confirm whether he pressed his counterpart to take a firmer stance on Russia.
Mr Sunak said the statement used “very strong language” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war’s impact on food prices and the need for a revival of the Black Sea grain deal
He added he thought a “very strong” joint message about Moscow’s attack had been made “under Prime Minister Modi and India’s presidency” of the G20, a group of the world’s largest economies that includes Russia and China.
At the event leaders called for the reimplementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed safe passage for cargo ships transporting food from Ukraine’s southern ports. It comes after the Kremlin ended the agreement in July, and urged for attacks on grain stores to cease.
The wording was described as a “good and strong outcome” by Mr Sunak but there was some concern among summit watchers that some of the language around the Ukraine conflict had been watered down, potentially in a move designed to appease China.
The area around the Bharat Mandapam venue has been largely locked down, with independent businesses told not to open and normally busy roads left empty of the usual noisy rickshaw, motorbike and car traffic.
Additional reporting by Press Association.