London, September 20
India and the UK are “very close” to achieving a mutually beneficial free trade agreement (FTA) but the aspects left to agree on are the toughest ones, Britain’s Business and Trade Secretary in charge of the negotiations has told a parliamentary panel.
Kemi Badenoch was answering questions posed by the cross-party House of Commons Business and Trade Committee, which scrutinises the work of the Department of Business and Trade (DBT), on Tuesday when she was asked about the timeline for signing off on the FTA, which has completed 12 rounds of negotiations.
The Cabinet minister was specifically asked about some UK media reports suggesting that cricket fan British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may be planning a return visit to India next month to sign the deal on the sidelines of the World Cup being hosted across the country.
“We have never set a deadline. I think this is a very optimistic briefing for newspapers,” responded Badenoch.
“We are very close. It is possible, but I wouldn’t be setting that sort of deadline. We will finish when we finish,” she said. Referencing former British prime minister Boris Johnson setting a Diwali 2022 deadline for an agreement, Badenoch reiterated the Sunak-led government’s approach of not setting any end dates.
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