Following the backlash from the recent policy of £3,000 visa bond, UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron has reassured the public that the policy has not been “signed off”.
According to a report on Tuesday’s edition of Financial Times, Cameron had reconsidered the proposal, of imposing £3,000 visa bond in some parts of Africa and Asia with Nigeria inclusive.
The announcement provoked uproar in Delhi and threatened his attempt to boost trade links with India.
Besides Indian, the proposal has also attracted criticisms from Nigerians as the federal government, recently summoned the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Andrew Pocock, over the policy.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, who met with Pocock in Abuja, demanded a reversal of the policy, saying that it is inconsistent and may hamper age-long strong relationship between Nigeria and Britain.
Pocock, however, assured the minister that if the policy were to go ahead in Nigeria, it would affect only a small number of the high-risk visitors and most applicants would not need to pay the bond.
The Financial Times’ report quoted the prime minister’s allies as saying that Cameron had “not signed off” details of the policy, while Lib Dem and Tory business ministers warned that the idea would be damaging to Britain’s economic interests.
It said Cameron had told May that he would not sanction any policy that undermines his growth agenda or the “open for business” message he delivered on a recent trip to India.
“The prime minister has not cleared this policy,” said an ally. “He doesn’t want to do anything that cuts across the message he took to India.”
Cameron is especially keen that the pilot study targets “high risk” individuals and is not seen as being aimed at any particular country.
Lib Dem Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has expressed concerns about the proposal and his anxiety is shared by Tory Science Minister, David Willetts.
Cable raised the issue in cabinet on Tuesday, saying he was concerned the Home Office was misrepresenting the pilots as a way of bringing down net migration.
The Home Office said on Tuesday the November pilot would be “highly selective”, focusing only on those visitors from India and other countries thought to present a “residual risk” of overstaying.
“Any pilot will not apply to all visitors from the selected countries and the vast majority of visitors will not need to pay a bond,” a spokeswoman said.
It is understood those the levy would only affect first time visitors to UK.
“It is certainly a stupid move, but it is also extremely bad public diplomacy. It will raise a hue and cry here,” Brahma Chellaney, a strategic affairs analyst at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research think tank, said.
“It really just doesn’t make any sense. It will have detrimental effect on the UK-India relationship, and it will create a bad image for the UK in India, and also uproar elsewhere in the world.”
However, tour operators were dismayed at the introduction of any type of deposit system and complained they had not been consulted.
“This doesn’t exactly garland the welcome message we are extending to India and other countries,” said Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tour Operators Association. “This really seems disproportionate to the threat. It feels the inbound market is being sacrificed to a domestic political agenda.”