LONDON — Britain’s trade chief waved away reports that a U.K.-India trade deal is imminent or will be signed during next month’s Cricket World Cup in India.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said Tuesday that reports her boss Rishi Sunak will go to India next month to sign a deal to coincide with the England vs India World Cup match are “very optimistic briefing from newspapers” and that “it is possible, but I would not be setting that sort of deadline.”
“We have always been very, very specific that it’s about the deal, not the day. We will get there when we have a deal which is mutually beneficial for India and the U.K.,” Badenoch told Westminster’s business and trade committee.
“We’ve done a lot, so we’re quite close, but as I said [in parliament] last week …. the last few bits left are always the toughest bits,” she added.
There has been fevered speculation over the past month that a deal is getting closer to completion, with British officials believing the Indian government is briefing local media to ramp up the pressure on Sunak and Badenoch.
Both sides are racing to get a deal done before their respective elections in 2024. Former British PM Boris Johnson had originally set a deadline of October 2022.
The U.K. is still trying to secure greater access to the Indian market for its services firms in negotiations, with India holding out unless it gets concessions on mobility for Indian businesspeople alongside several other issues.
There is also wrangling over tariffs on British goods like Scotch whisky, which currently faces a 150 percent tax when exported into India.