Lord Karan Bilimoria slams Theresa May's immigration policy

Natasha Clark
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Theresa May Takes A British Trade Delegation To India - Day 1
May meets the Indian PM on the first day of her trade visit (Source: Getty)

The founder of Cobra beers has attacked Theresa May's immigration policy, deeming it to be "economically illiterate".

Lord Karan Bilimoria, who is also a cross-bench peer, said the Prime Minister's plans to cut migration future showed "very negative messages" towards migrants.

The government insist it is still working towards reducing net migration to 100,000 per year.

If you look at the numbers and the logic, we have the lowest level of unemployment in living memory of less than 5 per cent, and that’s in spite of 3.6million people from the EU working in Britain.

He spoke as May landed in India last night on a three-day trade visit. The Indian government is expected to raise the issue of tough visas for students, which could harm a future trade deal.

India and the UK will sign an agreement on intellectual property, and the UK will commit to extending business advice and assistance.

Read more: Indian business chief warns of Brexit's double hit to UK-India trade

May will not meet with Tata Steel bosses, but will be present at four summits, including opening the first India-UK tech summit in New Delhi.

Lord Karan Bilimoria added:

Without that foreign immigrant workforce we wouldn’t be able to manage as an economy. We wouldn’t be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

The entrepreneur went on to say that May had a a lot of "bridge building to do" on her Indian tour, and that he had personally received abuse since the UK voted to leave the EU in June.

"I get letters sent to me in Parliament with the person signing with their names and their address, letters telling me that it is me and my kind that are a problem, I should go back to India, we don’t need you you are a foreigner,” he said.

Read more: British farmers are "sacrificial lambs" if the UK gets an Indian trade dea

He's not the only business leader to have stepped forward to attack the government over their immigration policy. Many are worried that curbs will mean they cannot recruit the staff they need to keep their firms running smoothly.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Businesses know that the EU referendum result means change to free movement of workers from the EU, but people were not voting to make the economy weaker. The evidence is clear that migrants are a benefit to the economy.”

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses across the UK report skills shortages on a number of different levels. Firms are pretty clear they will need workers from overseas with various skill levels in the years ahead."

He added:

The risk is if the Government arbitrarily decides whether an individual is skilled or unskilled when really the requirements of the vacancy should do that.

After home secretary Amber Rudd called for a crackdown on immigration during the Tory party conference, including curbs on students and the possibility of forcing companies to list foreign workers, she faced a ferocious backlash. The government later u-turned on the plans.

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