The British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce in Saint Lucia has welcomed a move by 45 British Members of Parliament to persuade the UK Home Secretary, The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP, that Commonwealth citizens should have UK visas fast-tracked after Brexit and that the Registered Traveller Scheme should be further expanded to include additional Commonwealth countries. There are also calls for a change in the rules so that it is easier for students to come and study in the UK, all part of the rebuilding of relationships with the Commonwealth post-Brexit.
John Kennedy, President of the Chamber in Saint Lucia, said “Travellers from most of the Caribbean already benefit from clearance on entry, without a full visa application process in advance of travel, but the process involving students travelling to the UK can benefit from a more streamlined system. Access to education by the ease of movement of our citizens will benefit both economies and provide significant opportunity.
“These new proposals by British MPs also call for border entry points at airports to be dedicated to UK and Commonwealth citizens, making processing faster still.”
In a letter to Amber Rudd, the MPs have urged the Government to “extend the hand of friendship to our Commonwealth partners” and make the UK more welcoming for Commonwealth citizens.
The recommendations are due to be debated in Parliament in a fortnight’s time on February 26.
The MPs, including Sir Henry Bellingham, a former foreign office minister who last month met with Saint Lucia’s education Minister Gale Rigobert and Tim Loughton, a former education minister, want the changes to be considered ahead of next month’s Commonwealth trade ministers meeting in London.
They say: “The focus of this meeting is renewed trade and friendship between the UK and the Commonwealth.
“Home Secretary, you are in a position to effect real, positive change in our relations with our Commonwealth partners. It would be a shame to let this opportunity pass us by.”
The letter has been organised by Jake Berry MP, the Conservative MP and other signatories include Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful 1922 committee of Tory MPs and Sir Paul Beresford.
Lord Marland, the former energy minister and current chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council added that “If the Government is going to turbo charge its relationship with the Commonwealth… it will have to take into consideration visas”.
“When it becomes chair of the Commonwealth next year, it will have to take into consideration visas, as well as making it easier for students to come and study in this country as part of the rebuilding of relationships with the Commonwealth post-Brexit.”
In the letter, published in the UK Daily Telegraph, the MPs say: “In the previous century, Commonwealth countries stood with Britain as we faced existential threats from abroad but as we pivoted to Europe, increasingly, our Commonwealth allies were left in the cold.
“The lack of consideration for Commonwealth citizens is at its starkest at our border.”
“We must be clear about the importance we place on our relationship with the Commonwealth and start the process of strengthening ties for crucial future trade negotiations.”