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Fast-track visas for Commonwealth citizens, say British MPs

CHANGE: Home Secretary, Amber Rudd

THE BRITISH Caribbean Chamber of Commerce in St Lucia has welcomed a move by 45 British members of parliament to persuade Home Secretary Amber Rudd that Commonwealth citizens should have UK visas fast-tracked after Brexit.

The Chamber also wants the registered traveller scheme to be expanded to include additional Commonwealth countries.

It has also called for a change in the rules so that it is easier for students to study in the UK, all part of the rebuilding of relationships with the Commonwealth post-Brexit, according to a release from the Chamber.

John Kennedy, President of the Chamber in St 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.

“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,” Kennedy said.

In a letter to Rudd, the MPs 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 on February 26.

The MPs, including Sir Henry Bellingham, a former foreign office minister who last month met with St Lucia’s education Minister Gale Rigobert, wants the changes to be considered ahead of next month’s Commonwealth trade ministers meeting in London.

“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,” said the letter.

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”.

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 MPs added that “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.”

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