Boris Johnson casts doubt over George Osborne’s Chinese 'super priority' visa plan

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

London Mayor questions ‘unclear’ proposals during trade visit

Beijing

George Osborne’s plan to relax visa rules for Chinese nationals was cast into doubt by Boris Johnson, just hours after it was unveiled.

The Mayor of London, leading his own trade mission to China, suggested the Chancellor’s proposal lacked detail.

He also questioned whether it would mean Chinese tourists, students and business executives having to fill in only one form for access to the UK and countries such as France and Germany – as claimed by Treasury aides.

“We’ll have to see how this scheme actually works because the detail is a little bit unclear to us at the moment,” Mr Johnson told BBC’s World at One.

“I’m initially very supportive and would hope it would make sure that we are able to get large numbers of Chinese students, of tourists, people who are going to bring income to our city. It’s not clear that it’s a single form either because there seems to be two forms.”

Despite attempts to put on a show of unity, Mr Johnson’s remarks threatened to embarrass Mr Osborne after his high profile announcement to lure more Chinese visitors to the UK.

In a speech at Peking University, the Chancellor told students there was “no limit” on the number of visitors from China who could come to Britain, as he stressed his visit was about “more than a collection of business deals”.

Standing alongside Mr Johnson, he said: “There is no limit to the number of Chinese who can study in Britain. No limit to the number of Chinese tourists who can visit. No limit on the amount of business we can do together.”

Mr Osborne’s aides said that Chinese visitors would be able to apply for a UK visa through selected travel agents by submitting just a single EU form, in a pilot study, from next month. Currently a separate form must be filled out when visiting the UK and another EU country.

A new 24-hour “super priority” visa service would also be available from next year and the existing VIP mobile visa service – where agents collect forms and biometric data – would be expanded.

Home Office officials confirmed there would be an additional “addendum” form for the British part of the application for a Chinese person seeking to visit both the UK and other EU countries, but said applicants would not have to provide duplicate information. Visitors would still need to have their fingerprints taken.

The drive to relax visa arrangements for Chinese visitors was strongly opposed by Home Secretary Theresa May last year who said it would threaten national security. However, shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the lack of detail meant the Government’s immigration policy was mired in “carnage and confusion”.

She said: “The real problem here is that George Osborne and Theresa May are in complete disagreement about Chinese visitors to Britain.

“The Chancellor wants more Chinese investors, tourists and students to bring money into this country. The Home Secretary wants less because Chinese students are included in her target for net migration, which she is currently failing to meet.

“Until they start talking to each other, this will continue to be a complete mess.”

Business groups, which have long warned that high-spending visitors are put off by the existing system, welcomed the proposal as a step in the right direction.

Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland said: “These important changes will make the UK much more appealing to Chinese business and tourists alike.”

But some experts suggested the proposal would, in reality, not change much for Chinese applicants.

Matthew Davies, head of business immigration lawyers Fox Williams LLP, said: “It is important to sort the packaging from the substance here. There is no major policy shift; Chinese nationals must still have a visa to enter the UK for every purpose, including short visits.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada