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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee