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Visa restrictions to be relaxed

A relaxation of visa restrictions will be announced as the Government steps up efforts to attract lucrative trade links with China during a three-day visit to London by premier Li Keqiang.

Beijing has made clear that difficulties for business leaders and students getting into the UK are contributing to Chinese firms increasingly switching their attention to rival European economies.

Ambassador to London Liu Xiaoming recently complained that progress on making it easier for his countrymen to visit Britain had been "far from enough".

Home Secretary Theresa May will unveil reforms designed to help the UK compete better with France and Germany for deals with firms from what has now become the world's second largest economy.

Mr Li's visit - which will include meeting the Queen as well as talks with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street - comes six months after the Prime Minister led a large trade delegation to China.

The PM will hope to work further to improve Anglo-Chinese relations after several years of tensions over his decision to meet with the Dalai Lama saw such visits dry up.

On the agenda for the London summit will include a wide range of bilateral issues, including trade, investment, commercial opportunities, energy and cultural ties.

Reports that Beijing threatened to cancel the trip by its second most senior politician if he was not granted a meeting with the monarch have been dismissed by embassy officials as a misunderstanding.

Chancellor George Osborne inadvertently let slip the news of Mr Li's visit when he told an international finance conference that he wanted the UK to be "part of the action" in increased global trade with China and in meeting its growing demand for services.

Mr Osborne also set out his ambition to cement London's status as a hub for dealing in the Chinese currency, the renminbi (RMB).

Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott , who was chairman of the Government's China task force, warned uncertainty over Britain's continued membership of the EU was affecting investment.

"Both the Japanese and the Chinese take the view that investment in Britain is good - only if you have access to the European market of 450 million people," he told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News.

He agreed that the UK was going "cap in hand" to China.

"Absolutely. Because the economy is desperately short of any investment.

"The private sector is not able to produce the investments necessary to get real economic growth so in desperation he (Mr Cameron) has been forced to turn to China and say 'come and give me the investment I can't get in my country' in order to be able to develop the economy.

"Relying on housing, we are beginning to see, and the Help To Buy is already causing a crisis and we are back onto boom and bust. So it needs real private investment, in this case state investment from China to get real growth in the British economy."

Asked whether Mr Cameron will raise human rights issues when he talks to Mr Li in Downing Street on Tuesday, the Prime Minister's official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "All issues are on the table in these discussions and there will be no exception this time.

"A whole series of issues are on the agenda. The Prime Minister will discuss the full range of issues."

The spokesman added: "In terms of discussions around human rights with the Chinese authorities, we had the latest round of the UK-China dialogue on these issues in May.

"There is a process through which issues such as that are discussed."

The spokesman said that Mr Cameron had not spoken with the Dalai Lama since their meeting in 2012, and said that there was no change in the UK Government's position on Tibet, which was to "recognise the territorial integrity of the People's Republic of China".


From Belfast Telegraph