Voting to leave the European Union would be a massive boost to UK-India relations. New opportunities for the UK and India to cooperate more closely and develop stronger trading links would emerge as the UK re-aligns its foreign policy and trade priorities. During the forthcoming referendum the Indian diaspora can vote to make a real and positive difference to the future of the UK and India by voting to leave the EU.
Over the last forty years the UK’s membership of the EU has acted as a barrier to developing trade and investment partnerships with the rest of the world, including India. Remaining within the EU will mean the UK will be in a weaker position to forge the closer trading ties that would benefit the Indian and UK economies. Within the EU we do not have our own trade policy and have suffered as a result of the EU’s protectionist instincts and inward-looking and outdated looking approach to global politics. But by leaving the EU we can take back control over this vital area of policy. We can focus more on global trade and strengthening our relations with the Commonwealth and other countries. Importantly, an independent Britain free from the EU can ensure that we realise the full potential of our special relationship with India.
India has a dynamic and fast growing economy with a growing working age population that could grow by more than two hundred million in the next couple of decades. Its workforce will be the largest of any country in the world and will account for around a fifth of all people of working age on the planet. The average age of workers is low compared to other major economies and this ‘demographic dividend’ presents a unique opportunity for future investment and growth.
British business, including those businesses set-up and established by members of the diaspora living in the UK, are eager to access the Indian market and build mutually beneficial trade deals with businesses in India. Those new workers are also global consumers and the UK can provide more of the goods and services they want if it was outside of the EU. Although the focus of the Conservative Government on enhancing our relationship with India has led to an increase in trade since 2010, we could go further if we were not held back by the vested self-interests of the EU. Indeed, one of the reasons why our trading links with India were inadequate when we came to Government in 2010 was because of the focus that Britain had given to trade within Europe as a result of membership of the EU.
In contrast to what is happening in India, the European Union is on a downward spiral with high unemployment, little or no growth, and economies in crisis. While the EU is losing influence globally and becoming increasingly inward-looking, India is taking a leadership role on the world stage. The UK shares India’s outward-looking worldview and is keen to work more closely with India to support its ascent. In closer partnership together we can support more free trade and cooperate on other issues such as international security.
There are other advantages to leaving the EU too. Being a member of the EU has meant that the UK has lost control of its borders and its immigration policy. As a result of EU rules, the UK is open to 500 million people from other EU member states who can live and work in the UK with no restrictions. The mass influx of migrants from Eastern Europe in particular has contributed to pressures on the UK’s housing stock, public services and infrastructure. Because we are unable to restrict migration from the EU, immigrants from non-EU countries have faced more restrictions to help ease the pressure from immigration.
I know that many members of the Indian diaspora find it deeply unfair that other EU nationals effectively get special treatment. This can and will change if Britain leaves the EU. A vote to leave the EU is a vote to bring back control over immigration policy to the UK. This will mean that we can have a strong and robust immigration system that lets the brightest and the best in from around the world and treats people more fairly. Ending unrestricted immigration from the EU means we can have a better immigration system.
Leaving the EU will help reinvigorate relations between the UK and India. It will also help the Indian diaspora living in the UK. As I was born and raised in an Indian family which owned local businesses, I know of the strong entrepreneurial spirit that is within our blood. The diaspora have a great reputation as business owners and entrepreneurs. However, like all businesses, they have been hit hard by bureaucracy, red tape and regulations from the EU.
Billions of pounds that could be invested in creating new jobs and growth are instead swallowed up by these regulations. Leaving the EU will mean that we can set our own regulations for business and cut their costs.
Between now and polling day, you will be hearing more about the benefits of leaving the European Union and the UK once again becoming a free, independent and sovereign country. By taking back control over the destiny of this country and voting to leave the EU, the Indian diaspora can support a positive vision for the future, which will include stronger relations between the UK and India.