Priti Patel, Britain’s minister of state for employment, believes that exiting the European Union will prove a “massive boost” to relations with India, and help develop stronger trade links that were allegedly hampered by EU laws.
Patel, 43, born in London to an Indian family that migrated from Uganda, was one of six high-profile ministers in the David Cameron government in the Brexit camp. She is likely to have higher responsibilities in the new government after Prime Minister David Cameron steps down in October.
Patel told Hindustan Times during the campaign: “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”.
“Over the last 40 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”, she said.
“Importantly, an independent Britain free from the EU can ensure that we realise the full potential of our special relationship with India”, Patel added.
Her comments on relationship with India were criticised by her ministerial colleagues, but will now be expected to deliver after Britain voted to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum.
British business, including those businesses set-up and established by members of the diaspora living in the UK, were eager to access the Indian market and build mutually beneficial trade deals with businesses in India, she said.
“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”, she said.
According to her, in contrast to what was happening in India on the economic front, the European Union was 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”.
“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”, she said.