Priti Patel, Britain’s minister of state for employment, believes exiting the European Union will provide a “massive boost” to relations with India, and help develop stronger trade links allegedly hampered by EU laws.
Patel, 43, born in London to an Indian family that migrated from Uganda, is one of the high profile ministers in the David Cameron government who have joined the Brexit camp campaigning for Britain to vote to leave the EU in the June 23 referendum.
She told Hindustan Times: “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.”
Patel, who holds a position called “Indian diaspora champion” and attends cabinet meetings, said the community can make a real and positive difference to the future of Britain and India by voting to leave the EU.
Citizens of the Commonwealth over the age of 18 and living in the UK can vote in the referendum.
“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,” Patel said.
“Importantly, an independent Britain free from the EU can ensure that we realise the full potential of our special relationship with India,” she said. Patel was closely involved in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November visit to London, and recently travelled to India.
British businesses, including those 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, 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,” Patel said.
“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.”
According to Patel, in contrast to what was happening in India on the economic front, the EU 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,” she said.
“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.”