British Indians must now firmly say no to Brexit
Almost three years on from the EU referendum, the global impact of the government’s indecision on Brexit has become much clearer to the worldUpdated: Jan 30, 2019 09:06 IST
Recently, the world celebrated Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an occasion on which India recognises the enormous contributions of the global Indian diaspora and lauds the achievements of Indians around the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly credited the diaspora with magnificent achievements worldwide, reaching the top of every academic and professional field and paving the way for the economic liberalisation that has seen it become the fastest-growing major economy in the world.
British Indians are no exception. They have reached the top in every field; whether it is in politics (12 MPs of Indian origin were elected to the House of Commons in 2017) or science (such as Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, the Nobel Laureate, Fellow of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge and President of the Royal Society), while more than 700 Indian-owned businesses employ more than 110,000 people in the UK.
The British Indian community is the UK’s most successful ethnic minority group by far. They have benefited hugely from Britain’s openness and its reputation as a global economy open to business from around the world.
They have so much to lose from the UK’s departure from the European Union, and British Indians must join their compatriots in standing up to the prospect of a no deal Brexit at all costs.
Brexit has embarrassed the UK’s global position. Its share of the world’s foreign direct investment into the EU shrank from 25% to 18% in 2017; the pound has lost 12% of its value since May 2016; and the UK has already tumbled from being the fastest-growing economy in the Western hemisphere in February 2016 to having the lowest growth forecasts over the next five years ever, at below 2% a year.
No deal would be a further disaster for our economy, our businesses and our consumers. Introducing customs checks on freight entering the UK at the Channel Tunnel would lead to near-permanent gridlock at our ports and queues of traffic all the way back to London.
There is virtually no country in the world that wants the UK to leave the EU. It is not in the interests of India for Brexit to happen, and far less in the interests of British Indians living in the UK, for the country to run down the clock to no deal.
There is no realistic parliamentary route out of this Brexit deadlock. The whole country is being held to ransom by an out of date referendum result, won on a knife-edge.
Dynamic democracies do not mean to bind us to one point in time. They enable us to change our mind when the facts change, when the demographics change, and when those we have elected to power fail to deliver on their mandate.
And look at how much has changed in the two and a half years since the referendum, during which time this government has triggered Article 50 without realising how difficult it was going to be to negotiate Brexit within the two-year deadline.
It then took a year and half to negotiate three items, forming a 585-page withdrawal agreement that saw the government suffer a parliamentary defeat by a record majority of 230.
This deadlock has led more and more people to favour a second referendum. A new poll by YouGov and FocalData on behalf of Hope not Hate and Best for Britain has found that 60% of Britons back a People’s Vote.
Almost three years on from the EU referendum, the global impact of the government’s indecision on Brexit has become much clearer to the world. It is time for the people to be allowed to have their final say on this government’s Brexit deal. The only way forward is a People’s Vote, and the Indian diaspora must consider backing this as one voice to prevent the disaster that is Brexit.
Karan Bilimoria is chancellor of the University of Birmingham and president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs
The views expressed are personal
First Published: Jan 30, 2019 09:06 IST