Britain’s 1.2 million strong Indian-origin voters, the biggest ethnic majority-group in the country, are expected to vote in large numbers today amid indications that a majority of them may vote against Brexit -or Britain’s exit from the European Union.
They also reflect a divided house in line with the wider knife-edge divide in the referendum campaign so far, though a majority are expected to vote against Brexit.
A recent British Election study, ahead of the referendum to decide the UK’s future relationship with the European Union (EU), had found that 51.7 per cent of Indian-origin voters are against Brexit, compared to 27.74 per cent in favour of leaving the economic bloc.
However, there was a significant percentage (16.85 per cent) of those who fell into the “Don’t Know” category in the study last month and they are likely to hold the key in the referendum, which remains too close to call even on polling day.
The figures are similar across the board among South Asians, with Pakistani-origin voters backing remain 56 to 26 per cent and Bangladeshis 42 to 17.High-profile Indian-origin politicians in the UK echoed this divide, with UK employment minister Priti Patel and Infosys chief Narayan Murthy’s son-in-law Rishi Sunak batting for Brexit, while other senior MPs like Keith Vaz and Virendra Sharma firmly for Remain.
The British Indian MPs in favour of Brexit issued a strongly-worded letter last month, claiming EU was “damaging” the UK economy and “the pressures this causes means that we have to turn away qualified doctors, teachers, and entrepreneurs from non-EU countries who would make a positive contribution to this country”.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Alok Sharma, Conservative party MP and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Infrastructure Envoy to India, set up a cross-party “British Indians for IN” group to ensure the undecided votes went in favour of Remain.
“A vote to remain guarantees us continued unfettered access to Europe’s free trade single market of 500 million consumers, meaning lower prices, more jobs, increased investment and financial security.
It also means a seat at the table as the EU negotiates some of the biggest trade deals in history such as the ongoing discussions with the United States, China and India,” he had claimed.
On the Brexit end, Priti Patel, Cameron’s Indian Diaspora Champion, shifted focus to a curry clash as her key weapon against what she described as “unfair immigration rules” that favour EU migrants over non-EU ones from countries like India.
“Our curry houses are becoming the victims of the EU’s uncontrolled immigration rules. By voting to leave the EU we can take back control of our immigration policies, save our curry houses and join the rest of the world,” she said during her campaign.