Britain’s senior-most Indian-origin minister Priti Patel, who had campaigned vehemently in favour of Brexit, believes today’s historic referendum result in favour of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) will ultimately be good for India-UK ties.
Ms Patel, who has a seat in the UK Cabinet as minister for employment and also serves as Prime Minister David Cameron’s Indian Diaspora Champion, is now expected to play an active role on the front-benches of British politics.
“India is a growing market with the fastest growing working age population of any other major economy – but it is a market that we are forbidden from striking a trade deal with because it is against EU rules…After we Vote Leave, the UK would be free to negotiate its own far-reaching trade deals with India and dozens of other growing economies. It will be a boost to India-UK ties,” she had told PTI ahead of the vote.
The Gujarati-origin Conservative party minister has also repeatedly made personal references to her own Indian roots on the Vote Leave campaign trail.
“They (her parents and grandparents) worked hard to give us a good future and play a positive role in British life. But while we remain a member of the EU, the businesses that we have worked hard to establish are at risk from costly red tape and regulations from Brussels.
“By leaving the EU, we can replace EU red tape with sensible rules that promote the entrepreneurial spirit that we have in abundance.
We send 350 million pounds a week to Brussels, this is money that could be spent on our priorities like the NHS (National Health Service),” she said, alongside fellow Indian-origin first-time Conservative party MP Rishi Sunak – the son-in-law of Infosys chief Narayana Murthy.
One of the most contentious issues in the EU debate in the lead up to the in-out referendum has been immigration.
The 52-48 per cent result in favour of Brexit indicates that the crucial estimate of 16.8 per cent of undecided votes among the 1.2 million Indian-origin electorate of the UK seem to have been won over by at least some of their arguments.
She had also spearheaded a full-blown curry clash over the “unfair immigration rules” that favour EU migrants over non-EU workers 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 had said.
She had been countered by long-serving Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz, who expressed his dismay at the referendum’s final outcome.
“Frankly, in a thousand years I would never have believed that the British people would have voted this way. I think that they voted emotionally rather than looking at the facts.
It’ll be catastrophic for our country, for the rest of Europe and indeed the world,” Mr Vaz said.