LONDON: One of Britain’s senior Foreign Office ministers has used Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words to make his case against the UK leaving the European Union in the June 23 referendum, saying Brexit would not be a boost for India-UK ties.
Hugo Swire, minister of state for the Commonwealth, was making a speech at Chatham House in London when he made a reference to views coming out of India that should sway voters against Brexit.
“Prime Minister Modi during his visit to the UK last November said ‘As far as India is concerned, if there is an entry point for us to the European Union that is the UK’,” Swire said quoting Modi.
“And the head of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry agreed, adding that ‘we firmly believe that leaving the EU would create considerable uncertainty for Indian businesses engaged with the UK and would possibly have an adverse impact on investment and movement of professionals to the UK’,” he said.
Swire, who is in charge of India as part of his wider Commonwealth portfolio, also reiterated his stand that he does not see Brexit having a boost on India-UK ties.
“There is the creeping narrative promoted by the Brexiteers that somehow the Commonwealth can replace the EU as the UK’s major trading partner. That is a leap of faith with no basis in fact. Access to the single market is a cornerstone of the UK’s prosperity.
“44 per cent of what we export goes to the European Union, with 3 million jobs in the UK dependent in some way on trade with the single market,” he said in his speech titled ‘The EU and the Commonwealth The UK’s Place in Both’.
On immigration, he added: “Some argue that leaving the EU would allow greater migration from the Commonwealth. Frankly, I believe it is naive to think that the same people campaigning for Brexit would welcome this.
“And what possible basis do they have for making such an assertion? Because let’s remember it is up to the UK, not the EU, to decide who is allowed to come to this country from outside the EU. Our membership of the EU does not prevent Commonwealth citizens from coming to the UK,” he said.
Anyone suggesting that it would be different or easier is just raising false hopes by suggesting we would water down those criteria, he said.
He accused Brexit supporters of trying to turn back the clock to the days of “Imperial preference”.
“We should remind ourselves why the Commonwealth benefits from our close relationship with the EU.
Our seat at the EU table gives the Commonwealth a voice and it is a voice which brings results. UK membership of the EU is creating jobs and driving growth, in Britain and across the Commonwealth. That’s why our Commonwealth allies want us to stay in the EU,” he said. -PTI