In an unprecedented intervention, 14 of Britain’s leading black and ethnic minority (BME) Labour MPs including Tulip Siddiq, Chuka Umunna and Keith Vaz have joined together urge BME voters to vote to remain in the EU on 23rd June.
In an article on the Guardian website, the MPs warns that the economic consequences of leaving “would hit minority communities hardest.”
They add that a victory for the Tory right wing and Nigel Farage’s UKIP would embolden those who want to scrap antidiscrimination laws and workers’ rights, setting back progress for ethnic minority communities by “generations.”
Of the many myths peddled by those campaigning for Britain to leave Europe, the claim that Brexit would benefit non European immigrant communities is amongst the most outrageous.
The fact is, our communities’ legitimate concerns about the current immigration system lie at the door of the Tory Government, not the EU, and the consequences of leaving would hit minority communities hardest.
The Leavers’ false claim is that, if we leave, there can be higher non-EU immigration while bringing down overall numbers. Let’s not be seduced by this lie from people who are anti-immigration and who have spent their lives campaigning against the interests of working people.
Let’s start with the facts. Rather than being held back, non-EU immigration to the UK is rising and is higher than EU migration. Where there are restrictions, this Government has full control and EU membership does not prevent the UK from easing rules for non-EU migrants.
The Tories could do this if they wanted – but they don’t. Indeed, since 2010 they have toughened eligibility criteria for Tier 1 migrants and introduced new restrictions. Where there are shortages in certain sectors, like our curry houses, it’s Government rules that are the route of the problem.
Prominent Leave campaigner, Priti Patel, who is the Employment Minister, has responsibility in this area, so she is in fact the source of the problem while claiming to be the solution.
It is simply wrong to argue that leaving Europe would strengthen our ties with the Commonwealth. The EU amplifies Britain’s ties with our historic Commonwealth partners: economically and culturally we are stronger In.
Within the EU, Britain’s trade with the Commonwealth is flourishing as we have access to the EU’s free trade deals with 19 Commonwealth countries, and many more are in the pipeline. Our exports to those Commonwealth countries has increased by a whopping 66%.
Being in Europe has enabled us to actively support Commonwealth interests, whether overturning an EU ban on Indian mangoes or securing better EU trade terms for Pakistan after floods in 2010 and 2011.
It is for this reason that significant Commonwealth leaders have backed Remain. The Prime Minister of India, the Australian Prime Minister, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Secretary General of the Commonwealth and the Canadian Prime Minister, have all said we are better off in and that being in Europe strengthens our ties.
People rightly have concerns about the impact of immigration and we understand, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. EU nationals, like non-EU nationals, overwhelmingly make a valuable contribution to our society, working hard, paying their way, setting up businesses and bringing up families who are as British as they are loyal to their home countries.
What we want is a system that is fair – not a free for all. That is why we must make sure there is no undercutting of wages; must make sure those who are here are here to work; and that communities and services are strong enough to adapt to the arrival of new arrivals.
This is complex and there is no one single answer. Leave campaigners want you to believe that if we leave the EU all our problems are solved. The opposite is true. Leaving exacerbates our problems. Every single credible economic institution has forecast that our economy would take a hit. Nine out of ten economists, the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund and the Treasury all agree that we could return to recession, which would see people lose their jobs, push up prices in the shops, businesses forced to close and families’ financial security put at risk.
Ethnic minority communities would not be immune to this pain: we would be at the sharp end of a recession. Those we represent don’t want to have to withstand another round of economic hardship just as our towns and cities are getting back on their feet after the financial crash.
And this is a double threat, because look who would be in charge if we were to leave: an emboldened Tory right wing, led by Boris Johnson, in bed with Nigel Farage. These people are the friends of discrimination and division, not progress and protection for ethnic minorities.
Do we really think UKIP, which wants to abolish anti-discrimination law and has sought to mainstream xenophobia in to British political debate and culture, and Boris, who wants to scrap workers’ rights and is on record with racist comments, will defend Britain’s minority communities? Of course not: we will be set back generations.
And let’s be honest, the dirty tricks campaigning of Tory politicians in the Mayoral Election have no place in our progressive society. We stood up to his divisive campaign and we should stand up to Boris Johnson and the Leave campaigns’ myths on immigration too.
A vote to Remain is not just a vote to keep UKIP and Boris at bay. It’s a vote for a brighter future. 3m jobs are linked to our trade with the UK – and 800,000 will be created thanks to the EU in the coming years.
Our economy will grow faster as part of the world’s largest trading bloc, which lowers prices, increases wages and open us trading possibilities for British businesses large and small.
Our voice in the world is louder from within the EU, whether in fighting terrorism, tackling climate change, peace-keeping or leading on international development.
Britain’s ethnic minority communities are stronger, safer and better off in Europe.
The following members of Parliament are signatories: Rushanara Ali: Bethnal Green and Bow, Shabana Mahmood: Birmingham Ladywood, Yasmin Qureshi: Bolton South East, Thangam Debbonaire: Bristol West, Virendra Sharma: Ealing, Southall, Kate Osamor: Edmonton, Seema Malhotra: Feltham and Heston, Tulip Siddiq: Hampstead and Kilburn, Keith Vaz: Leicester East, Chi Onwurah: Newcastle upon Tyen Central, Chuka Umunna: Streatham, David Lammy: Tottenham, Valerie Vaz: Walsall South and Khalid Mahmood: Birmingham Perry Bar.