‘Leave’ campaigners want to blur where Britain’s ethnic minority communities stand on the upcoming European Union referendum. Today I and other Labour colleagues from Britain’s different ethnic minority communities are setting the record straight: ethnic minority Britons are stronger, safer and better off in the EU.
Twenty Labour parliamentarians, including me, have signed an open letter making the case that ethnic minority Britons overwhelmingly benefit from Britain’s EU membership. We are Labour activists and supporters of different ethnicities, backgrounds and generations. With roots that lie beyond Britain, we are all children of the Commonwealth too.
Those on the ‘Leave’ side of this debate argue we can offset the UK leaving the European Union with our membership of the Commonwealth. I believe this is a false choice and that we should not be forced to choose between one or the other – our participation in both is vital. Being a member of the European Union helps us amplify the ‘Great’ in Great Britain because our country is stronger inside the European Union, rather than isolated on the fringes. As Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, made clear yesterday – Commonwealth countries worry about the knock on affects on their influence in the EU if Britain leaves.
Of course, Britain’s ethnic minority communities are not some homogenous whole. But, there is no doubt, our communities benefit from Britain’s EU membership and we all stand to lose a great deal if we leave.
At home the EU has secured a range of employment protections for ethnic minority workers, including against discrimination in the workplace. We are able to travel freely to other EU countries, whether for work or leisure, without being subject to arduous passport checks, delays and VISA requirements. Our communities are hugely entrepreneurial – ethnic minority business owners and investors appreciate the benefits of being able to trade in the Single Market, its security, equal regulation and access to millions of potential customers.
Beyond the EU, where many of us have family, diaspora communities want to keep connected to their heritage. The EU already has trade agreements to ease restrictions and tariffs, for example with Jamaica and Pakistan. Further deals are being negotiated including with Japan and Malaysia.
In terms of international aid, every £1 the UK spends through EU institutions is matched by £6 from other member states. This not only delivers better lives for the world’s poorest but tackling problems in areas where the UK has no large presence, like in parts of Africa.
This positive case for our EU membership stands in stark contrast to the Leave campaigns who have failed to put a convincing case for our exit from the EU and are now, in desperation, anchoring all their arguments around immigration having promised not to do so. This is not surprising – it is straight from the UKIP playbook.
But ethnic minority families like ours, having been scapegoated in the past for society’s problems, will have no truck with an approach that seeks to play on people’s reasonable concerns about immigration by setting different groups against each other. For this reason our communities reject attempts to blame all of the UK’s problems on more recent immigrants.
We cannot turn our backs to the world. While globalisation and migration present challenges, they will still be there even if we leave the EU. The 21st Century has brought huge change, but it is here to stay. Closing ourselves off to the world will not extend our influence and ability to control our own affairs – quite the opposite. Our membership and influence in the EU tempers the excesses of globalisation and helps us make it work for our local communities. The EU is not perfect, but we have to be in it to reform it.
Leaving the EU would put all of this at risk and would be a leap into the dark, not least because the Leave campaigns cannot tell us what ‘out’ looks like – they cannot even agree among themselves. What we do know is that if we leave and the economy suffers a shock – as a wide range of independent experts predict – it will be youth unemployment that rises the most, and a disproportionate number of young ethnic minority Britons are already out of work.
The only way we can secure our future in Europe is to vote for it on 23 June. Add your name to the letter we publish today, send a message and be part of the movement fighting for Britain to remain in Europe, at the top table fighting for Britain’s interests.