Brexit: India makes it clear which side it is on

Brexit: India makes it clear which side it is on
Brexit: India makes it clear which side it is on

India has finally spoken with words & deeds backing PM Cameron's efforts to keep the UK within the European Union. India Inc. concurs with the Indian position. The Subtle Approach However, unlike the US - which has almost threatened the UK with consequences should it choose to depart the European Union; India has done so subtly. There has been no official statement from the Indian Government so far, except for the fact that Prime Minister Modi would be personally leading the Indian delegation at the EU - India summit at the end of March in Brussels. Along with a brief mention in his speech at Wembley last November, on how UK remains the valued gateway to Europe for India. Now Indian businesses have made their position clear On the eve of PM Modi's arrival in Brussels, the Federation of Indian Industry and Commerce (FICCI) released a statement from its Secretary General that frames the debate squarely in economic terms and focuses on the uncertainty Brexit would surely bring to the UK, European and most likely the global economy. The FICCI statement recognised that this is a “sovereign matter for Britain and its people” but pointed out that “foreign businesses” cannot remain “isolated” from the debate. And India, like the US, have significant commercial interests and investments to protect in the UK and believe they are best served with UK firmly in the European Union. Mr. Singh said: “The UK is a valued economic partner for India and 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.” FICCI making a statement on another country's internal matter is rare and the statement in itself is a strong message akin to PM Modi's silence but personal presence at Brussels. Cameron has won the Sovereignty Debate The Indian play on Brexit is spot on - it has been respectful in its tone while being unequivocal on where it stands on the debate. And there is much to agree with its stance even looking from the UK or British Indian perspective. The “Brexit” debate has always been fundamentally about sovereignty of the UK and the lack of a popular mandate for the Lisbon Treaty - which signed over vetoes in key areas but few, and enshrined in treaties the principle of ever closer union. Prime Minister Cameron has won the argument that member states have the right to opt out from that core principle. UK's exemption, in principle, has already been agreed by the European Council (the member states & Commission). In addition, UK has been able to develop a consensus around EU that Eurozone would need to work closely together and bring some parity to fiscal and monetary policies. However, these policies must not harm the interests of the non Eurozone member states i.e. the role and interests of London as a global financial capital. So the Leave campaign's core arguments of British sovereignty and protection of British interests have been negated. In fact, PM Cameron has won substantial concessions on both core issues, which frankly very few people thought he would get. And events unfolding in Europe shows there is little evidence to back the oft repeated spurious argument that European Union will not change. European Union is changing! Not only is the concessions to the UK - the idea of halting the right to free travel and suspending Schengen rights, unthinkable barely a couple of years ago, are now reality. Evidence suggests when it comes to a choice between national interests and European interests - the former triumphs over the later and increasingly so with more frequency. And its not the UK that is defying supposedly non-negotiable core principles such as “freedom of movement” of people but fully signed up members to the European Project such as France, Italy, Hungary among others. There is no denying that the European Union as it exists and functions today is simply inadequate to tackle challenges that are affecting the lives of Europeans daily especially on the mainland - be it the refugee crisis or free movement of terrorists between member states. Whether it likes it or not, events are forcing European Union to transform and adding “Brexit” to that volatile mix of uncertainty is neither prudent nor worth the risk. Losing the ability to influence events in its immediate neighbourhood at a time of forced radical transformation could hardly be good for the UK or its allies. Especially since the British Prime Minister has been able to win the key arguments protecting British sovereignty and interests. Having lost the core argument to leave, the campaign for Brexit are now using considerable intellects to sell an utopian notion that UK would economically better off, only if it just had the courage to leave. But aside from a wish list there is little evidence that backs the argument. Economics too backs “Vote to Remain” The leave campaign has been arguing that the UK would be economically better off if it broke off the shackles of the European Union that stop it from trading with other countries. That is factually wrong and the argument was effectively countered by Alok Sharma, the Tory MP from Reading and Prime Minister Cameron's “Infrastructure Envoy” to India. "Currently 7 per cent of UK exports are to the BRIC countries, which includes India," he pointed out. "44 per cent of UK exports are to the EU. Leaving the EU is not going to suddenly boost our trade with other economies. What is much more likely to have a big boost to British-Indian trade, for instance, would be to conclude the ongoing discussions to secure a free trade agreement between the EU and India." He points out the Leave campaign is offering a false dichotomy of choices between Europe and the Commonwealth. Britain would be better off in improving trade relations with both entities and they shouldn't be mutually exclusive. India's position, like David Cameron's, is the pragmatic one on Brexit and the right one. How will British Indians vote The British Indian voters are not a monolithic group. But like all other demographics cast their votes based on what they believe is in their (along with the family's) best interest. It would be foolhardy to suggest that there is no divergence within the British Indian community. For example, the views of Alok Sharma are drastically different from Cameron's protégé & de-facto Minister for India, Priti Patel. The British Employment Minister firmly believes that it is in UK's and its allies best interest to leave the EU. However, as highlighted in the piece above, leaving the EU at this juncture leads to uncertain risks and requires a leap of faith that is hard to justify with cold hard facts. Hence, no matter which spectrum of the debate they started from, more likely than not, a large majority of the diaspora would converge on the pragmatic position rather than the ideological one - and vote to remain.

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