Amid much discussion on whether Britain should leave the European Union, the UK's Employment Minister has said a Brexit would provide a "massive boost" to trade ties with India. Priti Patel believes that Britain's membership in the EU has "acted as a barrier" to developing trade and investment partnerships between UK and India.
Patel has been one of a number of Conservative government ministers to campaign for a Brexit, opposing Prime Minister David Cameron's view that Britain would be stronger if it stayed in the EU. Patel insisted that India, UK, as well as the Indian community in the UK, would all benefit from a vote to leave the EU. She is appealing to a large vote bank, with an estimated 1.7 million British-Indians living in the UK.
The Employment Minister told the Hindustan Times: "Voting to leave the European Union would be a massive boost to UK-India relations. New opportunities for the UK and India to cooperate more closely and develop stronger trading links would emerge as the UK re-aligns its foreign policy and trade priorities."
Patel pointed out that while the Conservative government had focused efforts on enhancing their relationship with India, she believed that more could be done if the UK was "not held back by the vested self-interests of the EU". She said that trading links with India had been "inadequate" when the Tory government came to power in 2010 as the UK had focused on trade within Europe as a result of EU membership.
Patel also acts as David Cameron's Indian diaspora champion and played a big role in overseeing the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UK in November 2015. She noted that apart from benefiting trade relations between the two countries, a Brexit would also have a positive impact on the Indian community living in the UK.
"I know that many members of the Indian diaspora find it deeply unfair that other EU nationals effectively get special treatment," Patel said. "This can and will change if Britain leaves the EU. A vote to leave the EU is a vote to bring back control over immigration policy to the UK."
She also noted that a Brexit would allow businesses set up by Indians in the UK to build on trade deals with India-based organisations. This would also be the case for other British businesses looking to enter the Indian market, allowing for increases in investment partnerships. Patel added that while the EU was "losing influence globally" and becoming "inward-looking", she believed India was taking a "leadership role on the world stage".
The minister said: "The UK shares India's outward-looking worldview and is keen to work more closely with India to support its ascent. In closer partnership together we can support more free trade and cooperate on other issues such as international security."