Indian diaspora in UK largely against Brexit: survey

23 May 2016

Indian-origin voters are largely in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union, though a significant chunk is still undecided ahead of the 23 June referendum.

According to the British Election Survey (BES) released this week, 51.7 per cent of Indian-origin voters were against a Brexit, compared to 27.74 per cent in favour of leaving the 28-member economic bloc. However, there is a significant percentage (16.85 per cent) of those who "Don't Know", who are likely to hold the key in the referendum, described as a knife-edge vote so far.

The BES surveyed a large sample of 22,000 voters, and found that 'Remain' has a narrow lead of 43 per cent as against 40.5 per cent in favour of 'Leave'.

"The new data indicates that ethnic minority voters could hold the balance of power. While white voters are split evenly, all ethnic minority groups are far more likely to back Remain. However, the data also suggests that turnout could be 20 to 25 per cent lower among ethnic minority voters," the report found.

The figures are similar across the board for South Asians, with Pakistani-origin voters backing remain 56 to 26 per cent and Bangladeshis 42 to 17. With just a month to go for the referendum, both Leave and Remain camps have been campaigning hard to win over the "Don't Knows".

High-profile Indian-origin politicians in the UK, like UK employment minister Priti Patel and Infosys chief Narayan Murthy's son-in-law Rishi Sunak, have spoken in favour of a Brexit to create a "fairer immigration system" that does not discriminate against non-EU migrants.

However, this rhetoric has been countered by the "Remain" camp by stressing that Brexit would not provide any guarantees of a change in the dynamics of the UK's relationship outside the EU.

"Our membership of the EU does not prevent us from allowing people in from Commonwealth countries. It is not a binary decision, either EU or Commonwealth... if you fulfil the criteria, you can come here with a work visa," said UK Foreign Office minister in charge of India Hugo Swire.

"Anyone suggesting that it would be any different or easier [in the event of Brexit] is suggesting we would water down that criteria. That is misleading and unhelpful."

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