80 Commonwealth community leaders criticise lack of ambition in EU reforms

80 community and business leaders from Commonwealth backgrounds have written an open letter to the Prime Minister to call for the UK to take ‘back its autonomy in the fields of migration and commerce’. They argue that the UK ‘should secure a free-trade-only deal with the EU, and re-establish our global role’ if the UK’s EU renegotiation does not bring back powers over immigration and trade policy.

Signatories include Pasha Khandaker, President of the UK Bangladesh Caterers Association UK, Moni Varma, owner of Veetee,  MOBO award winner Rachel Kerr, Gurmail Singh Mahli, President of Shri Guru Sing Sabha Southall and Tariq Usmani, CEO of Henley Homes plc.

They outline two main concerns:

Fair migration: The EU binds the UK into a discriminatory migration policy. Whilst EU citizens enjoy freedom of movement and no restrictions on their stay in the UK, those coming to the UK from outside of the EU face greater restrictions.

Trade deals: Membership of the EU means the UK has no control over trade policy so it is unable to negotiate deals with countries from outside the EU, including Commonwealth nations such as India and Australia.

The letter reads:

‘The United Kingdom is connected to every continent by ties of language, law and family. No other European country has acquired so large a migrant population with such few tensions. No racist or authoritarian party has ever won parliamentary representation here – unlike in many neighbouring countries.

As patriotic Britons of Commonwealth backgrounds, we saw the EU renegotiation as an opportunity to rediscover Britain’s global vocation. As long as Britain’s trade policy is controlled by the EU, we cannot sign bilateral free trade agreements with Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand or for that matter any other non-EU state. Vested interests on the Continent sustain a relatively protectionist policy. We have to apply the EU’s common external tariff to exports from Commonwealth countries – hurting consumers here as well as producers there.

At the same time, our immigration policy forces us, in effect, to turn away qualified workers from the Commonwealth so as to free up unlimited space for migrants from the EU. The descendants of the men who volunteered to fight for Britain in two world wars must stand aside in favour of people with no connection to the United Kingdom.

 This renegotiation offered Britain the chance to regain its autonomy in the fields of migration and commerce. We should determine who settles here. And we should be free to liberalise our trade with non-EU states. If we are not allowed to decide these things for ourselves, we should secure a free-trade-only deal with the EU, and re-establish our global role. The United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy in the world, one of five permanent seat-holders on the UN Security Council and a leading member of NATO, the G8 and the Commonwealth. Europe is now the only continent experiencing no economic growth. There are opportunities across the seas – if only we raise our eyes.’


Commenting, Pasha Khandaker, President of the Bangladesh Caterers Association UK, said:

‘As President of The Bangladesh Caterers Association I know how the 12000 curry houses that we represent across the UK have been struggling to recruit the talent that they need because of the difficulties associated with employing people from outside of the EU. If the UK had a fairer immigration system it would be easier for businesses to recruit skilled workers regardless of their nationality.’


Tobi Lawal, Founder of Tribe Think, said:

‘Commonwealth economies are growing rapidly in comparison to stagnating EU countries and if Britain voted the leave the European Union it would be free to engage in more trade with its Commonwealth allies across the globe.’


Paul Sagoo, founder of the Asian Awards, said:

'The current immigration system in the UK makes it difficult for those moving from non EU countries to obtain visas and residency, and as a result Britain misses out on talent from around the world. Any nation serious about economic growth should base its immigration system on skills as opposed to geographical place of birth.'

Mark Wells, Mark Wells Public Affairs, said:

‘We share a historical and cultural friendship with Commonwealth countries, but when it comes to trade and immigration the UK prioritises countries in the European Union. Our ancestors fought alongside Britain in two world wars, yet we are considered second class immigrants and trading partners. Why would you treat your neighbours better than your family?’





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