Friday, January 06, 2017

Vince Cable, British Asians and Brexit

Vince Cable in the New Statesman argues makes a case for "a more rational immigration policy".

He has thus made a break with the unashamed pro-Europeanism that has done so much to raise Liberal Democrat spirits and won himself widespread criticism within the party.

But I was struck by this aside in his article:
One uncomfortable feature of the referendum was the large Brexit vote among British Asians, many of whom resented the contrast between the restrictions they face and the welcome mat laid out for Poles and Romanians.
Some in the Leave campaign tried to capitalise on this disaffection among British Asians during the campaign.

In late May the Express told us:
Leading Brexit campaigners Priti Patel is planning a 'Save the British Curry Day' next month to show how many challenges curry houses face. 
The Employment minister said: "Uncontrolled immigration from the EU has led to tougher controls on migrants from the rest of the world. 
"This means that we cannot bring in the talents and the skills we need to support our economy. 
"By voting to leave we can take back control of our immigration policies, save our curry houses and join the rest of the world."
There has, of course, been no mention of relaxing controls on immigration from the subcontinent since the referendum was announced.

That was predictable, as was the subsequent rise in racist sentiment.

So much so, that Harcharan Chandhoke asked "Brexit: Did British-Asians just put a xenophobic gun to their heads?"

Maybe they did, but I was reminded of a post by Richard Morris, which argued that the political class are schooled in monetary and fiscal economics and are shocked when the voters apply different principles:
Behavioural Economics suggests a rather different, more visceral response “sure I’ll be a bit better off if we stay in – but you over there will be loads better off – and that’s not right”. 
Which is why economically challenged areas were more likely to vote Leave. Not so much a gamble that they might be better off if Britain leaves the EU and more of a rejection of a deal which contravenes the very British notion of fair play.
That, I suspect, had a lot to do with why many British Asian voters backed Leave.

Which suggests Vince Cable may be on to something when he implies that there are tensions between support for free movement in the EU and the interests of a population with such varied heritage.

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