THE prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne made impassioned pleas to the Hindu community to vote to remain in the European Union, in “the most important decison” for voters in a lifetime.
Cameron visited the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford last Friday, while Osborne was at the BAPS Swaminarayan temple in Neasden, north London, on Tuesday as the Remain campaign stepped up its momentum just days be-fore the crucial vote.
“One of the reasons it is so important for the British Indian community is we are the gateway for investing (from India) into Europe. That is what (India’s) prime minister (Naren-dra) Modi has said,” Cameron exclusively told Eastern Eye.
In similar comments, Osborne told the congregation at the Neasden temple, “Our closest trading partners around the world, like India, are speaking with one voice. Their message is clear – Britain is a more attractive partner for inward investment as part of Europe, not outside.”
“The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and leading business organisations like the Federation of Indian Cham-bers of Commerce & Industry have made abundantly clear that they see the UK as a gateway to Europe’s single market of 500 million consumers,” Osborne added.
“India currently invests more in the UK than in the rest of the EU combined, precisely because the UK is seen by In-dian companies as their entry point into Europe.”
Last week, Cameron urged devotees at the Bhaktivedanta Manor to make their voices heard next Thursday in what has been described as the biggest political decision of voters’ lifetimes.
Cameron said Britain would be stronger in the world in a reformed EU, which would provide a place “where our values were best protected and our aspirations were fulfilled”.
He also amused the members of the Hare Krishna temple by attempting to speak Gujarati while telling them to vote to stay.
Following his speech, Cameron exclusively told Eastern Eye why he believed British Asians should favour staying in the EU.
“We are the gateway for investing from India into Europe. It’s also the case for other communities, whether it’s British Bangladeshis or British Pakistanis, so it clearly makes sense to have that connection between Britain and Europe. It’s good all round,” Cameron said.
Addressing an audience of priests, business owners and temple-goers, the prime minister made the business case as well, arguing that access to the single market would be severed if Britain chooses Brexit.
“It is within Europe that we have access to the single market of 500 million people with whom we can trade without tariffs or barriers. And it’s to that market that we sell nearly half of our exports,” Cameron said.
“That creates jobs, it grows our economy, it generates money to fund our public services like schools and hospitals.”
He said those who believed the referendum had nothing to do with them were “wrong”.
“It’s got everything to do with you because it’s the foundation of a strong economy and that strong economy is the foundation of our security.”
Asked by Eastern Eye about the contentious issue of immigration, which has been seized upon by the Brexit camp, Cameron said people had to be careful about how they expressed their views.
“It’s important to debate it and discuss it, but we need to make sure that we send a very clear message of welcome to people who have come to our country, worked hard, helped to build it and made an enormous contribution,” he said.
Cameron praised British Sikhs and Hindus, saying they had made an immense contribution to the country and continued to do so.
Responding to a question about his change in stance over London mayor Sadiq Khan, whom he criticised before campaigning alongside him over the EU, Cameron said: “I was worried about some of the people he appeared on platforms with.
“He was asked a series of questions and he answered those questions to the satisfaction of Londoners. We should all accept the verdict of London voters and get on and work with the mayor and that’s what I’m doing, not just for the good of London but also on this issue of Europe.
“Sadiq Khan and I have appeared on a platform together and I am sure we will continue to work together.
“On Europe, I’m very happy to work across party lines because this issue is so important for the future of our country.”
Cameron said that those who were in camp Leave had nothing good to offer as an alternative, and by removing Britain from the EU, the country could be at risk of another recession.
“They are asking you to vote for something but not telling you what it is, and that to me is the definition of a leap in the dark. They say don’t listen to the experts… because the IMF, the Bank of England, the Treasury, the people who really know their stuff, know what will probably happen if we don’t – [there will be a] recession. They don’t have to tell us what happens in a recession, we know it well.”
Meanwhile, Osborne added his rallying cry to Hindus at Neasden temple. He said: “Our country faces the most important decision for a generation – something that will determine the future of our children and grandchildren and beyond – when it votes in the EU referendum.
“The questions for British Indians are, do we choose the sort of collaboration between countries that made the building of this temple possible, or do we isolate ourselves and put up barriers to economic trade and advancement? Do we continue on the path of economic recovery or do expose our country to a profound economic shock and a decade of uncertainty?
“Do we accept Nigel Farage’s narrow, mean and decisive view of Britain or maintain the generous, open, free trading spirit that has made Britain great?”
“The British Indian community, with all your entrepreneurial talent and flair, have been at the forefront of building prosperity and creating jobs in our
country,” he added.
British support for leaving the EU has a seven-point lead, according to a TNS online poll published on Tuesday.
In total, 47 per cent of likely voters said they would opt to leave the EU, compared to 40 per cent who want to stay, according to the poll of 2,497 people.
Market research company TNS said 13 per cent were undecided or would not vote.
A TNS poll published last week gave the Leave campaign a two point lead, on 43 per cent.