My article for Conservative Home on Brexit and Trump – nothing in common
Last June, I was one of over 17 million people who voted to leave the European Union. I was proud to do so, and believe that Britain now has an opportunity to create a stronger, fairer and more prosperous society.
My grandfather came to the UK from India in 1963 in search of a better life, fairness in education and opportunity regardless of gender, race or status. Britain gave my grandfather the chance to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, build his own business and give back to society.
So I believe I have good reasons to love this country and its values – values like respecting the views of others, even when you disagree with them. About believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and upholding basic human rights; in equality, democracy and the democratic process. And respect for the law, even when you think it’s wrong. And when you do disagree, getting involved to change it. That’s what freedom and democracy is all about.
It doesn’t matter about your race, your religion, your status or even how long you’ve lived here – we all have a role to play in making society a success. That’s something we seem to have forgotten but, as an independent country, it’s going to be even more important that everyone helps change Britain for the better.
Now that we are to leave the EU, I want to see the UK develop an immigration policy which grants people the right to come here based not on where they were born but on their skills, education and what they can contribute to society. While we were in the EU and its Single Market we had no control over immigration. Indeed, the situation was fundamentally unfair – regardless of their skills or intentions, EU citizens were free to come to the UK but citizens from Commonwealth countries and beyond, many with family links to British communities, were prevented from doing so.
Post Brexit Britain should take a global approach to immigration. That means attracting the doctors, teachers, engineers, and business people we need to enable our country to flourish while ending the discrimination based on where an individual was born or what colour their passport is. That way we’d have an immigration system that was in the best interests of this country and consistent with our values.
Watching Donald Trump pass his executive order banning entry from seven majority Muslim countries like Syria and Iraq has left me feeling frustrated. It’s not just that citizens from these countries have never been responsible for acts of terrorism in the US, it’s also that the decision feels un-American and even inhumane. An entry ban on grounds of nationality and religion is certainly un-British, and I was pleased to see that Boris Johnson has called it “divisive and wrong”.
If I had been able to vote in the US Presidential election I would not have voted for Donald Trump. I don’t know anyone who would have! But I did vote Leave in June. And America elected Donald Trump – and opted to become secluded from the world. It was a vote that has started the process of America forgetting its values and its history. In the case of Brexit, the vote was a bid to regain control of our country, a vote for optimism, for trade beyond the EU’s protectionist customs union and for a greater and fairer engagement with the world beyond Europe’s borders. Brexit was a vote for an independent Britain that is fair on immigration, trades globally and is outward-looking – underpinned by great values of equality, fairness and freedom.