EXCLUSIVE: Chuka Umunna speaks about the importance of the diaspora vote

Anand Pillai Saturday 25th June 2016 04:53 EDT

At an exclusive interview Chuka Umunna speaks to Asian Voice about the upcoming EU Referendum and Labour policies

Q:How decisive black and Asian voters could prove in this referendum? What are you doing to garner their votes?

They determine the general elections. In 253 of the current 650 constituencies, the majority of the sitting members of Parliament is exceeded by the ethnic minority population in that constituency. So in around 1 in 3 seats, the ethnic minority vote is decisive and it will prove to be incredibly important in this referendum campaign. But, I should add, it will not be if our people don't turn out to vote.

Q: Recently former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had criticised Jeremy Corbyn for failing to push Labour's case in EU referendum. Prescott had said that Labour must set out more clearly where it stands on immigration. What's Labour's position on immigration?

We have got a clear position on EU referendum. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely clear about it that from the point of view of Labour's values voting to stay In is the right thing to do. And that is why overwhelmingly a clear majority of our MPs want to stay In.

In terms of immigration issue, I don't think anybody will deny that migration in 2016 and beyond is going to pose challenges. My argument is if we were to quit EU, those challenges will not go away. Yes, people have concerns about how migration can undercut people's wages in the labour market and that's why it's really important that the government imposes minimum wage.

But let's not forget the benefits that immigration brings – there are 100,000 EU citizens working in the NHS, 1.5 million British people are employed in businesses in the UK owned by EU citizens. Let's also not forget that when our parents and grandparents came here, the same arguments that have been made now against East Europeans were made against them. And so we shouldn't ignore the challenges that immigration can pose. Let us not allow Nigel Farage and others to create division and hate in our communities in an attempt to gain political gains.


Q: Is it right to say Jeremy Corby is keeping a low key as far as EU referendum is concerned?

 No, I think it's impossible for Jeremy Corbyn to keep a low key. Wherever he goes, there is a TV camera in his face. He is campaigning hard to make sure we stay in the EU and he will be campaigning harder still in these final weeks of the campaign.


Q: How is Labour planning to protect our borders?

We manage our borders properly. The idea that when you arrive at a British airport, you simply go and pick up your bags when you get off the plane and then get out of the airport – is untrue. You have to go through the passport checks and to that extent we are able to manage migration now. Because we have the benefit of the single market and it is impossible with the way in which the EU is set out to have a free movement of goods and services as well as free movement of people, we make a judgement that the economic benefits that we get from the single market are way, what some say, would be the downside of migration. But the important thing is where you have an area that has the need for people to come to the community and to cope with whatever extra pressures is an issue for the domestic government, for the British government, not for the EU.

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