Wednesday, March 01, 2017

‘Populist Politics Behind Rise in Racist Attacks’
Suhasini Haidar
FEBRUARY 25, 2017 22:49 IST

British MEP Neena Gill blames politicians who point a finger at one community or the other

Attacks on immigrants in the U.S. post-elections and in the U.K. post-Brexit are a sign of “cultural regression” in the world because of “populist politics”, says U.K. Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Neena Gill.

“During the (U.K.) referendum and after it, many politicians in the mainstream have been openly voicing opposition to immigrants,” Ms. Gill, a Labour party leader of Indian-origin, told The Hindu.

“It was the Asian community and the African community of Britishers who have borne the brunt,” she said referring to attacks on her staff members in recent months, that has led her to set up a cross-party coalition in the British Midlands to counter racist attacks.

Ms. Gill said she had no doubt that the attacks in the U.K. and the shooting of an Indian engineer in the U.S. — by a man believed to have told him to “get out of the country” — were a consequence of populist movements that pinpoint immigration as one of the big threats.

Impact on free trade

“The atmosphere is being vitiated by politics of this populist kind. In the U.S. and the U.K., there are (non-white) immigrants who are third and fourth generation, who have known nothing other than the country they were born in. It’s very damaging for our societies when populist politicians point to one community or the other and say, that is the problem.”

Ms. Gill was part of three European Union delegations that visited Delhi last week, and met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Commerce and Industries Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as well as NSA Ajit Doval. The discussions focussed largely on the need to speed up the EU-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).

Talks over the FTA or BTIA have stalled since 2011 over visas and services agreements mainly, and Ms. Gill said one of the big outcomes of recent elections has been an anti-globalisation sentiment. “Wrongly or rightly, our populations believe these FTAs and globalisation has not delivered for those who feel left behind. It is also true that automation and digitisation have made people feel their traditional ways of working have faded out, and they have lost out. I think many nationalistic politicians also use globalisation as a convenient whipping boy when the problem is that they haven’t kept their promises,” she said.

Criticising U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May for making “false claims” about the outcome of Britain’s exit from the EU, Ms. Gill said it would be hard to see how U.K.-India trade and immigration would increase, as assured by visiting British Ministers Priti Patel and Alok Sharma.

Blow to ‘Make in India’

“How can you say [that] the whole issue that triggered Brexit was immigration but after Brexit, we may see more Indians coming to the UK? I’m surprised even Ministers in the PM May government who are of Indian origin are making these false claims,” she said pointing to what she called the “impact of Trump policies” (on H1B visas) on the Indian IT sector. Ms. Gill said the Brexit move would impact the Modi government’s pet “Make in India” project, as competing policies in the U.K. and other countries would want to move manufacturing bases to their countries.

“Look, all countries want to increase their own manufacturing and their own skills, but let us understand, nothing is now produced in one place. It all has to be coordinated between different countries, which is what MNCs do. Now in the U.K., the government has this idea that they will get investment to manufacture here from say, India, but not take workers. I don’t think that’s going to work,” said Ms Gill, who said she had discussed the concerns India had over restrictions on immigrants and students in the U.K. with officials here as well.

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