EU Referendum

Will ethnic minority voters decide EU vote?

Davinda Bal
Image caption Davinda Bal says the majority of Sikhs want to stay in the EU

The headquarters of the Sikh Channel is in Birmingham. Set up in 2009, it is the first channel in the world dedicated to Sikh religious and cultural shows round the clock.

David Cameron apparently knows its worth. He recently appeared on the channel's nightly Referendum show, advocating the benefits of a Remain vote.

Davinda Bal, the channel's founder, told me: "He addressed some of the concerns about security and immigration very well… I think it will be a largely Remain vote from Sikhs - from our programming we are getting the overwhelming sense that they want to stay.

"This issue is about segregation and separation. Sikhs believe in one world and one society, so being part of the EU and embracing our fellow human beings across the Channel."

Who will cook your Indian curry?

EU referendum: Polls reveal divided nation

UK's EU referendum: All you need to know

According to the British Election Study, unlike the white population who are pretty evenly split between Brexit and Remain, two-thirds of Britain's BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) voters favour staying in the EU.

If the Remain camp can get them to the poll, their four million or so votes could be crucial for pro-EU campaigners.

For Remainers, the economy often drives their decision.

Image caption Merisha Stevenson says the UK cannot afford the uncertainty of Brexit

We met Merisha Stevenson at Birmingham's mac arts complex.

Her grandparents were part of the Windrush generation and she is voting to stay in the EU.

"I think the uncertainty is something the country can't afford. Europe is the biggest single trade market. We need to stay part, not separate," she says.

"After the 2008 financial crash, we need to rebuild economic markets and not go back to scratch on trade agreements."

The gallery is exhibiting "Shock and Awe", Barbara Walker's drawings of the contribution made by black servicemen and women to Britain's armed forces.

It's a visual reminder of our Commonwealth heritage - and for some Brexiteers amongst ethnic minority communities, Commonwealth looms large.

Image caption Kit Showande says leaving could help the UK forge better relationships around the world

Vote Leave has talked of renewing our links with Commonwealth countries. If the UK leaves the EU and is free to control EU migration, the suggestion is we would be able to bring in skilled workers from places which already have ties to Britain.

That has clearly registered with some BAME voters.

Kit Showande, an education consultant and entrepreneur whose family are from West Africa, told me: "Britain did things differently. There are lots more Caribbeans, Africans, Indians here than other European countries. Being out could allow us to build those relationships again."

Aftab Chughtai runs a pram and children's clothing shop on Birmingham's famously diverse Alum Rock Road.

His parents arrived from Kashmir in the 1960s. His father worked in a factory, his mum later set up the shop which became a local institution. He too wants Britain to leave the EU.

"Immigration is good for a country, but there is a level," he believes.

Image caption Aftab Chughtai says there must be controls on immigration

"If it was fair and went all round the world, we could get the best people; computer programmers from India, nurses and doctors from Commonwealth countries where they speak our language and share our law. By staying in the EU, we don't have control of that."

In the referendum in 1975, it was argued Britain was turning its back on the Commonwealth. Clearly some now see June's poll as an opportunity to fix that.

Could the argument gain traction amongst ethnic minority voters over the next few weeks?

If the British Election Study numbers are correct, there is a lot of ground to make up.

More worrying perhaps for Remainers focussed on the BAME community are the numbers on turnout in the study.

While 80% of the white people polled said they were "very likely to vote", that number is at least 20% lower in people with a BAME background.

Referendum Road: Watch the full Newsnight series here

Related Topics

More on this story