Brexit And The African Vote


On the 23rd of June, the British people have an opportunity to decide whether or not they should remain part of the European Union. The Conservative Party has given UK citizens the chance to vote on the issue in a Referendum.

African migrant voters have become increasingly wary by the emerging anti-immigration tone of the Brexit debate. White voters seem evenly split between remain and leave, however polls show more than twice as many Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) voters are planning to vote to stay in Europe.

In various polls taken between May 2015 and February 2016, Sky News analysis show that 55 per cent of BME voters want Britain to remain with the EU, whilst only 23 per cent wanted to leave.

Race has increasingly become a controversial talking point of the debate. When Operation Black Vote a put out a campaign poster showing a skinhead thug and an elderly woman in a sari on a see-saw with the slogan “a vote is a vote”, all hell broke loose.

They were singled out for severe criticism by Rightwing press. The Daily Mail claimed it had “sparked outrage” and labeled it “racist”. Simon Woolley, the director of Operation Black Vote, says the Black and Minority Ethnic community is “completely alienated and disenfranchised”. He points out that: “Politicians have consistently put race on the EU Referendum agenda in a negative way throughout the whole campaign.

Whether it’s been Boris Johnson saying that Barack Obama, the US president, is anti-British because of his ‘part-Kenyan’ heritage, or Nigel Farage’s claims that Labour promoted immigration to ‘to rub our noses in diversity’ both camps.

In and Out, have at times descended into gutter politics demonising people from the immigrant population and those who hold a different religion.” While most Africans are less likely to participate in EU free movement activities, they tend to express pro-EU sentiments due to concerns of nativism in the UK.

These sentiments reflect a perceived form of protection from localised discrimination. One benefit for the African continent at the event of Britain leaving the EU is the exit from the Common Agricultural Policy. This protectionist measure distorts competition and is having a devastating impact on agriculture and economic growth in Africa.

High EU tariff barriers on African exports have stopped the continent from trading competitively with the UK. Sam Akai, Director of Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa argues that “the European Union is an ongoing disaster for Africa” and that “no other continent bloc administers a more comprehensive trade protection against Africa than the European Union”.

It has been a strong point by the Pro-out campaign that leaving the EU would allow Britain to rekindle and re-engage with African and Commonwealth countries thereby allowing fairer trade deals which would better reflect Britain’s role as a leading pioneer of free market enterprise. Africa surely needs fairer trade deals.