INFLUENTIAL: Barack Obama wants Britain to stay in the EU
BARACK OBAMA’S visit to the UK this week could have a big impact on how minorities vote in the EU referendum, according to political commentators.
The US president’s visit - part of a tour including Saudi Arabia and Germany - is likely to be his last before his term in office ends in January 2017.
He will have a private dinner with the Queen at Windsor Castle and stage a joint press conference with David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.
President Obama is expected to repeat his support for Britain’s EU membership during this week’s visit.
Campaign group UK Race and Europe Network (UKREN), who are seeking to broaden the discussion around the referendum believe Obama’s endorsement of David Cameron’s position on staying in the EU will inspire black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to take a pro-European stand when the vote takes place on June 23.
UKREN spokesperson Leah Cowan told The Voice: “A lot of people in BAME communities are fans of Obama and so his views will influence some to side with David Cameron to remain in the European Union. But it is a complex debate.
Voters need to be clear who the American President represents on this issue; is it the interest of a world power or black minorities in the UK?”
Simon Woolley, Director of campaign group Operation Black Vote also agreed that Obama’s UK visit could have an impact on how BAME communities vote in the EU referendum.
He said: “I don’t believe the President’s visit will directly influence voters to side with Cameron to remain in the EU, but it will begin debate among many who haven’t been part of the campaign process. Some in the black community who want to leave the EU, may change their minds once the misconceptions about EU institutions are discussed and addressed.
“In my opinion it is these institutions that are best placed to promote equality and oppose the far right across the continent.”
According to a poll carried out by independent think-tank British Future, people from BAME are more pro-Europe than anti-Europe, by about 2-1.
However the think tank and other organisations like the Runnymede Trust believe that the Leave campaign has considerable untapped potential to win over minority ethnic voters, who they say feel detached from the EU debate and are suspicious of UKIP’s close attachment to Brexit.
Cowan said it is important that both the Leave EU and Britain Stronger in Europe campaigns make an effort to engage BAME communities in the run up to the June 23 vote.
She said: “Obama’s visit may entice those on the sidelines into the debate, but campaign groups must make more of an effort to inform the public of the issues involved.”
At a recent discussion on the referendum called Whose Europe? organised by UKREN, the rights of individuals were discussed, rather than business, security and Britain’s position on the world stage.
One of the key issues of concern to minority communities that was debated at the event, held at Europe House in London, was workers’ rights.
Cowan observed that with many BAME workers on zero hours contracts the protection afforded under EU law was a measure that was strongly supported by attendees and was a factor that would sway support in favour of David Cameron’s position.
However she added: “On the Brexit side of the issue some have said we want to build connections with the Commonwealth, rather than Europe.
“The issues involved are varied and need discussing.”