Syed Kamall (pictured, right), leader of the Conservative Party’s group in the European Parliament, has announced he supports Britain leaving the European Union (EU).
In a major blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, former business consultant Sayed Kamall said he backs Brexit. As chairman of the the third largest group in the European Parliament, the Conservatives and Reformists group, his view will be welcomed by Leave campaigners.
Explaining his personal decision to vote to leave, the MEP who played a key role as the go-between for Mr. Cameron and leaders in Brussels at last month’s summit said:
“After much thought, my personal decision is to vote to leave the EU; not because I think David Cameron did a bad job, but because I believe that on balance we could forge a better future outside.”
Interviewed by the Evening Standard he said he recognises deep “uncertainties” about where a Remain vote may lead. Warning that the European Commission has plans for further political integration, including a European Army, he said “the EU will change a lot in five to 10 years — you can’t be certain what staying in will look like.”
In a statement on his website, Mr. Kamall said:
Of course leaving the EU will present some challenges not least securing a new trade agreement between the UK and the European Union. But this opportunity may never come again, so I must decide what I feel will be best for my constituency of London – as a truly global city as opposed to just a European city – and for Britain in generations to come.
Those who argue that Britain will immediately transform into a nirvana after leaving the EU are giving a false promise. New trade deals will take time. Equally those who claim that we will become like North Korea – shut off from the world and its markets – are scaremongering.
Mr. Kamall also predicted that Britain will come under great pressure to surrender its independent currency once all 27 other countries have signed up to the euro.
Of particular concern to Mr. Kamall is his belief it is impossible to have a “fair immigration system” within the EU that treats talented immigrants equally “whether they are from Austria or Australia, from Croatia or the Caribbean, from India or Italy”. On his website he explained:
A crucial deciding factor for me is immigration. I want to see a Britain where everyone can achieve their ambitions whether they come from a wealthy or poorer background. Equally, I want to see an immigration policy that is balanced and fair – where we treat everyone outside the UK equally whether they are from an EU country or not. Sadly, a fair immigration system is incompatible with our membership of the EU.
Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that only by leaving the EU can we be genuinely free to put in place a fair immigration policy for ourselves.
As the son of immigrants who came from a non-EU country, this is my deeply held conviction on an issue that matters deeply to me.
In a comment which some will read as a veiled criticism of certain Eurosceptic politicians who now back the Remain campaign, Mr. Kamall added:
I have always told aspiring politicians to be true to themselves, and it would be hypocritical to ignore that advice myself in order to further my career.
It remains to be seen whether the decision of the most senior Conservative in Brussels to campaign for the UK to leave the EU will have an impact on his colleagues in the European Parliament. Earlier this week 11 Conservative MEPs out of 20 were voting to remain, five were voting to leave, and four (including Mr. Kamall) were undeclared.
According to the Conservative Home blog, as a result of Mr. Kamall’s decision UKIP MEP Gerard Batten lost a bet meaning he now owes €50 to his fellow UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall.