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British Muslim MP defects to Remain over Brexit obsession with race

Brexit-backing Labour MP Khalid Mahmood is set to defect to the Remain campaign amid concerns race is dominating the campaign
The Labour MP says the focus on race by senior Conservative Boris Johnson has prompted him to vote to remain in the EU. (ITV NEWS)

The first Muslim MP to represent an English constituency is set to announce that he is defecting to the Remain campaign after becoming concerned about the Brexit camp’s focus on “immigration and race”.

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Perry Barr in the Midlands, is a former board member of the Vote Leave campaign in the run-up to the EU referendum later this month, but he is expected to hold a press conference today and become the second MP to switch sides to the remain camp.

He is expected to say that the Brexit campaign’s focus on immigration, including the controversial claim that remaining in the EU could hand Turkey’s 75 million population the right to settle in Britain, has made people from ethnic minorities feel insecure, The Times reported.

He is reported to have made the move because of “racist” undertones in the Brexit campaign, which has been dominated by UK Independent Party leader Nigel Farage and senior Conservative Boris Johnson.

Mahmood is understood to believe that Leave has been “hijacked” by issues of immigration and race, to the detriment of economic issues.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mahmood said he was "disappointed" by Boris Johnson's comments about Barack Obama's father being from Kenya and by the focus on Turkish accession.

He said: "When Boris Johnson talks about where Obama's father comes from, what's that got to do with anyone? Why do we need to talk about who his parents are? That disappointed a lot of people.

"Then there was the advert about passports and the campaign saying Turkey could join the EU - that 76 million people are coming to the UK and there have been a number of other things they used in a fairly racist context.

He added that Farage has "added to" his concerns about racism in the Leave campaign

Last month, the Birmingham MP warned that some Muslims were struggling to integrate into British society and said government must take a “share of the blame”.

He said a series of mistakes - including a housing policy that forces ethnic groups to live in areas - by politicians had left British Muslims from poorer families “isolated”. He also said the provision of grants to community groups along religious and ethnic lines was dividing communities.