Nigel Farage has defended his policy of rejecting migrants with HIV from coming into the UK, saying Britain should “put our own people first”.
Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show with just days to go until the EU referendum, the Ukip leader was challenged over his stated position that refusing to accept migrants with HIV would be a “good start” to reforming immigration.
Mr Farage refused to repeat the line live on TV, but he nonetheless defended a policy that would block people who want to come to the UK “to get free healthcare”.
The leading Brexit campaigner said he wants Britain “to be a normal country”, suggesting that involves not “allowing people to come into the country who would be a huge burden on the health service”.
And Mr Farage suggested people would be forced to prove they do not have HIV when they arrive at the border, pointing – as he often does – to how things are done in Australia, where “you have to prove various things” on entry.
“Let’s be clear, if you are coming to live in this country, to work in this country, you have to bring your own health insurance,” he said. “We have a national health service that is at breaking point.
“It is a national health service, it is not an international health service.”
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
Pressed for an answer as to whether he still believed Britain should reject people with HIV, Farage suggested he would if they were coming “to get free healthcare”.
He said: “Should we say to people from all over the world, if you’ve got a very serious disease we are very happy for the national health service to provide whatever healthcare you want, at the same time as it now takes people in Britain a fortnight to get a GP appointment?
“It is about priorities, isn’t it? And my priority would be, we put our own people first. It is about time we did.”
The EU referendum debate has so far been characterised by bias, distortion and exaggeration. So until 23 June we we’re running a series of question and answer features that explain the most important issues in a detailed, dispassionate way to help inform your decision.