Nigel Farage appeared to U-turn on a U-turn today as he said he did want to see a cap on immigration in the UK, despite last month ruling out setting “arbitrary targets which only result in broken promises”.
Unveiling Ukip’s immigration election poster under the White Cliffs of Dover, Mr Farage said he wanted a net migration limit of “about 30,000 people a year”.
He also used the occasion to accuse David Cameron of “being wilfully dishonest” by pledging to cut net migration to the tens of thousands at the last election.
Ukip rolled out a re-hashed election poster from last year’s European Parliament election, showing three elevators running up Dover’s cliffs along with the slogan “Immigration is three times higher than the Tories promised”.
Last year the poster featured just one escalator with the slogans "No border" and "No control".
Asked what level of immigration levels he wanted to see in the UK, Mr Farage said: “A return to normality, a return to about a net 30,000 people a year coming into this country.
"I'm saying a net level of about 30,000 a year is roughly what we had for 50 years from 1950 almost until the turn of the century.
“It was a level at which the country was comfortable and that integration was possible and it didn't, crucially, compress the wages, push down the wages of ordinary people.”
But less than four weeks ago Mr Farage ditched the party’s plan for a 50,000 cap on annual net migration due to a “changed emphasis on policy away from caps, a culture which is now discredited”.
"There is an obsession with targets in the media or political class. If you promise a cap they [the British public] won’t believe you and they will switch off,” he said at the time.
Ukip's immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe has created even more confusion this afternoon as he contradicted Mr Farage's figures and said the 50,000 referred to just one part of immigration.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, he said: "Immigration as a whole I would always generalise as having about 5 different categories consisting of; work, students, asylum, family reunion and this catch all figure. When we referred to the 50,000 that was in relation to one section, that’s work, and this was in relation to one part of that category, highly skilled work. I think unfortunately what has happened with this debate, people have got confused with that number."
The choice of venue for the party’s immigration poster launch was undermined by Ukip’s candidate for Dover and Deal, David Little, who last month said immigration was only raised as a concern by one in 50 locals.
“If I were to speak to 100 people, maybe two or three would raise immigration,” he said in an interview with the 50for15 website.
According to UK Polling Report, the population of the Dover and Deal constituency is 93 per cent British, despite being the first place many immigrants come to when they arrive in the UK.
Describing the current immigration system as “unsustainable, unethical and unfair,” Mr Farage attacked Mr Cameron, saying:
“When Cameron made that promise he was being wilfully dishonest because he knew the truth and I think now the British public five years on know the truth - that you actually cannot have an immigration policy, you can't set targets of any kind at all, you can't attempt to control who comes into Britain, all the while you're members of European Union.”
Charlie Elphicke, the Tory MP defending his 5,274 majority in Dover, hit back. “All we've seen from Ukip on immigration is chaos and confusion: one minute there's a cap, then there's not.
"Mark Reckless says certain migrants should be repatriated, then Farage says they're welcome to stay.”
The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as possible.
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