The Ukip leader Nigel Farage has admitted that immigration has “jollified” Britain and improved the food – while at the same time hitting out at an influx of foreign workers for “changing our communities”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he also dismissed comments from former Tory defence minister Liam Fox about the threat of Ukip, calling them “baloney”.
Mr Farage said it was “nonsense” to try and impose a cap on migration as a member of the EU, and said that if he was a Romanian worker he would move to Britain for the higher wagers being offered.
“The question here, it isn’t just about money, it isn’t about whether the GDP is expanding,” Mr Farage said. “I think it’s about community, it’s a sense of who we are as a people and what we belong to.
“I toured the whole of England last year in the run-up to the English county elections and I met people everywhere who said: ‘Nigel, we’ve never had a problem with immigration – it jollifies the place and the food’s better and that’s great – but how many people can we actually take? What chance have our kids got of getting jobs?’”
He said: “We’ve got a massive oversupply of people earning minimum wage, qualifying almost immediately for in-work benefits and changing our communities. In many cases people are saying: ‘Goodness me, is this the town that I know, is this where I grew up?’”
Mr Farage’s comments came in the wake of a warning to David Cameron from Mr Fox, who said the Prime Minister would be guilty of “dangerous complacency” if he failed to address the damage Ukip could do at the ballot box.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the Eurosceptic former defence secretary called for the party to drop the “statistical nonsense” and develop a “clearer narrative” on immigration.
Dr Fox said the Ukip leader, was “personable and reasonable” and that many of his views were shared by “decent and patriotic people”.
He added: “If the Tories are to bring back enough of these voters to win an overall majority at the election, then there needs to be a clearer narrative on immigration, stressing not only the need to restrict numbers, but also to determine which individuals, with what skills enter our country.”
But Mr Farage dismissed those comments as “baloney”, saying: “Only a third of our vote comes from the Conservatives and when you poll Ukip voters and say, 'if there was no Ukip candidate, how would you vote?', less than one in five of them would even consider voting for the Conservatives.
“The reasons the Tories won't win a majority at the next general election is not because of Europe, it's because their own voters don't see David Cameron as a Conservative.”