Nigel Farage, the UK Independent Party leader, said that he would prefer immigrants from India and Australia to eastern Europeans, making a U-turn from his previous stand of not discriminating against new arrivals.
Farage indicated he would prefer immigration from nations that had the most similar cultures to the UK as he was grilled about his approach to immigration during a BBC interview broadcast on Wednesday night.
“I have to confess I do have a slight preference. I do think, naturally, that people from India and Australia are in some ways more likely to speak English, understand common law and have a connection with this country than some people that come perhaps from countries that haven’t fully recovered from being behind the iron curtain,” he said when asked whether he would favour immigrants from some countries over others.
In the past, Farage has always claimed to be the only party leader with a “non-discriminatory” policy on immigration as UKIP would not give preference to EU migrants over those from the rest of the world.
According to a report in the Telegraph last year, Farage said, “I actually want us to have an immigration policy that is non-discriminatory, because at the moment we discriminate in favour of people from Poland, or Romania, or Bulgaria, regardless (of) who they are, and we discriminate against people from New Zealand or from India, or Canada, or whatever else it may be. We’ve got our, I think, our priorities completely wrong here. And we should not be discriminating on grounds of nationality.”
The UKIP leader also suggested his party has sometimes used heightened rhetoric about immigration to get noticed.
Asked about his desire to stop more immigrants with HIV and criminal records coming to the UK, he said such language was sometimes necessary “to wake people up”.
“To wake people up to the truth of what’s going on, you sometimes have to say things in a way to get noticed, of that there’s no question,” he said.
Farage claimed UKIP was fighting this general election campaign without a negative tone and “no longer needs to make the negative arguments about the effect that immigration has had on primary school places, on healthcare provision, on wage compression”.
However, Farage has mentioned the impact of immigration on public services many times during the campaign, including stressing that it would be wrong to fund the treatment of immigrants with HIV when the country cannot afford drugs for an 80-year-old with breast cancer.
He even brought up the issue of immigrants with life- threatening diseases unprompted during the first leaders’ debate.