Cheltenham Literature Festival: Nigel Farage says NHS, school places, jobs 'for our people'
Nigel Farage laid out Ukip’s immigration policy in stark terms at Cheltenham Literature Festival in a fiery and often controversial debate on whether Britain should leave the EU.
The Ukip leader addressed the suggestion that millions of people will look to come to Britain after January 1 from Romania and Bulgaria when the UK’s border laws are relaxed and his message was clear.
“You cannot have an immigration policy in this country determined by your own government and be a member of the European Union,” he said.
“As much as I feel sorry for how the Romani people are treated, the time has come for us to say ‘look, the NHS is here for our people, the primary schools are here for our kids, the low paid jobs are here for our people’.
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“Opening the doors to 28 million people from Romania and Bulgaria on January 1 is an irresponsible thing to do.”
Mr Farage was joined for the debate in Montpellier Gardens by Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood, The Times Berlin correspondent David Charter and The Times leader writer Oliver Kamm.
Mr Farage told the audience he would not “beg for crumbs” from the EU table as he made the case for leaving the union.
He also confronted, in a particularly lively exchange, the suggestion that leaving the EU would cause damage to trading in the City of London.
Describing the City as a “global marketplace” and not a European one, he said it is the “same cretins that said we should join the Euro” who are now saying leaving the EU would have a negative impact on the City.
“The sooner we are free from over regulation and the utter stupidity coming from Brussels the more prosperous Britain’s biggest industry will be,” he said.
“I don’t believe that leaving the European Union would do any harm whatsoever to the City.”
However, Mr Farage did not have things all his own way as Mr Horwood made the case for remaining in the European Union as well as reacting to the Ukip leader’s claim that the EU is “led by people who we cannot vote for”.
Mr Horwood said: “The EU is not perfect. British government is not perfect. But that does not mean that Cheltenham should decide to leave Britain.
“Nigel is quite wrong: You can vote for people. You can vote for people in the European Parliament who take part in European decision making.”
Mr Horwood also reused a phrase uttered at the Liberal Democrat conference last month to poke fun at Ukip’s performance in affecting change in Europe.
“You turn up, you claim your expenses and you kip,” he said.
Buy The Gloucestershire Echo on Monday for our exclusive interview with Nigel Farage.