Nigel Farage has been accused of helping whip up antagonism against foreigners by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable.
But the Brexit Party leader hit back insisting he was “far from racist”, in a heated face-to-face clash with the former cabinet minister.
In a debate organised by the Daily Telegraph ahead of Thursday’s European Parliament elections, Sir Vince told Mr Farage: “You have played a role in whipping up this antagonism to foreigners.
“In the referendum you told us that next year, 2020, Turks are going to be free to come to come to this country. A lot of people were alarmed by something that is patently untrue.
“You put out that advertisement, the hoarding, showing immigrants who had dark faces. I welcome people with dark faces. I was married to one.
“But people coming in from Europe are Europeans. It was giving a totally false picture of what immigration actually amounts to.”
Mr Farage insisted he is more internationalist than people who want to stay in the EU.
He said: “I’ve taken terrible stick on this. When Romania joined the European Union with full access I said this is a huge mistake.
“It was a country that had not made the full transformation to Western democracy and I believed that quarter of a million would come from Romania.
“And I was screamed and shouted at – ‘how dare I scaremonger’ – the last figure I saw was 411,000.
“All I have ever argued with immigration is that we should have a free, fair system that stops discriminating against India and against Australia in favour of Romania, or anywhere else.
“I utterly reject the idea that I am trying to stir anything up.
“Far from being racist, actually, we really are more internationalist than those who want our whole future decided by the EU.”
Mr Farage also attacked the “militant Remainer-type” who he claimed felt “morally superior” to people who voted Leave.