Nigel Farage has called for a cap on immigration as he set out the Brexit Party’s policy platform for the General Election.
Launching the party’s “contract with the people”, Mr Farage said all the party’s demands were underpinned by the need to secure a “clean-break Brexit” with the European Union.
On immigration, he said his suggested 50,000 per year target for net migration entering the UK was not “an absolute” figure but instead a “rough marker” in order to bring back “post-war normality” in terms of social integration.
Asked whether, with tens of thousands of skills shortages in the nursing and construction professions, his figure was “unattainable”, Mr Farage replied; “No, not at all.”
He added: “I’m setting it as a rough marker, I’m not saying it is an absolute.
“I’m saying, let’s return to 60 years of post-war normality that actually led to us having the best levels of integration in any country in Europe, the best race relations in Europe.
“We did this incredibly well until the late 1990s, when we took a different direction.
“We are now paying quite a big price for that.”
The former Ukip boss said skills gaps would be filled by focusing on training young people for trade jobs rather than arts degrees and issuing temporary work permits to help fill some sectors.
Speaking to supporters and journalists in Westminster on Friday, the anti-EU leader appeared to row back on his demands for a no-deal Brexit – dubbed a “clean break” by the Brexit Party.
Mr Farage hinted that his cohort could be prepared to throw its support behind a Canada-style free trade deal with Brussels – an agreement which would not see Britain aligned with Brussels regulations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested he would look to negotiate a type of free trade deal during the 2020 transition period.
Questioned about his comments, Mr Farage said: “A clean-break means not being under EU rules and not adjudged by their courts, it is quite simple.”
He denied his support for a Canada-style agreement was a “change in definition” to what a clean-break had meant previously.
“I stick to what I’ve said for 25 years.
“I want a genuine free trade agreement with the European Union, whether we get that before we leave or what do we do after we leave, doesn’t matter to me,” he said.
“Brexit, that vote that everybody tries to talk about the economic terms, was a political decision.
“We voted to leave the European Union and its institutions.
“And it is that, so far, that Westminster has completely failed to deliver and that explains much of the breakdown of trust.”
Other measures included in the 21-page policy document, include:
– Halting HS2
– Scrapping the BBC licence fee
– Allowing citizens to call referendums if five million people agree
– Abolishing inheritance tax
– Investing £2.5 billion in fishing and coastal communities
– Giving businesses zero-rate corporation tax for the first £10,000 of pre-tax profits
– Abolishing privatisation in the NHS
– Establishing 24-hour GP surgeries
– Creating freeports in “certain regions”
The Brexit Party said binning the blueprints for HS2, keeping the payments Britain currently pays to Brussels and re-directing half the foreign aid budget would give the government £200 billion of investment to play with.
The Eurosceptics, who are standing candidates in 274 seats after opting not to contest Tory-held constituencies, want that money to go towards abolishing interest on student loans, reducing import tariffs to cut the cost of food and clothes coming from outside the EU and abandoning the apprenticeship levy which they said had caused employment opportunities to “collapse”.
Mr Farage denied his party’s referendum policy, allowing one to take place if five million people concurred, would pave the way for a second Brexit referendum through the backdoor.
The MEP said: “The same subject could not be re-examined within the space of a 10-year period.”
The so-called “contract” announcement also saw the party air its election broadcast, which is designed to encourage Labour Leave voters to pluck for the Brexit Party over the Tories in Labour-held marginals.
“It will give us the freedom to shape our future by taking immediate control of our own laws, borders, money, fishing and defence.”