Farage: ‘We would not have won without the immigration argument’
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Nigel Farage believes that Brexit would not have “got over the line” if it hadn’t been for the single issue of immigration.
Farage was responding to comments from the former chancellor George Osborne, who told BBC Newsnight that the government had made mistakes in advance of the Brexit vote.
Osborne believed that the Conservative government’s negativity towards the EU, Brussels and immigration was to blame for the Leave vote in June 2016.
Farage told listeners of his LBC radio programme: “I think Osborne basically admitted two things last night. One, they kept making promises that absolutely weren’t going to be delivered but it was done for electoral reasons.
“And two, that in the end, and as he said in the referendum, that question became lethal for them because people linked migration, open doors and European Union membership.
“He did very much play down the question of sovereignty which upsets Matthew on Twitter who says ‘if Osborne thinks migration was the number one issue and not the continual bleeding away of our sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats, he is delusional’.”
Farage, however, accepted that it was not constitution or sovereignty that ensured the Brexit vote was delivered, but the issue of immigration.
He said: “I knew that if the issue of soverignity, in relation to the European Union, could be seen directly linked to immigration and open borders, this is what would change the whole national debate, and when George Osborne says in the referendum that issue was ‘lethal’ he is absolutely right, and that’s precisely Mr Osborne what I set out to do in 2004.”
Farage added: “I don’t think the Leave side could have won just on the sovereignty argument. I think it was actually the immigration argument that meant the turn out went up to a historically high 73%.
“I think it was that that really got Leave over the line. George Osborne clearly believes the same.”
Osborne told the BBC: “I think we were wrong to play into the debate that everything that Brussels did was a challenge and a battle and was wrong.
“On immigration, we were promising targets that we couldn’t deliver and that then led to a debate about how you might deliver those targets. We contributed to that argument.”
A recent study from King’s College London found that 42% of people polled by Ipsos MORI wrongly believed EU immigrants contribute less to the economy than they take out through benefits and services. The same figure of 42% believed the £350m message plastered on the Vote Leave bus during the EU referendum campaign was still true.