The referendum campaign focus on immigration represents a “turning point” in favour of Brexit, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said as he confidently predicted victory.
Senior Vote Leave Tories’ “conversion” to Ukip’s long-standing call for a points-based system and David Cameron’s rough ride at the hands of TV viewers showed the tide had turned, he claimed.
Mr Farage accused the Prime Minister of showing a “sheer level of dishonesty and deception” as he answered voters’ questions about controlling the UK’s borders in a TV grilling last night.
“All I have to do next week is tell the truth because the British public are ready to hear it,” he said, ahead of another live broadcast where the two politicians will appear separately.
Vote Leave - spearheaded by senior Tories Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - came out in favour of imposing an Australian-style points system to control new arrivals if Britain leaves the EU.
In a speech to supporters in London, Mr Farage said that after years of being pilloried by the establishment, Ukip’s ideas were “now at the centre mainstream of political debate”.
“What was once considered to be wrong is now mainstream. I think we saw this week the turning point in this referendum,” he told them.
“People are beginning to understand that the Prime Minister cannot answer this fundamental question.
“When he says that we can maintain control of immigration while remaining a member of the European Union, people increasingly know this Prime Minister is simply not telling the truth.
“I don’t believe a word that he says any more, I really don’t.
“Now that there are lots of big voices saying this, I believe this referendum will be won by the Leave side and that’s why I went to the bookmakers and put my money on.”
He said that far from simply “parroting” Ukip’s policy, Mr Gove and Mr Johnson “are converts” after touring the country on a battlebus and hearing from ordinary people.
“I even saw them the other day having a pint in a pub. I can’t imagine where they got that from,” he quipped about a photo opportunity that aped his regular public appearances with a beer in hand.
He said a “flood” of EU migrants meant some communities had been “turned literally upside down” - with people struggling to get their children into schools, secure a GP appointment or buy a home.
Assertions that migrants pay more in tax than they take out does not allow for the costs of such pressure on public services, he said.
He blasted the pro-EU camp for focusing only on the economic side of immigration, in terms of its impact on the GDP measure of national wealth.
“This is about more than money. We should measure things in terms of quality of life,” he said.
“We are being sold that this is all about trade and that the single market is soft and cuddly and lovely like a baby puppy.
“But actually it is a smokescreen for the real, simply proposition of this referendum.
“It’s actually rather simple: do you wish us to be a self-governing, independent, democratic nation or part of a bigger, broader, European Union?”