Immigration takes centre stage as Farage and Cameron grilled

Nigel Farage on ITV's referendum debate programme
Nigel Farage on ITV's referendum debate programme
Have your say

DAVID Cameron was tonight forced to defend the reforms he negotiated on Britain’s membership of the European Union as he was grilled on live television.

The changes, which Mr Cameron originally used to justify his plea for a Remain vote, have featured little in the referendum campaign so far.

But on ITV’s referendum debate programme a small business owner pressed the Prime Minister to explain why he had not secured more substantial changes including limits on free movement of people between EU countries.

Mr Cameron said he had secured safeguards limiting the amount of time EU migrants could remain in the UK out of work and reducing their access to the welfare system.

The Prime Minister said the measures would mean “no more something for nothing”.

He was challenged about the Government’s failure to meet previous commitments to cut immigration and to put a figure on future numbers coming to the UK.

The Prime Minister said: “I’m not going to make a forecast but I think if today you can come in from the EU and get £10,000 in tax credits on top of your wages and I’m saying your not going to have that in future then clearly that will make a difference.”

Asked about the pressure on public services from EU migration, Mr Cameron said: “I would say really frankly that if we want to build houses, if we want to invest in our health service, if we want good schools for our children, we have got to strengthen and safeguard our economy.

Earlier in the evening, Nigel Farage had started confidently when he was questioned about the warnings from major institutions about the danger’s of leaving the EU to the economy, insisting they had poor track records on forecasting.

But he was forced to defend his comments made at the weekend when he suggested that the safety of women was an issue in the referendum campaign, pointing to the reports of sexual assaults in Cologne earlier this year.

Suggesting the questioner should “calm down”, the Ukip leader added: “I think Angela Merkel made a huge mistake by saying please anyone come.

“And what’s happened is a very large number of young single males have settled in Germany and in Sweden and come from cultures where attitudes to women are different.

“I haven’t scaremongered in any way at all.”

The Ukip leader appeared to become irritated as questioners in the audience interrupted his normal rapid-fire style.

Vote Leave, the designated campaign group, had previously complained at ITV’s decision to allow Mr Farage to represent the Leave side one the debate rather than one of its principle spokespeople.

Earlier today, Justice Secretary Michael Gove and former London Mayor Boris Johnson issued a fresh challenge to the Prime Minister. Their joint statement said the public deserved to hear the issues “debated face-to-face between the Prime Minister and a spokesman for Vote Leave so they can judge for themselves which is the safer choice on 23 June.

“The Prime Minister was absolutely right to hold this vote and allow Ministers the chance to disagree with him. We hope that in the same spirit he will accept this invitation.”