Nigel Farage has said a highly controversial anti-migrant poster he unveiled during the EU referendum won the campaign for Brexit, sparking a backlash from a fellow Leave campaigner.
The poster, which depicted ethnic minority migrants crossing the Croatia-Slovenia border in 2015 under the headline “Breaking Point", sparked race hate complaints to the police and was disowned by senior Leave campaign leaders such as Michael Gove, who said it made him “shudder”.
But in an interview with The Yorkshire Post, Mr Farage, who will address a "Save Brexit" rally in Harrogate on Saturday, said: “In some ways it won us the referendum because it kept us focused on the danger of open borders.”.
Tory Brexiteer Minister Nigel Adams described his claims about the “unpleasant” poster as “ludicrous”, adding: “The voters had far more intelligence than Mr Farage gives them credit for. People know a faked image when they see one.”
The former Ukip leader made his comments as figures this week showed a 17 per cent rise in recorded hate crime between from April 2017 to March 2018, with three quarters of the offences (71,251) classed as “race hate”.
But Mr Farage dismissed suggestions that the surge was linked to the rhetoric of Brexiteers, insisting his poster “was targeted at economic migrants taking the mickey and as the poster said, the EU has failed us all.
“Almost in a way that poster predicted what happened in Italy, Hungary and elsewhere.”
Commons Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper said Mr Farage’s actions in the referendum campaign did contribute to a rise in hate crime.
The West Yorkshire Labour MP said: “That poster was completely dishonest and was just a deliberate attempt by Nigel Farage to whip up tensions and anxieties in advance of the referendum. Sadly Nigel Farage thinks this kind of thing is all a game but the reality is that it meant we had an increase in hate crime. It should be possible to have a sensible honest debate about Europe or about immigration without resorting to dishonesty and division”.
Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel, a supporter of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, added: “The breaking point poster created a culture of fear and intolerance. The fact that Nigel Farage has no regrets is a reflection on the hard right and their lack of humanity. The people of Yorkshire are open and compassionate and we will not stand for Farage and his racist vitriol.”
Meanwhile, anti-racism campaigners Hope Not Hate said people concerned about immigration need an improvement in living standards rather than having their anger “cynically” exploited by “the vilest of lies”.
A Hope Not Hate spokesman added: “"That poster presented the vilest of lies, but then false promises are all that populist far-right leaders can offer. It cynically played on people’s very real fears. People have been angry about immigration, that’s true, but they're much angrier about job losses, crap terms and conditions at work, and the feeling that they have no power or control over what happens to their communities. These very legitimate fears must be addressed – but not by snake oil salesman."
Read the full interview in Saturday's edition of The Yorkshire Post.