NIGEL Farage has defended his calls for race laws to be scrapped, insisting it is “not a white v black thing”.
The Ukip leader also said it was “wholly uncontroversial” to claim that some Muslims want to change British culture and bring in Sharia law.
Downing Street accused the eurosceptic of being “desperate for attention” while Labour said his remarks showed “breathtaking ignorance”.
Mr Farage was forced to defend comments he made in an interview with ex-equalities watchdog chief Trevor Phillips for a Channel 4 documentary, Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True, due to be broadcast next week.
In it, he said concern over preventing racial discrimination in employment “would probably have been valid” 40 years ago and he would get rid of “much of” existing legislation.
He also described some Muslims in Britain as a “fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us”.
Asked about the comments on LBC, he said: “We’ve never before had a migrant group come to Britain who have tried to change our culture, and unfortunately there are a small number in the Muslim community who genuinely want to bring Sharia law to Britain. So, I think that’s a wholly uncontroversial comment.
“Second thing I was saying was this: small businesses, there are only five million of them, and they are a massively important part of our economy. They feel very, very pressured by continued legislation and in many cases are actually fearful of taking on staff.
“What I said is this: that if a British employer in small business wants to employ a British person over somebody from Poland they should be able to do that without fear that they contravene discrimination laws. That’s all I have said.”
Asked about his claims that some Muslims wanted to change Britain, he replied: “I’ll give a personal example of a taxi driver that I caught a taxi home from Hertfordshire with 18 months ago.
“Very bright, well educated, terribly nice fellow, I sat in the front with him. He told me, ‘your society in Britain is rotten and it needs changing, we are going to take over and introduce Sharia law’.”
He added: “You have got to look at the British-born people, British-born passport holders, who have been going out to fight for Isis.”
“This is not a white v black thing at all. I have made no comment at all on that.”
In the documentary he said: “I think the situation that we now have, where an employer is not allowed to choose between a British-born person and somebody from Poland, is a ludicrous state of affairs. I think that we have taken our relationship with Europe to a level that, frankly, has gone against common sense, and certainly against self-interest.
“I would argue that the law does need changing, and that if an employer wishes to choose, or you can use the word ‘discriminate’ if you want to, but wishes to choose to employ a British-born person, they should be allowed to do so.
“I think you should be able to choose on the basis of nationality, yes. I do.”
He added: “I think perhaps one of the reasons the polls show an increasing level of concern is because people do see a fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us. So don’t be surprised if there isn’t a slight increase in people’s worries and concerns.
“You know, when you’ve got British, when you’ve got people, born and bred in Cardiff, with British passports, going out to fight for Isil, don’t be surprised if there isn’t an uptick in concern. There has been an uptick in concern, but does it make us a prejudiced people? No.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: “Nigel Farage is wrong and desperate for attention. The laws are there to protect prople from racial discrimination. It’s deeply concerning he doesn’t understand that.”
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: “This is one of the most shocking things I have ever heard from a mainstream politician and demonstrates breathtaking ignorance.
“We have made huge progress on tackling racial inequality and discrimination in this country, partly because of Labour’s strong anti-discrimination laws, but things are still far from perfect.
“When my parents moved to London they frequently saw signs saying ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’. What Ukip is suggesting would take us back to those days.”
Mr Farage later said in a statement: “My comments to Trevor Phillips were lauding the progress of race relations and equality in this country. Britain’s media should be proud of this fact instead of trying to do it down.
“Ukip is the only party that is suggesting that Britain’s employers should be free to employ British workers, regardless of creed or colour. It wasn’t that long ago that the Labour Party called for ‘British jobs for British workers’.
“And I suggest the real racists in our society are those who hear me say `British’ and think `white’. I’m the only leader arguing for Britain’s employers to favour British workers, no matter what their colour.
“And I must say, given the unemployment rates amongst young people , I’m now the only party leader standing up for them, black, white, or otherwise.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accused Mr Farage of “instilling fear” by conflating problems like violent extremism and Sharia law with the issue of employment legislation.
Mr Clegg told LBC: “I strongly disagree. Discrimination laws are there for a reason - to stop people discriminating against people based on their race.”
“It is very, very unhelpful to conflate the decision a baker in Orpington might make about a Polish or British worker with the violent extremism that you see in Iraq and Syria,” said the Liberal Democrat leader.
“That’s what is so irresponsible in the way Nigel Farage handles these issues. He instils fear by confusing a lot of these things.”
He added: “Do we need to be vigilant, do we need to strengthen our armoury against all forms of violent extremism, including those violent extremists who invoke Islam, perverting Islam from its true origins for their own ends? Of course we do.
“Do I think you should scrap all discrimination laws that stop people from discriminating on how they employ people on the basis of race? I think that’s wrong. You employ the person who you think does the job best.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Farage’s comments are wrong, divisive and dangerous.”
Mr Miliband added: “I believe that Britain should be proud of the fact that we are a tolerant country, we’re a country of different faiths, different backgrounds.
“I believe that the laws we have on equality are an incredibly important part of meeting the very British value of treating everyone the same whatever their religion.”