Author: Nicholas Mairs
The intervention came as Mr Batten attributed the 2016 Leave vote to the Government “surrendering” control of its borders to the European Union.
“Immigration of itself is neither good, nor bad. It depends entirely on the context, it depends on who your immigration policy decides to admit and in what numbers,” he told the audience in Birmingham.
“And what we’ve seen in this country now for many years is essentially and uncontrolled and unlimited immigration policy.
“Britain is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. We simply do not need mass immigration.”
But the eurosceptic party’s leader veered off script after the comment was met with a cry of “we don’t need any” from a member of the audience.
The shout prompted the MEP, with a pointed finger, to respond: “No that’s not true. There is nothing wrong with immigration. It depends who you let in, in what numbers and why”.
He added: “Many great people who have contributed to this country have been immigrants and descendants of immigrants, so let me make that clear to you and the world, we are not against it.”
The incident follows a war of words between Mr Batten and Nigel Farage, who said the party faced “utter marginalisation” if it moves its policy platform further to the right.
The former Ukip chief told the Press Association that he was “less than impressed with the current direction” of the party, whose interim manifesto includes proposals such as Muslim-only prisons and a repeal of equalities laws.
He also claimed to be “very upset” at the prospect of ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson being able to join the party.
But Mr Batten hit back this morning, telling Sky News that Mr Farage had himself shared a platform with right-wing German party Alternative für Deutschland – which the Ukip leader said “a lot of people don’t like and call names”.
“He is entitled to do that, because they are democratic parties, and I am entitled to speak at rallies organised by people who believe in democracy,” Mr Batten added.
“I think maybe he should be a little bit more careful about criticising me, because he has done similar things.”