Nigel Farage: I don't want to lead EU no campaign

Nigel Farage Ukip

Nigel Farage is embarking on his own UK tour to push for an EU exit but insisted he is not trying to become leader of the official no campaign ahead of the referendum.

The Ukip leader said his party was best placed to provide the grassroots support for the no camp but he would “absolutely not” make a bid to be the main figurehead.

Two groups are vying to be the official no campaign, opposing the UK’s EU membership. One is supported by the bulk of Conservative and a few Labour Eurosceptic politicians, the other is the group The Know, led by Ukip donor Arron Banks, which is seeking support from celebrities and business people.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Farage said he would work with whichever group is designated the official campaign but he hopes the two camps will come together.

“Let’s be clear, I’m not refusing to work with anybody, in fact the opposite, I’ll work with absolutely anyone for us to get a no vote in this referendum,” he said.

“All I’m saying is I’m not choosing one side or another, I will work with whichever of them gets the nomination although I have to say privately before we get to that point I hope there is a coming together of the two of them because both of them have got skills …

“I think the unique role that Ukip can play within this is that we’ve got 50,000 members, hundreds of branches across the country and we can do the ground campaign.”

The issue of Ukip’s role in the no campaign has been hugely controversial in the party and the wider Eurosceptic movement.

Within Ukip, Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman, has raised concerns that Farage is too divisive to deliver a no vote from more than 50% of the electorate.

On Tuesday, Farage said she was wrong about that and her contention that immigration should not be the main issue.

He warned that migration within Europe was becoming “an exodus of almost biblical proportions” and would be a central theme at the time of the referendum.

Farage said the UK should accept a few thousand refugees in genuine need – more than the few hundred that have so far been allowed to come to Britain in contrast to the 800,000 in Germany.

However, he also claimed that not everyone fleeing war-torn Syria was actually in peril.

“The problem we’ve got now if you look at the definition of the EU’s common asylum policy is it includes anyone fleeing from a war-torn country and it even includes people fleeing extreme poverty.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 1st September 2015 10.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010