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Reckless hits at 'BNP-lite' Tories

Ukip candidate Mark Reckless has denied suggesting that migrants who have settled in Britain should be repatriated - insisting the Tories are the ones guilty of "BNP-lite" campaigning.

The Tory defector, expected to reclaim his Rochester and Strood seat in a by-election tomorrow, was asked in an ITV hustings what he thought should happen to a Polish plumber who lived in the area and whose children went to school there.

He responded that such individuals could be given work permits for a "fixed period".

"I think in the near term we'd have to have a transitional period, we should probably allow people who are currently here to have a work permit at least for a fixed period," he said.

"People who have been here a long time and integrated in that way, I think we'd want to look sympathetically at."

After Mr Reckless was cut short by jeering, Labour candidate Naushabah Khan said: "Where would you stop, Mark? My family are migrants, are we going to say they need to go back as well?"

Conservative MP Damian Green said Mr Reckless had come "dangerously close" to advocating a repatriation policy, while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said he had "let the mask slip".

But Mr Reckless told BBC Kent his words had been "twisted".

"What will happen is that anyone who is lawfully in this country if they are from the EU under EU rules they will be able to stay with a work permit," he said.

"We don't want any mass movements of people ...

"I'm absolutely astonished that the Tories are twisting this in the way that they are."

He added: "What we would do is provide work permits to the people who are here.

"People who are integrated... we would expect those people to be able to stay."

Mr Reckless, who said anyone who had been in the UK for 10 years should be eligible for citizenship, condemned "disgraceful" Conservative by-election literature that apparently blamed "uncontrolled immigration" for people not feeling safe walking down the street.

"I call on the Conservatives to disassociate themselves from this BNP-lite campaign," he said.

Mr Farage told the BBC that Mr Reckless had been referring to the negotiations which would take place during a "transitional period" between a vote to leave the EU and actual withdrawal.

"When we invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets us off on a two-year negotiation to leave the EU, part of that renegotiation is what happens to retired people from Britain living on the Costa del Sol and what happens to people from Warsaw living in London," he said.

"Let me make this clear - during our divorce negotiations, even if the EU was to behave badly and say (British) people living in Spain were to be threatened with not being there, we would maintain the line that we believe in the rule of law, we believe in British justice and we believe that anyone who has come to Britain legally has the right to remain."

Asked if Mr Reckless did not know Ukip policy, Mr Farage said the campaign had been "long and hectic" and candidates in that situation often "got into a mode" of answering "on the topic and not the specific wording of the question".

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