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Navy should aid refugees - Farage

The Royal Navy should be sent to the Mediterranean to help following the latest migrant boat tragedy, Nigel Farage has said.

The Ukip leader said Britain could also accept thousands of refugees from destabilised countries.

He added that Prime Minister David Cameron "has a very big challenge" on Thursday, when he visits Brussels, as "there is no crisis that's not used in Brussels as a means to call for common policies and further extensions".

Mr Farage said he felt sorry for the people who were fleeing countries as he renewed his attack on Mr Cameron for the "catastrophic" military action in Libya in 2011.

Speaking during a walkabout in Rochester, Mr Farage said: "We could help. We could send the Royal Navy down, but it's a question of what's the signal - is the signal 'If they keep on coming we'll keep on taking you' or is the signal 'We're very sorry, we can't take you'?"

Asked what he would do as PM, Mr Farage said: "I would say there is a horrible humanitarian crisis going on, we'll send the Royal Navy - what's left of it - to help, we will divert part of our £20 billion a year aid budget."

Mr Farage said he viewed EU contributions as part of this budget, adding: "I would say I've never been against giving money to help people during humanitarian disasters.

"But I've also said since the time of Syria that I would have no problem with us accepting refugees from that part of the world, particularly Christians ... But beyond that I'm not signing up to a common EU immigration policy."

He added: "I think Mr Cameron on Thursday will be under massive pressure."

Mr Farage said the UK could take "a few thousand" refugees, explaining: "We can't solve the world's problems, but we can do something that's humanitarian and be consistent with our long history of doing these things."

Mr Farage visited Rochester in support of Ukip defector Mark Reckless, who is seeking re-election in the constituency of Rochester and Strood.

The pair visited a book shop and examined antiques, including a gin bottle, medals and a rifle - the latter of which Mr Farage declined to hold.

They later visited a tearooms where they answered questions from reporters, with Mr Farage drinking a tea with no sugar.

Asked for his thoughts on the Tory manifesto, Mr Farage said: "I read one page of the Tory manifesto and I nearly choked to death."

He said this was due to the decision to pledge again to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands.

Mr Farage said he believed his Eurosceptic party could become the opposition "party in the North of England".

He acknowledged there was a gap to bridge but insisted the North offered real potential for Ukip in the long-term.

Questioned about last week's leaders' debate, Mr Farage said he shook hands with Labour leader Ed Miliband and the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon.

Asked about Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood, he said: "Well they walked off because a lot of their relations were in the audience. I say relations, they had personal friends in the front row."

He said he watched Ms Wood greet friends, adding: "That's how we get unbiased audiences."

While walking to the nearby Corn Exchange, student Connor Hill booed Mr Farage and shouted "young people".

The 18-year-old from Rochester, who studies in the Netherlands, said: "I hope it had an impact. I just hope someone is listening to the voices of young people."

Speaking at a public meeting, Mr Farage touched on familiar themes including immigration and an attack on concessions made to the SNP.

Mr Farage also returned to his controversial remarks about foreigners visiting the UK for HIV treatment on the NHS.

He said: "I received a torrent of abuse from Plaid and everybody else and indeed Ed Miliband tweeted after the (leaders' debates) my comments were 'disgusting' and Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said that my comments were 'stomach-churning'.

"Well let me tell you this, I'll tell you what I think is stomach-churning, I think it's stomach-churning we turn away men and women from having cancer treatment on the basis we can't afford it when the National Health Service is the international health service.

"We've got our priorities wrong, we need to put our own people first."


From Belfast Telegraph