LONDON (Reuters) - A senior Conservative lawmaker on Tuesday said Prime Minister David Cameron should ignore those “daft” enough to propose anti-immigration proposals that could hurt the British economy and pave the way for an exit from the European Union.
Ken Clarke, one of Britain’s most influential Europhiles, said Cameron’s Conservatives should refrain from competing with “bigotry” to counter the threat from the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party.
“Ignore the daft ambitions of people whose main interest is just getting out of Europe - let’s look after Britain in the modern world,” Clarke told BBC radio.
“We have to demonstrate that we’re a strong sensible party that does sensible things on immigration because there isn’t a politician who isn’t in favor of controlling immigration.”
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday he risked upsetting allies and losing international clout if he pursued an anti-immigration agenda designed to placate domestic voters.
In response, Cameron said that British voters were concerned about immigration and that British voters were his boss.
He has pledged to hold a referendum in 2017 on Britain’s European Union membership if the Conservative party wins an election next year, as he takes an increasingly hawkish view on curbing migration within the EU and reviewing its freedom of movement principle.
“What we mustn’t do is start competing with ignorance and bigotry and what we mustn’t do is start doing damage to our economy by imposing restrictions on people we need to come here,” Clarke said.
Earlier this month, UKIP - which wants Britain to withdraw from the EU and strict curbs on immigration - won its first elected seat in parliament after a lawmaker defected to the party from Cameron’s ruling Conservatives.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Costas Pitas and Michael Holden