Farage: Britain Cannot Control Immigration Policy While in the EU

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Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

UKIP leader Nigel Farage today seized on the surge in immigration for his European elections campaign amid recriminations among Conservatives over the handling of the issue.

"Immigration has now become the number one issue in British politics," he was expected to say in his keynote speech to the party's spring conference in Torquay.

"We cannot have our own immigration policy and remain a member of the European Union."

A 30 per cent rise in net migration left the Prime Minister's pledge to cut numbers to the "tens of thousands" looking untenable yesterday.

Conservative backbenchers are criticising Mr Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May for building up unrealistic expectations that the Coalition would substantially reduce immigration.

One told the Standard that it had been a mistake for the pair to boast repeat-edly that their policies had brought about a cut of a third, because the figures had always been likely to move up as well as down.

"No 10 are now telling us that we should carry on telling voters that we want to cut net immigration to the tens of thousands," said the MP. "But it doesn't wash with people to say we want to do something if we cannot deliver. …