UK Politics

UKIP: Reckless 'sore' after EU migrants policy confusion

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Media captionMark Reckless: "UKIP have always said that we want people to stay and that's all I have said"

New UKIP MP Mark Reckless has said he feels "a bit sore" about the way he "came out of" controversy over his party's policy on EU migrants.

He was criticised after implying that migrants might have to leave after a "transitional period" if the UK left the EU - which Nigel Farage denied.

Mr Reckless told the Times the UKIP leader had changed the party's policy.

He later said the policy had been "clarified" to say EU migrants already in the UK would be allowed to remain.

The former Conservative MP explained the party had previously guaranteed people from the EU would be able to stay for a two-year "transitional period" while negotiations with the EU took place - the aim of which would be a deal allowing both EU nationals already in the UK and Britons living in the EU to remain where they were.

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Image caption The Rochester victory was UKIP's second by-election triumph over the Conservatives

He said: "The only thing that has been clarified is that irrespective of what the EU may do for Britons living there, people from the EU living here will stay permanently, irrespective of anything the EU may determines about Britons living in the EU."

Earlier, he had told the Times: "The policy changed on Wednesday and I'm a bit sore about how I came out of that."

He added: "Until Nigel changed it on Wednesday, the policy of the party was everyone can stay for the transitional period, no doubt about that, that there would then be a permanent arrangement which would be part of the EU negotiation."

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Image caption Nigel Farage says Mark Reckless's victory in Rochester and Strood means UKIP can be a "major force" at the election

He said he had actually disagreed with this policy, saying: "I've always thought we should allow people to stay permanently regardless, because that's the right thing to do by them and it's also the right thing for our party in terms of how we want to look to the country."

Mr Reckless made the controversial comments during a televised hustings on Tuesday evening.

Asked what would happen to people from other EU states already in the country in the event of a UK exit from the EU, he suggested they would be looked at "sympathetically" but could only be allowed to remain in the UK for "a fixed period".

Asked later on BBC Radio Kent if he was suggesting they should be deported, he said: "No I was not suggesting that." He said his words had been "twisted" by Conservative critics.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Mr Farage said Mr Reckless had been referring to the negotiations that would take place during a "transitional period" between a hypothetical vote to leave the EU and the actual moment of withdrawal.

He added: "Anyone who has legally entered the country has a right to remain. We do not believe in retrospective legislation."

Mr Reckless triggered the by-election in his Kent constituency when he defected from the Conservative Party to UKIP earlier this year.

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