Wales politics

UKIP should not become anti-Islam, party's Welsh MEP warns

Nathan Gill
Image caption Nathan Gill said he did not take part in the general election campaign and did not want to be associated with it

UKIP's main focus should not become anti-Islam, the party's MEP in Wales has said.

Nathan Gill has criticised his party's general election campaign pledge to ban full face veils worn by Muslim women.

He said the move to announce it early in the campaign meant the party could not talk about anything else.

Mr Gill argued government should not dictate what "you can and can't wear" and said he did not want to associate himself with the campaign.

UKIP said the veil was an "instrument of oppression", adding it sought to "lift the veil" on "that oppression" and it had been banned in other countries.

"If we are to bring communities together, we must begin by removing the implements of oppression and division," a party spokesman said.

UKIP saw its UK-wide vote share fall by 10.8% to 1.8% at the 2017 general election. It won no seats and leader Paul Nuttall resigned the day after.

At the launch of the party's general election manifesto, which took place in the days after the Manchester terror attack, former leader Mr Nuttall said radical Islam was a "cancer that needs to be cut out".

Image copyright PA
Image caption UKIP faces a leadership contest after Paul Nuttall's resignation

Mr Gill told BBC Wales: "I don't want our party's raison d'etre to become anti-Islam.

"Ultimately we all live on a very small island. We've all got to get on.

"It's pointless us talking about very emotive words like cancers and things like that, when we should be talking about harmonisation and us getting on together as a people.

"The amount of people who have a problem with Islam, or Muslim immigration or things like that, must be 1% of the population."

Criticising the fact that UKIP's campaign was "kicked off" by the announcement of a face veil ban, Mr Gill said: "It meant that we couldn't talk about anything else because that was always going to be brought up by the media and by the opposition.

"We should have kicked the campaign off with a positive vision of a post-Brexit Britain."

Mr Gill, who sits as an independent AM in the assembly and led UKIP Wales during the EU referendum campaign, said: "I don't want government dictating to us, to the level of what you can and can't wear, and to the level of how you worship, or all these different things.

"I didn't do anything during the general election campaign - I didn't really want to be associated with it."

Image caption Neil Hamilton became leader of the UKIP assembly group last year

Mr Gill also said a claim by Neil Hamilton, assembly UKIP group leader, that there was no problem with Islamophobia in Britain was "nonsense".

"Some people just enjoy media attention. I never sought that," he said.

"There's no point making silly claims and there's no point saying things that you don't really fully understand or that you've not fully researched.

"I just feel that we don't have to tout ourselves in front of the media saying outrageous things."

More on this story