UKIP leader Nigel Farage believes the country’s membership of the EU has left the nation ‘disillusioned’.
Speaking to The News at an EU debate held at St John’s College in Southsea, Mr Farage said he expects a ‘David and Goliath’ battle in the forthcoming race for the Eastleigh constituency.
Yesterday’s event drew hundreds of people eager to hear Mr Farage’s views on the country’s relationship with Europe and the future referendum.
His political sparring partner was Cllr Roy Perry, deputy leader of Hampshire County Council, who put across the pro-EU view.
They locked horns on a variety of topics, including the economy, the Eurozone crisis, the affect of immigration, world trade and the environment.
Mr Farage told The News: ‘People feel disillusion, distrust and disappointment, particularly the over-55s who had a vote all those years ago about whether we should go into the common market.
‘Immigration is the future of this argument. I am not against immigrant groups, but to have a total open door to the whole of eastern Europe, an open door at a time of youth unemployment in Britain and social housing is in desperately short supply it doesn’t make sense.’
On Sunday, UKIP announced Cllr Diane James, from Waverley Borough Council in Surrey, will be its candidate for the Eastleigh by-election.
Mr Farage added: ‘It will be a little David and Goliath – but our arguments are strong and will resonate on the public of Eastleigh. You’re going to see a very strong UKIP performance.’
Cllr Perry said: ‘After David Cameron made the speech about having a referendum there’s been a move towards a more positive perception of Europe.
‘It’s better to be on the inside influencing it rather than being on the outside waiting for what they decide.
‘We are going to have a referendum. In a college like St John’s we want young people to understand some of the issues.’
The debate was chaired by student Joe Podmore, 18, who said: ‘This was a challenge for me, public speaking especially. It’s great for the school – Mr Farage is a big fan of this place.’