Britain has become "the cheap labour economy of the European Union" due to the "uncontrolled" influx of migrants, Nigel Farage has warned.
Speaking in Rochester alongside Ukip's parliamentary candidate Mark Reckless, Farage said the issue of immigration "is going to get bigger" and that it was "fair" to cut benefits available to EU migrants coming to Britain. He also suggested that Britain should refuse to accept any immigrants with a "serious life-threatening illness or a serious criminal record".
Speaking at a by-election hustings hosted by Ukip on Tuesday night, Farage said: "What we have got is a massive oversupply in the labour market which has driven down wages.
"We have literally made this country now the cheap labour economy of the European Union."
The Ukip leader tartly added that migration "may have benefited" multinational firms and the rich because it meant "cheaper chauffeurs, cheaper gardeners and cheaper nannies."
— Asa Bennett (@asabenn) November 4, 2014
Campaigning is hotting up as the Rochester and Strood by-election on November 20th draws near, with polls indicating that Mark Reckless is on track to win back his Commons seat.
Farage said that EU migrants should only get to claim benefits in Britain if they survive for five years with their own private health insurance, "obeying the law and paying their taxes".
He praised Australia's immigration system as a "good model", quipping: 'Australia says you have got to be under the age of 45... well I'm out."
The Ukip leader went on: "Australia says if you've got a serious life threatening illness, we are very sorry but our health service is actually for Australian people and you cant come."
In a mocking reference to Australia's colonial history, he said: "Australia says if you've got a criminal record, we don't want you, which is odd really when you think about it."
To laughter, he added: "They beat us in the Ashes... have to try and get them back somehow."
Meanwhile, Mark Reckless denounced Tory suggestions that he had "flip-flopped" from supporting to opposing the controversial proposed development on Lodge Hill, in Chattenden, Kent, as a "lie".
Ukip's Mark Reckless tells Rochester voters that Tory conferences now "dominated by corporate lobbyists & PR people" pic.twitter.com/LLxVWG1nXw— Asa Bennett (@asabenn) November 4, 2014
Speaking to the Huffington Post UK after the hustings, Reckless said that the Tories' "kitchen sink" campaigning approach risked being "counterproductive".
"I'm not sure it's a good or effective way of campaigning," he said, but stressed that it was "fair and appropriate for people to challenge me on things I've said in the past".
"It's not necessarily enjoyable, but I signed up for this. I put myself up for this by-election and it's for the other sides to decide how they want to campaign."
Ukip currently enjoys a nine-point lead in Rochester and Strood, according to research conducted by Survation, while another survey by Comres suggested that the eurosceptic party enjoyed a commanding 13 point lead.
The polls so far suggest David Cameron faces a tough fight to avoid a highly-damaging by-election defeat in the Kent seat that would give Ukip its second elected MP, after Douglas Carswell romped to victory in Clacton with a majority of over 12,000 votes.