POLITICS
04/03/2015 09:51 GMT | Updated 04/03/2015 11:59 GMT

Nigel Farage And Steven Woolfe At Odds Over Ukip's Stance On Terminally Ill Immigrants

Nigel Farage has been awkwardly undermined by his own migration spokesman after saying the party would ban immigrants with "life-threatening" illnesses coming to Britain.

This comes just hours after Steven Woolfe, a Ukip MEP, was publicly humiliated by Farage after he dropped the party's annual cap of 50,000 on migrants coming to the country to work, a policy he has repeatedly advocated.

Farage set out the party's "common sense" stance towards immigrants in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday morning, saying: "We want people who haven't got a life threatening illness." Hours later, he restated his position in his keynote speech on the party's immigration policy, echoing his position last year to stop immigrants with HIV coming to Britain.

However, Woolfe, who has previously said that he was interested in succeeding Farage as leader, insisted that the party would not "turn away" people with life-threatening illnesses like cancer.

"What we don’t want to have is a system where people can just decide to come in and then try and get treatment here. We are after a national health service not a world health service," he told the BBC's Jeremy Vine on Wednesday afternoon.

“But very firmly Nigel made it absolutely clear and in our speeches today that I laid out, is that if someone came to our borders and was on there, you know at the border control and they announce that they’ve got a cancer or tumour we are not going to turn them away Jeremy. What sort of nation are we to do that? That isn’t going to happen."

HuffPost UK has asked Ukip for a list of illnesses immigrants could have that would see them banned from coming to Britain, but the party has refused to give details.

Woolfe's spokesman told HuffPostUK that HIV is "not necessarily a life-threatening illness", explaining that a Ukip government would let someone come in with the illness "if they're stable and their insurance covers it".

"If they're suffering from a life-threatening illness, they'll not be applying for a high-skilled worker visa, but if it's on their bucket list to go to London, they'll need insurance."

The spokesman also suggested it could be up to the party's proposed migration control commission to decide on how illnesses would hamper migrants' ability to come to Britain.

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Woolfe's apparent contradiction is especially awkward as he is a rising star in the party, with many thinking he could one day succeed his party leader.

Speaking to HuffPost UK in January, he said: "I think there is a greater message we can take on, I think there is an opportunity to build this party."

Ukip's health spokeswoman Louise Bours MEP also expressed anxiety about Farage's stance towards immigrants with HIV, describing it as a 'bad example" to focus on.

“I’ve looked at Australia’s minimum health standard…they exclude people with long-term medical conditions and I think you have to look at those kind of things," she told the Independent in January.

"HIV is rather a bad example though, to be honest. HIV is managed now, isn’t it. As somebody with personal experience, through very dear friends, HIV is a bad example… I know perfectly helpful, fabulous folk… I think it was an unfortunate example that he used.”

A Ukip spokesman said: "Under our proposals everyone who applies for a HSW visa will answer health questions. If they have a life threatening illness ‎they will not get a visa. If they have family dependent with such an illness they will have to get insurance to cover the cost of the ilness to the NHS for 5 years.

"If they are a tourist they have to have health insurance for the duration of their stay. If they defraud the insurance company and are kicked off insurance the NHS will treat them long enough emergency to see them out of the country as they would with illegals."

The row over Ukip's stance towards severely ill immigrants was first set off after the Ukip leader said last October that migrants with HIV should be prevented from entering the UK, leading him to be criticised by a leading charity.

Farage told Newsweek Europe that preventing people with the condition entering the country would be a "good start" in controlling the UK's borders.

Asked whether controlling "quality" meant people without a murder conviction, he answered: "Yes. And people who do not have HIV, to be frank. That's a good start. And people with a skill. That is what Britain should do.

"I have never said that we should not take refugees. We have a proud record of accepting refugees, and that must be continued."

And he later defended his comments on Sky News, saying: "We cannot take people with life-threatening diseases. The NHS is here for our people.”

Farage's comments were a source of potential embarassment to Douglas Carswell, who was elected as Ukip's first MP. Carswell's father was an Aids pioneer in the 1980s. Confronted by reporters later in a media scrum, the Clacton MP dodged questions on the issue.

Carswell fails to specifically back Farage's comments on immigrants with HIV

Carswell avoided saying he specifically agreed with Farage's proposed ban on immigrants with HIV, but told the Guardian: "I agree with everything that Nigel has said and we need an Australian-type immigration system.”

Days later, he poured cold water on Farage's idea when he told the Andrew Marr Show that "no one is seriously suggesting we should screen people for HIV coming in".

Meanwhile, the chief executive of HIV/Aids charity Terrence Higgins Trust accused Farage of stooping to a "new level of ignorance" and Labour MP David Lammy said he was "trying to revive the very worst bigotry" of the 1980s.

The Terrence Higgins Trust's chief executive Dr Rosemary Gillespie said: "The idea that having HIV should be used as a black mark against someone's name is ridiculous, and shows an outrageous lack of understanding of the issue.

"It is to the UK's credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV.

"Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic. In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance."