THE UK Independence Party (Ukip) announced it is to launch its own campaign against staying in the EU rather than of joining one of the two existing ‘no’ campaigns.
Leader Nigel Farage will start a nationwide tour of grassroots meetings on Friday to mobilise support.
Events in Calais, Greece, Italy and the Hungarian/Serbian border have forced immigration to the top of the political agenda, according to one recent poll.
A spokesman for Mr Farage, who was in Wales yesterday, denied the Ukip frontman was adopting a Jeremy Corbyn-style campaign of public meetings.
He said: “Nigel’s been doing that for years. Grassroots public meetings are his bread and butter and always have been.”
There will be only one official ‘no’ campaign for the UK’s referendum, with two groups currently vying for the role and the Electoral Commission has yet to decide which group to designate.
Designation brings with it the benefits of higher spending limits, television broadcasts and a grant.
Mr Farage told the BBC: “UKIP is a political party and whoever gets the designation as the official campaign will have to be an umbrella of some kind.
“The unique role that UKIP can play within this is that we have 50,000 members, hundreds of branches across the country and we can do the ground campaign.”
Mr Farage believes his party’s performance in the 2014 European elections, when it topped the polls in the UK, showed it could deliver nearly two thirds of the votes needed to win a referendum on EU membership.
Some observers have claimed the decision risks muddying the water on the anti-EU side, with effectively three rival campaigns in existence – the Business for Britain group featuring well-known Westminster figures, UKIP donor Aaron Banks’ group The Know.eu, as well as UKIP.
But Mr Farage’s spokesman said: “We will work with anyone to secure a ‘no’ vote for the people of Britain.”
Mr Farage said he hoped the two other groups would come together to fight the No campaign as one, which he suggested could be fronted by a non-politician, such as someone from the worlds of business and entertainment.
He also said figures within his own party, such as deputy chair Suzanne Evans, were wrong to suggest that immigration would not be a central issue in the referendum.
He added: “What I do know is the Yes campaign is very active. They are out there campaigning and we need to get cracking.”