Brexit would be “better for black people” seeking to enter the country, Nigel Farage has claimed.
The Ukip leader made the comments in a live EU referendum Q&A on ITV on Tuesday evening.
He faced hostile questions from some audience members, who accused him of “encouraging racism” and said his message had “gone against people who look non-white”.
But he said leaving the European Union would be “better for black people” hoping to come to Britain, and complained that the Leave campaign was being falsely “demonised” as racist.
Mr Farage insisted freedom of movement rules were “damaging all of our communities” and that there was “strong support” for his stance among ethnic minority voters.
He played down reports suggesting migrant workers contribute more to the economy than they take out – and accused Remain supporters of focusing too much on economic impacts.
Quizzed by Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about the racism allegations, the Ukip leader said: “I believe in the Commonwealth. I believe our relationship with the Commonwealth is vital; I think we have been stupid to turn our backs on it in favour of EU membership.
“And what has happened, because of the huge numbers of people coming from the EU, is it is now very difficult for somebody who is qualified from India or from Africa to get into this country because we have an unlimited open door to unskilled labour from southern and eastern Europe.
“And the effect of what I am proposing, a points system – call it the Australian one, or whatever you like – actually more black people would qualify to come in under that than currently do.”
Speaking from Strasbourg on Wednesday morning, he said he wanted migration to return to post-war numbers.
He said: “What I would like is us to return to post-war normality. For about 60 years, we had net migration into Britain between 30,000 and 50,000 people a year. If we return to that, it will become a non-issue.”
During the debate, David Cameron insisted the UK should fight for its future inside the European Union rather than “quitting” as he claimed Leave campaigners were prepared to sacrifice people’s jobs to secure their dream of Brexit.
The British Prime Minister was challenged over issues of sovereignty, with one audience member saying it was a “disgrace” that laws were made by “unelected bureaucrats” in Brussels and the Supreme Court could be overruled by European judges.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that sometimes the EU “can drive me mad, it is a bureaucracy, it is frustrating” but “walking away, quitting, would reduce our national influence, would reduce our economy, would reduce our say in the world and as a result would damage our country”.