Ken Clarke 'rebuked' by No 10 over pro-immigration remarks
Former justice secretary says those who believe EU responsible for 'waves of migration' are 'deluded'
DOWNING STREET has "rebuked" senior Tory Ken Clarke for pouring scorn on the idea that more must be done to control migration from Europe.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the PM's trade envoy and former justice secretary praised immigrants for their contribution to the UK and said he didn't think it was true that the EU was "responsible for unacceptable waves of migration".
"The idea that you can have some fundamental debate that somehow stops all these foreigners coming here is rather typical right wing, nationalist escapism, I think," Clarke told the FT. He said those within his own party who thought otherwise were "deluded".
The Times said the comments "contradict" David Cameron's recent rhetoric on immigration and were certain to put Clarke more firmly into conflict with right-wing Tories.
Downing Street hit back today insisting immigration to Britain has been too high, the Daily Telegraph reports.
"Immigration in the decade up to 2010 was allowed to be out of control," the PM's spokesman said. "The Prime Minister has been very clear about that. It was too high." One of the reasons was because Britain chose not to impose transitional controls on migrants from Eastern Europe."
The spokesman added that the comments did not contradict the PM's view that migrants had made a "very positive contribution" to British life.
Clarke's intervention comes at a difficult time for the PM who has been accused of being "absolutely out of touch" and "bonkers" by eurosceptics within his party. The Tory MPs are angry at his rejection of their demand that parliament be given a veto over EU laws.
The PM has been told he risks splitting his party by describing the demand – expressed in a letter signed by 95 Conservative backbenchers – as "unrealistic".