UKIP leader Nigel Farage was in the North-East on Monday as part of the Say No to EU Tour. Gavin Havery met the controversial politician at Lanchester Wines, in County Durham.

BUSINESSES in the North-East, like the international bottling plant, near Stanley, would benefit if Britain were to leave the EU, Mr Farage told reporters as he stood in the foyer of Lanchester Wines.

Far better, said he, for trade deals with more countries across the world to create global economic prosperity through international trade, without the need to remain part of a restrictive political union under a single flag.

The Northern Echo:

The charismatic leader of the right-wing Eurosceptic party, which saw a surge of popular support at the General Election earlier this year, was greeted at Greencroft Industrial Estate by a waiting media pack.

Two television crews, a national news agency and regional press were there to secure pictures and interviews ahead of a speech at The Sage Gateshead, advocating Britain’s exit from the EU.

After a round of swift interviews, the 51-year-old MEP for South-East England posed for the now obligatory shots of him enjoying some alcoholic refreshment during his visit.

He said: “Here we are with a successful local business in the North-East and it is a global business. Europe is part of the wider market, but there is the rest of the world out there as well.

“What we are saying is we want to have a trade relationship with Europe, but not membership of a political union and only by doing that are we free to open ourselves up to trade deals with the rest of the world.”

Mr Farage, a founding member of UKIP and MEP since 1999, left the Conservative Party in 1992 after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty.

He said the issue of migration and border security was likely to play a big part in the debate ahead of the referendum over whether Britain should stay in the EU, which is expected to be held in two years.

“Polls show only 16 per cent of the population thinks free movement within Europe makes sense," he said. "Seventy-two per cent don’t, so overwhelmingly, even above the economy and the health service, the issue in British minds is open borders, numbers, wage compression, and dare one say, security, particularly that ISIS are threatening to use the Mediterranean crisis to flood the continent.

The Northern Echo:

“We cannot control the quantity or quality of who comes to Britain as EU members and inevitably that issue is going to be at the very centre of this campaign.”

There are currently two groups campaigning to leave the union with Mr Farage backing Leave.EU, which was founded by UKIP’s donor, Arron Banks, while Vote Leave has the backing of the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell.

The latter also represents the anti-EU groups set up by Conservative and Labour MPs and peers.

Meanwhile, Britain Stronger in Europe, the official campaign for an ‘in’ vote, was launched on Monday and is led by former M&S chairman Stuart Rose.

The Labour party also has a pro-EU campaign championed by former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

Mr Farage said: “The split in the Labour Party is between the grassroots in the country that vote Labour and the party itself. There are a few Eurosceptics in the Parliamentary Labour Party, but very few. For the Conservative Party it is open warfare, a party that is irrevocably split, there are big, big problems for them.”

Mr Farage predicted UKIP will continue to gain support, despite the new energy in The Labour Party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader and that the referendum will result in the UK leaving the EU.

He said: “Six months ago, after the General Election, I would have said the status quo probably had the advantage, but all of that changed over the course of the summer, and I’ll tell you what, it is game on.”