Blog: Tory candidate in Wakefield by-election said Brexit ‘built on lies’ and regretted voting for it – The Independent

The Conservative candidate in a make-or-break by-election said the Brexit campaign was “built on lies” and that he regretted voting for it.

Nadeem Ahmed, who is fighting to cling on to the Wakefield seat for Boris Johnson, also warned leaving the EU had triggered an increase in racist attacks and backed a second referendum.

“I voted to leave and I regret the decision. All my friends who voted similarly are the same,” the then-leader of Wakefield Council told a newspaper, shortly after the referendum in 2016.

“The immigration issue has been overplayed and the most identifiable group are being targeted because we have darker skin colour.

“What is especially worth noting is that the majority of people being targeted, like me, were actually born in Britain. We were raised here and know no other life.”

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The comments are a huge embarrassment for Mr Johnson, who led the Leave campaign based – infamously – on the false claim that leaving the EU would deliver a £350m-a-week bonus to the NHS.

It was also criticised for wrongly arguing Turkey was poised to join the EU – opening the door to more immigration – and that trade deals with major economies such as the US would be struck easily.

However, those attacks normally came from the prime minister’s political opponents, rather than from his candidate in a crucial by-election, taking place next week.

Wakefield was a key prize as the ‘Red Wall’ crumbled at the 2019 general election, but the Tories have a majority of just 3,358 – making Labour the favourites to win back the seat.

In the interview, with Asian Express, Mr Ahmed was also quoted as saying the Leave campaign was “built on lies” and that he supported a further referendum.

Mr Ahmad had recently been the victim of racist abuse, having been told to “return home to Pakistan” on a visit to a local ‘drive thru’ restaurant.

He told the paper: “The immigration issue was overplayed in Brexit and now people are being targeted.

“The term immigrant is even something that needs addressing. There are around a million Brits living in Spain, we call them expats. There is a negative connotation to the word immigrant now.”

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Mr Ahmed, who has been a councillor in Wakefield since 2006, has been approached to say if he stands by the comments made.

The by-election follows the resignation of Imran Ahmad Khan, the MP elected in 2019, after his conviction for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

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