Reform UK’s candidate for South West Devon has railed against mass immigration, claiming

Britain is losing its identity.

Steve Horner said the UK had become a “globalist country” that was being “flooded” with foreign nationals.

The former RAF serviceman is standing as Reform’s candidate after rejecting the mainstream politics of the Conservatives and Labour.

Speaking to this paper, he said: “We didn’t vote for mass immigration, we’ve become globalist. We’re losing our identity as a country.”

The comments coincide with this week’s decision by the former Conservative Party vice-chairman Lee Anderson to defect to the hard-right populist party, thereby becoming Reform UK’s first MP.

Mr Anderson was suspended from the Conservatives after refusing to apologise over inflammatory remarks he made, claiming that Islamists had “got control” of London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

According to the latest polls carried out by the BBC, Reform UK could win 10 per cent of the national vote, and in the recent Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections, both party’s candidates came third behind Labour and the Conservatives.

The party says it wants to introduce stricter controls over immigration, saying the number of people being allowed to enter the country should equal the number emigrating.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) however show that net migration for the year ending June 2023 was 672,000 - slightly higher compared to the same period in 2022.

Although the ONS said it was too early to say if this was the start of a new downward trend, it added that the more recent estimates “indicate a slowing of immigration coupled with increasing emigration”.

There is also evidence to suggest that many sectors, including the NHS, would be severely impacted without foreign workers. Figures show that one in five NHS staff in England – more than 20 per cent - are non-UK nationals.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, told the Guardian last month that without an international workforce the health service “could have very easily buckled under the pressures it has been put under”.

But Mr Horner blamed mismanagement for the heavy reliance on foreign nationals. “We’ve become hooked on importing cheap labour largely from non-Western countries. British nationals have in some respects been frozen out,” he claimed.

Reform UK also wants to introduce ‘top to bottom’ changes to the country’s constitution, although the group identifies itself as a standard bearer for traditional values and is opposed to the abolition of the House of Lords.

The party also backs right-wing economic policies, such as lowering taxes and embracing privatisation.

In a wide-ranging interview with this paper, Mr Horner was asked how the party would be able to square the circle of having lower taxes while at the same time improving public services.

“(It’s about) the way we use public money and manage initiatives – we have too many quangos. NHS Trusts have created a new class of extremely well paid senior people,” he said.

He criticised waste in the NHS, claiming that 48 per cent of people employed by the NHS are non-clinical staff.

According to the Nuffield Trust independent health think tank, about half of the 1.4 million employees at the NHS are clinical staff. Other key staff groups include “those working in central functions, dealing with the NHS’s property and estates, and supporting clinical staff”.

Mr Horner was asked to explain the party’s decision to rely more heavily on private health care. According to its manifesto, if a patient cannot be seen by a GP in three days, they should get a voucher to go private elsewhere. Similar initiatives are put forward for patients who are unable to access a consultant or have an operation.

Mr Horner was also highly critical of the way utilities companies are run, but would not commit to full nationalisation of water firms, favouring instead a partial ownership model – a 50/50 arrangement between the private and public sectors, pointing at the investment model that pension companies have.

The party’s manifesto shows that it also wants to increase the country’s reliance on fossil fuels despite net zero targets which have been largely embraced by most industrial sectors, including the car industry.

Mr Horner said he was not against lowering emissions per se, but that the problem was “the rate at which we’re doing it”.

He said: “It’s all out of context with what’s happening in the world. In Europe, they’re phasing out their fossil fuel blast furnaces, they’re not doing what we’ve done which is to go straight to electric.

“They don’t seem to be very willing to admit that there are serious consequences with the speed of going to net zero. It’s going to damage our economy. If we produce less than two per cent of the world’s emissions, we are going to have a minimal impact but we’re going to have a maximum impact on our economy.”