Richard Tice, the co-chairman of Leave Means Leave, hit out at former Tory MP Stephen Dorrell, the chairman of pro-EU pressure group European Movement UK.
Mr Tice said UK citizens should be the “first point of call” when it comes to employment before offering jobs to immigrants.
The former politician said: “The difficulties of the migration issue when we come to the consequences of Brexit is that it doesn’t matter which sector we’re talking about, we’re talking about agriculture, we’re talking about automotive, we’re talking about the health and care system, we talking about the banking system.
“Every single one of them is an exception and it seems to me that the problem for the Brexiteers is they have to identify which sectors, where people are currently coming in and working as they are in significant numbers, are not going to be able to recruit overseas in the future.”
But Mr Tice insisted UK nationals should be given priority in the job market.
“One of the key points on this is actually we should be training and educating much better our own British people from our schools and universities and colleges,” he said.
“That’s the first point of call and then you look at where are your shortages and you pull them in. And you pull them in from all over the world not just from the European Union.”
Mr Dorrell responded and said migration had not affected unemployment rates.
He blasted: “If we had a serious problem with people unable to find jobs because of migration we would have high and rising unemployment – in fact, we have relatively low and falling unemployment.”
The exchange comes after Mr Tice called for a “fair system” to be introduced to open opportunities up to people from “all over the world” and not restricted to the EU.
He said: “We’ve always had an immigration system that welcomes skills, and people who work in the health system have skills, and we should adopt a fair system that welcomes people – as we always have – from all over the world to help us in our public services.”
February 14th, 2017: Express