"Across the country, we are in conversations with a lot of district councillors, county councillors: people who are making up their minds and saying is it time now for us to jump ship?" - Farage
Keith Weir from Reuters interviews UKIP Leader Nigel Farage
• (Reuters) - Conservatives who are unhappy with the party line on European Union membership should throw in their lot with the avowedly anti-EU UK Independence Party, its leader Nigel Farage said on Friday.
Farage dismissed Prime Minister David Cameron's claim to be a eurosceptic, calling him the most pro-Europe Conservative leader since Edward Heath who led Britain into the then Common Market in 1973.
"The reality is the rebels lost last week. The anti-EU cause within the Conservative party under this leadership is dead," Farage told Reuters in an interview.
"My argument to those MPs is 'if this is how you feel...you better come and join us because you are wasting your time where you are,'" he added.
Around 80 Conservative MPs defied Cameron last week and backed a call for a referendum on EU membership.
Cameron would like to claw back powers from the EU, but says the priority is to resolve the financial crisis that is raging through the single currency zone at the heart of the EU.
Ironically, for an anti-EU party, UKIP had its best ever result at the 2009 European election when it won more than 16 percent of the vote, beating then ruling Labour into third place.
Farage said the party had drawn support not only from disaffected Conservatives, but also in traditional Labour strongholds in northeast England.
He sees plenty of scope for the party to build on this base now Europe has risen back up the political agenda.
"Across the country, we are in conversations with a lot of district councillors, county councillors: people who are making up their minds and saying is it time now for us to jump ship?"
Farage, a member of the European parliament, broke a number of bones in an accident on general election day last year when a plane carrying a UKIP banner crashed into a field. He says that he still suffers back pain from the accident and notices how a short walk now can tire him out.