WHILE people across Hampshire are putting up the fairy lights and Christmas trees one man has been creating controversy with his own decoration.

For several years Timothy "Dusty" Miller has put up banners asking Father Christmas for the UK to leave the European Union - but some of his neighbours say he has "crossed the line" with his new banner.

This year the Hedge End resident has put up a large banner saying: "Dear Father Christmas, an EU exit is the only present for me if not it had better be, a Koran and lessons in Arabic".

In the past the banners have previously prompted calls to the police, although Hampshire Constabulary said they had not received any complaints about the current banner, while the borough council has said that there is "no justification" for taking down the banner from a planning point of view.

Mr Miller, who has been a taxi driver for 40 years and is a member of UKIP, rejects any suggestion of racism, saying he was prompted to put up the banner by the "failed social experiment" of open borders in the EU and his concern over EU visas potentially being issued to 70m Turkish people next year.

Daily Echo:

The 66-year-old said: "I do realise that it's on the edge but I have taken it to the edge to get the desired result, and that is non other than to get this talked about.

"I'm not bashing Muslims at all, but there is a Government in Brussels that is giving away 70m visas to a non-EU country.

"You've got to get over this thing of racism and see that there is this tsunami coming towards us.

"There is a very big difference between this country and an Arab country - and I have lived in one."

However some are not happy with the banner, with Arshad Sharif, chairman of the Muslim Council of Southampton, saying: "I think it feeds into an argument of blaming the victims of things which include our own foreign policy, with a lot of people opposing intervention although the Government did it anyway.

"It is worrying because when you take into account Donald Trump's comments these days it is acceptable to blame Muslims for everything, and it is quite worrying.

"If it was something light-hearted I would be the first one to have a laugh at it, but in the current environment it's not acceptable for people to be scapegoating Muslims."

But Judge Khurshid Drabu, chairman of the Medina Mosque in Southampton, said he did not find it offensive, saying Mr Miller had been "very clever" with the wording "in not saying he hates Muslims or anything similar" and that he had a right to put up a banner as long as it was not inciting hatred against a religion.

Daily Echo: Dusty Miller and last year's banner

The banner has had a mixed response with Mr Miller's neighbours, with one, Paul Butler, saying: "He's right in a way.

"I can understand what he's saying but is it the right way to say it?

"Some people will take it the wrong way."

But fellow Bursledon Road resident Liz Colthart described it as "divisive" and "ill-timed", adding that it had "crossed the line", while another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "I think it's awful, I hate it.

"It's verging on racism."