The burka and other face-covering veils worn by Muslim women should be banned, the UK Independence Party says.
Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who leads UKIP's 13 MEPs in Brussels, told the BBC's Politics Show they were a symbol of an "increasingly divided Britain". He also said they "oppressed" women and were a potential security threat. But Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it was "not British" to tell people what to wear in the street, and accused UKIP of indulging in "unpleasant politics".
UKIP is the first British party to call for a total ban, after the BNP called for it to be banned in Britain's schools.
Mr Farage said: "I can't go into a bank with a motorcycle helmet on. I can't wear a balaclava going round the District and Circle line. What we are saying is, this is a symbol. It's a symbol of something that is used to oppress women. It is a symbol of an increasingly divided Britain.
"And the real worry – and it isn't just about what people wear – the real worry is that we are heading towards a situation where many of our cities are ghettoised and there is even talk about Sharia law becoming part of British culture."
A "different" culture was "being forced on parts of Britain and nobody wants that", added Mr Farage, but he denied the policy was an attempt to grab votes from the BNP, insisting it had "nothing to do with the BNP". "There is nothing extreme or radical or ridiculous about this, but we can't go on living in a divided society," he told The Politics Show.
See also UKIP news report, 17 January 2010