LONDON, May 15, (AFP): Former London mayor Boris Johnson has claimed the European Union was behaving like German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler by trying to create a superstate, in a Sunday newspaper interview.
Johnson is one of the leading figures campaigning for Britain to leave the EU in closely-fought referendum being held on June 23.
His comments drew swift criticism from opponents, who said they were “offensive” and showed a “lack of judgement”.
Johnson said the last two thousand years of European history had featured repeated efforts to bring the continent together under a single government, emulating the Roman empire.
“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods,” Johnson told The Sunday Telegraph.
“But fundamentally what is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe.
“There is no single authority that anybody respects or understands. That is causing this massive democratic void.”
Johnson’s comments were attacked by opposition politicians and in Europe, while “EU to Hitler” was trending in London on Twitter.
Hilary Benn, foreign affairs spokesman for the main opposition Labour party and a supporter of EU membership, called the comparison “offensive”.
“After the horror of the Second World War, the EU helped to bring an end to centuries of conflict in Europe and for Boris Johnson to make this comparison is both offensive and desperate,” he said.
Another leading pro-EU Labour figure, Yvette Cooper, said Johnson was playing a “nasty game”.
“The more he flails around with this kind of hysterical claim, the more he exposes his shameful lack of judgement, his willingness to play the most divisive cynical politics, and the emptiness of his arguments,” she said.
Finnish finance minister Alexander Stubb added on Twitter: “What is happening in the cradle of common sense and civilization? This is an outrageous comparison by @borisjohnson.”
Johnson is a leading member of the ruling Conservative party of Prime Minister David Cameron, who is leading the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
Known for his rhetorical flourishes, he was accused of racism last month after suggesting US President Barack Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because of anti-British sentiment linked to his “part-Kenyan” heritage.
The “Remain” and “Leave” camps are currently tied at 50 percent each, according to the What UK Thinks website’s average of the last six opinion polls.
Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, backed Johnson to follow Cameron as prime minister in an interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
Analysts suggest that Cameron will be forced to resign if Britain votes to leave the EU and Johnson is one of the favourites to take over from him.
“Boris goes on surprising people,” Farage said in an interview conducted before Johnson’s latest comments were published.
“They say he can’t do this, he’s a joker — it’s like Ronnie Reagan. Could he do it? Yes. If you’d asked me six months ago I’d have said no but I’ve changed my mind.”
The “Leave” campaign argues that Britain would be stronger outside the EU, seeing Brussels institutions as bloated and believing that the Houses of Parliament in London should have absolute sovereignty.
Campaigning for Britain’s tight referendum on leaving the European Union stepped up Saturday as Prime Minister David Cameron hammered home the economic impact of Brexit.
Cameron, fighting for his political future in the June 23 referendum which polls suggest is neck-and-neck, said Britain could slip into recession if it votes to withdraw from the European bloc.
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour party, made one of his highest-profile appearances of the campaign at a rally in London.
Though Cameron and Corbyn are arch rivals, both want Britain to remain in the EU and are part of a campaign which has brought together most of the country’s biggest political figures.
“Leave” campaigners like former London mayor Boris Johnson argue that Britain could thrive outside the 28-nation bloc, free to negotiate its own trade deals and with businesses liberated from red tape.
Grassroots campaign events were also taking place across Britain Saturday.
The official “In” campaign said it was holding over 1,000 events while a wave of anti-EU rallies were also taking place as campaigning cranks up after local and regional elections last week.
With less than six weeks to the vote, the “Remain” and “Leave” camps are tied at 50 percent each, according to the What UK Thinks website’s average of the last six opinion polls.
Cameron is also struggling to convince voters that he is telling the truth on Europe, a new poll out late Saturday suggested.
Only 21 percent of people said they trusted Cameron more than Johnson, the most high-profile anti-EU and a fellow Conservative, according to a ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent.
It also found that Britons believe “Leave” campaigners are more likely to be honest than the “Remain” side — 39 percent versus 24 percent.
The campaign has caused bitter divisions among Cameron’s ruling Conservative party, over 100 of whose 330 lawmakers want to leave the EU.
LONDON: Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has said Britain would not be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US if it voted to leave the European Union.
His comments contradict what US President Barack Obama said last month when he argued for Britain remaining in the EU at a June 23 referendum.
Trump’s remarks came in an interview on ITV television which is set to be broadcast on Monday. An extract was shown by the channel on Sunday.
The property tycoon has already said that he personally feels Britain would be better off outside the EU.
Asked if Britain would be at the front of the queue for a trade deal post-Brexit if he became president, Trump said: “I don’t want to say front or anything else.
“I mean, I’m going to treat everybody fairly but it wouldn’t make any difference to me whether they were in the EU or not.”
He added: “You’d certainly not be back of the queue, that I can tell you.”
Standing alongside Prime Minister David Cameron at a press conference in London last month, Obama said Britain was “at its best when it is helping to lead a strong Europe”.
Asked what would happen if Britain did vote to leave, Obama said that while it could seal a trade deal with the United States, “it’s not going to happen any time soon”.
“The UK’s going to be at the back of the queue,” the president added.
Opinion polls indicate that the “Remain” and “Leave” camps are at level pegging ahead of the vote.