Wednesday 22 November 2017

The gloves are off as top EU official slams Boris over Hitler jibe

Former mayor of London and Vote Leave campaigner Boris Johnson wears protective equipment as he visits Reid Steel during a campaign stop in Christchurch. Photo: Reuters
Former mayor of London and Vote Leave campaigner Boris Johnson wears protective equipment as he visits Reid Steel during a campaign stop in Christchurch. Photo: Reuters

Alastair MacDonald in Copenhagen

Boris Johnson, leader of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, showed "political amnesia" with his "absurd" comparison between the EU and Adolf Hitler's plan to rule the continent, the EU's Donald Tusk said yesterday.

The response of the European Council president to the former London mayor was among the bluntest yet from a Brussels establishment that has been anxious not to stir a backlash in Britain while urging Britons to opt to remain in the bloc.

Britain will hold a referendum on EU membership next month. The Brexit campaign took a three-point lead over the 'remain' campaign in a survey published by polling firm TNS yesterday. Two of three polls published on Monday put the 'in' camp ahead.

Mr Johnson, a potential prime minister if fellow Conservative David Cameron fails to keep Britain in the EU, told a newspaper that unifying authority in Europe could not work: "Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically.

"The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods."

Mr Tusk told reporters in Copenhagen that Mr Johnson had suffered "amnesia" and a "dangerous blackout" of memory.

"When I hear the EU being compared to the plans and projects of Adolf Hitler I cannot remain silent," the former Polish premier said.

Describing it as an "absurd" argument, he added: "Boris Johnson crossed the boundaries of a rational discourse."

Mr Tusk said the EU was "a common tool, not a superstate", a means for states to cooperate rather than a government for Europe.

"The EU may be blamed for many things, but it still remains the most effective firewall against the ever dangerous, and often tragic conflicts among the nations of Europe," Mr Tusk said.

"The only alternative... is political chaos, the return to national egoisms and in consequence the triumph of anti-democratic tendencies, which can lead to history repeating itself."

A British exit from the EU, already shaken by differences over migration and the future of the eurozone, would rip away its second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest financial centre. The 'remain' camp has a 15-point lead over its "leave" rivals, according to the latest poll from ORB for the 'Daily Telegraph' newspaper, published on Monday.

The poll found that among all respondents, support for remaining in the union stood at 55pc, while that for the so-called 'Brexit' option was at 40pc.

Britons will vote on June 23 on whether their country should remain in or leave the 28-member bloc.

The 'remain' camp held an eight-point lead over its 'leave' rivals in a separate ICM poll for the 'Guardian' newspaper, also published on Monday.

Yesterday, Britain's Labour Party called on its supporters to reject a "Tory Brexit", warning it would lead to a fresh wave of Conservative cuts.

Britain faces a "grim" future if voters choose to quit the European Union, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said.

Pitching the referendum as a battle between left and right, Mr McDonnell warned that the Tories would still be in power, poised for a fresh round of austerity.

"In plain English, if we have a Tory Brexit then we have the likelihood of more Tory cuts to come," he said in London.

Mr McDonnell said under chancellor George Osborne, Britain's economic recovery was "built on sand" and "was not strong enough to withstand the kind of adverse shock that Brexit could create".

He said: "To be frank, for Labour supporters and Labour voters who may be tempted to vote for Brexit ... it will be a Tory government still in power the day after the referendum, and it will be a Tory government pushing austerity, committed to cutting first and thinking later, just as they have done so far.

"And with the economy pushed into recession by Brexit, as the Bank of England predicts, the immediate future could look grim and it is not worth considering a Tory Brexit when a Labour 'remain' vote offers a truly positive economic case."

Mr McDonnell dismissed suggestions he was not wholly committed to the 'remain' campaign by joking that he was "even doing an event" with Peter Mandelson, but said he drew the line at speaking alongside Conservatives.

Irish Independent

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