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Former London mayor raises spectre of Hitler in Brexit debate

world Updated: May 15, 2016 18:01 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

“There is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe,” the former London mayor said.(Reuters File)

After arguments based on economics and politics, it is the turn of history in the increasingly vicious EU referendum debate, with senior Tory MP Boris Johnson claiming that both Hitler and the European Union had the same aim of unifying the continent under a single “authority.”

Johnson, the most visible symbol of the Brexit camp, caused further furore on Sunday by using European history to burnish the appeal of Brexit.

“The whole thing began with the Roman Empire…The truth is that the history of the last couple of thousand years has been broadly repeated attempts by various people or institutions – in a Freudian way – to rediscover the lost childhood of Europe, this golden age of peace and prosperity under the Romans, by trying to unify it,” the former London mayor told The Sunday Telegraph .

“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods. But fundamentally what it 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,” he said.

Campaigning for the June 23 referendum on the future of Britain’s membership of the EU is at full swing, with leaders travelling across the country on customised ”battlebuses” and meeting people in streets, markets and at their doorsteps.

Johnson has been embarrassing his party colleague and pro-EU Prime Minister David Cameron, provoking the latter to debate him on live television, a prospect ruled out by Downing Street.

Critics said his comparison of EU with Hitler was “shameful”, “offensive and desperate”, with some questioning his interpretation of history.

Senior Labour leader Hilary Benn said: “Leave campaigners have lost the economic argument and now they are losing their moral compass”.

“To try and compare Hitler and the Nazis - the millions of people who died in the Second World War, the Holocaust - with the free democracies of Europe coming together to trade and co-operate, and in the process to help to bring peace to the continent of Europe after centuries of war, is frankly deeply offensive.”

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