Mr Johnson invokes Winston Churchill’s war-time defiance, urging the British people to be “the heroes of Europe” again, set the country free and save the EU from itself by voting to leave in the referendum next month.
The former mayor of London, who is a keen classical scholar, argues that the past 2,000 years of European history have been characterised by repeated attempts to unify Europe under a single government in order to recover the continent’s lost “golden age” under the Romans.
“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” he says.
“The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods.
“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.”
Mr Johnson’s potentially inflammatory comparison to Hitler comes at a critical time in the referendum campaign, with senior Tories on either side publicly attacking each other in blunt terms.
In the interview, the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, who is a favourite to be the next Conservative leader:
- Fuels speculation over his own ambitions by setting out his own “Tory mission” for how to win future general elections. He warns that the Conservatives cannot simply talk about “aspiration and opportunity” while forgetting the poor, in a coded rebuke to George Osborne;
- Piles pressure on David Cameron by challenging him to a face-to-face television debate, saying such a clash is crucial for the democratic process;
- Accuses the Prime Minister of being “rash” and undermining Nato by claiming that the EU is the guarantor of peace in Europe and that Brexit could lead to war;
- Insists that he is still “friends” with Mr Cameron even though senior Tories are “knocking seven bells out of each other” like rugby players in the middle of a brutal match.
Mr Johnson was speaking as the referendum battle entered its most intense final six weeks.
With polls suggesting the contest is close, leaders of all the main political parties put aside their differences to join the Remain campaign in favour of continuing EU membership.
In what Downing Street sources described as an “unprecedented” moment, the leaders of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties all attended some of the 1,000 Remain campaign events held across Britain on Saturday.
A Labour battle bus took to the streets to campaign for Remain, while the Prime Minister unveiled a new poster in his Oxfordshire constituency of Witney.