EU referendum: Boris Johnson launches most personal attack on David Cameron yet

Mr Johnson says PM had got no 'real change' from Brussels which was still intent on building 'a country called Europe'

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Indy Politics

Boris Johnson has accused David Cameron of getting "nothing" from his EU renegotiation and says he cannot understand why he isn't campaigning to leave.

In a personal attack on the Prime Minister, Mr Johnson said he had got no "real change" from Brussels which was still intent on building "a country called Europe".

The personal nature of his remarks in a speech in London will further infuriate Downing Street that thought it had an agreement with the London Mayor to stop the personal attacks that dominated the start of the campaign.

But Mr Johnson liberally quoted from Mr Cameron's "Bloomberg" speech in which he laid out what reforms to the EU he wanted in order to recommend a vote to stay.

Mr Johnson said none of these goals had been achieved and accused the Government of "systematic subterfuge" in how it portrayed the nature of Britain's current relationship with the EU.

Comparing the EU to the Italian mafia, he also warned of a campaign of "subterfuge" to hide from the British public constitutional changes which he said were being introduced with the aim of creating "a country called Europe".

The Uxbridge MP - who is the leading figurehead of the Leave campaign - said that the Remain camp relied on the three "wholly bogus" myths that membership of the EU boosts the economy and helps preserve peace and that a desire to quit the 28-nation union is anti-European.

"I am a child of Europe. I am a liberal cosmopolitan and my family is a genetic UN peacekeeping force," said Mr Johnson, who broke briefly into a German-language rendition of Beethoven's Ode To Joy to prove his point.

"I can read novels in French and I can sing the Ode To Joy in German - and if they keep accusing me of being a Little Englander, I will.

What to believe about the EU referendum

"Both as editor of the Spectator and Mayor of London I have promoted the teaching of modern European languages in our schools. I have dedicated much of my life to the study of the origins of our common European culture and civilization in ancient Greece and Rome.

"So I find it offensive, insulting, irrelevant and positively cretinous to be told - sometimes by people who can barely speak a foreign language - that I belong to a group of small-minded xenophobes; because the truth is it is Brexit that is now the great project of European liberalism, and I am afraid that it is the European Union - for all the high ideals with which it began - that now represents the ancien regime."

Mr Johnson's speech follows the Prime Minister's equally high-profile intervention earlier on the same day.

In what was billed as his most emotive speech so far making the case for Britain remaining in Europe, the Prime Minister evoked the image of “rows of white headstones in lovingly-tended Commonwealth war cemeteries” as evidence of the “price this country has paid” to ensure peace and order in the continent.

"Either we influence Europe, or it influences us,” he said.

“And if things go wrong in Europe, let’s not pretend we can be immune from the consequences.”

Senior Government strategists said the speech was a deliberate attempt by Mr Cameron to “move the remain campaign up a gear” and move the focus away from the economy and on to other areas which they believe will swing support behind a stay vote.

Addressing the supporters of Brexit, Mr Cameron said that throughout history British affairs have been intertwined with the affairs of Europe for “good or ill”.

And he argued that a move to leave the EU now would make the continent and the world an inherently less stable place.

“Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt?” he asked.

“I would never be so rash as to make that assumption.