Boris Johnson today sang in German to prove he is not a “Little Englander” as he called on the UK to quit the EU.
In a speech in Westminster this morning, the former London Mayor set out his “liberal cosmopolitan” case for voting to leave the EU in the June 23 referendum.
Responding to claims earlier in the day by the Prime Minister that Brexit would be "a risk" to peace on the continent, Johnson suggested the EU's defence policy led to Russia annexing part of Ukraine in 2014.
After describing his family – which has English, Swiss, Turkish and French heritage – as a “genetic equivalent of a UN peacekeeping force”, Johnson talked up his love of European culture.
He said: “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.”
With only the gentlest of encouragement from those present, Johnson then launched into a few bars of the Beethoven-penned melody.
Johnson then added: “So I find if 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.”
Johnson’s speech came just hours after Prime Minister David Cameron claimed the security of Europe would be put “at risk” if the UK left the EU.
The Tory leader argued one of the great successes of the European Union was helping to keep peace on the continent since the end of the Second World War.
Johnson was dismissive of the claim, saying that it was in fact Nato which had helped maintain peace.
He said: “I don’t think the Prime Minister can seriously believe that leaving the EU would trigger war on the European continent, given that he was prepared only a few months ago to urge that people should vote to leave if they failed to get a substantially reformed European Union.
“We have not got a substantially reformed European Union, the thing is virtually identical to before.
“I think it very, very curious that the Prime Minister is now calling this referendum and warning us World War 3 is about to break out.”
He added: “If you want an example of EU foreign policymaking on the hoof and the EU’s pretensions to running a defence policy that have caused real trouble, then look at what has happened in Ukraine."
Johnson's claim was met with claims he had become a "Putin apologist".
Johnson also attacked the notion that European citizens are benefitting through closer economic ties on the continent.
He cited the example of Greece, which has had three financial bailouts from the EU since 2010 in a bid to rescue its economy.
Conditions attached to the bailouts has seen a scale back in public spending as part of an austerity drive.
Johnson said: "What is the distinctive experience of the people of Greece, over the last eight years? It is a complete humiliation, a sense of powerlessness. The suicide rate has risen by 35 per cent; life expectancy has actually fallen. Youth unemployment is around 50 per cent. It is an utter disgrace to our continent."