THE EU is acting like the Soviet Union by trapping Britain in a “prison” and refusing to let us leave, Jeremy Hunt blasted today.
The Foreign Secretary warned Brussels bosses are undermining the “European dream” and could end up driving other countries out with their bossy behaviour.
Mr Hunt channelled Thatcher and Churchill in his crowd-pleasing party conference speech which is likely to be seen as the opening shot in a future leadership bid.
The former Health Secretary voted Remain in the 2016 referendum but has since become a convert to the Brexit cause.
Speaking at the party gathering in Birmingham this evening, he hit out at the EU for treating Britain badly in a bid to punish us for voting to leave.
Mr Hunt said: “What happened to the confidence and ideals of the European dream? The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving.
“The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish, it will grow – and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape.
“If you reject the hand of friendship offered by our Prime Minister you turn your back on the partnership that has given Europe more security, more freedom and more opportunities than ever in history.
“And a setback for the EU will become a wholly avoidable tragedy for Europe.”
Quoting Margaret Thatcher, he added: “We understand the EU wants to protect itself. But if the only way to deal with the UK leaving is to try to force its break up, as someone much more distinguished than me once said, the answer is ‘No No No.’”
The Foreign Secretary – who got a standing ovation from activists and colleagues – concluded: “Never mistake British politeness for British weakness.
“Because if you put a country like Britain in a corner, we don’t crumble. We fight.”
Mr Hunt is not the only Tory Remainer to have attacked the EU at the party conference today.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The Spitfires which won the Battle of Britain were built at Castle Bromwich.
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“Today in Wolverhampton, weapons systems for the F-35 Fighter are coming off the production line.
“Perhaps Donald Tusk and Emmanuel Macron should remember that, the next time they pick a fight with our Prime Minister.”
Theresa May this morning called on European leaders to take a more constructive approach to Brexit talks to reduce the risk of a No Deal scenario.