BORIS Johnson has been attacked for “crass and distasteful” comments comparing the struggle of Ukrainians fighting Russian invasion to British people voting for Brexit.

The Prime Minister attracted widespread criticism over the remarks made yesterday as he addressed the Tory spring conference in Blackpool, which was being held at the same time as the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen.

In his speech he told Tory party members: “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time.

“I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

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“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the comments proved how the “Partygate Prime Minister” is unfit for office.

Boris Johnson compared the struggle of Ukrainians fighting Russian invasion to British people voting for Brexit

He said: “Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Ukraine’s life-threatening situation with Brexit was crass and distasteful, and shows just how dangerously obsessed the Tories are with Brexit.

“Instead of prioritising his extreme Brexit and making unhelpful comparisons, the Prime Minister should be following the example of our European allies and waiving visa requirements for all Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in the UK, scrapping the anti-refugee Nationality and Borders Bill and taking action to put money in people’s pockets to help them through the cost of living crisis that his Tory government has exacerbated.”

Johnson’s comments also attracted criticism from commentators on social media, which were shared by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Boris Johnson compared the struggle of Ukrainians fighting Russian invasion to British people voting for Brexit

Columnist Ian Dunt tweeted: “This is one of the most obscene things I’ve seen a western leader say since the war began.

“And I really couldn’t give a goddamn what someone’s view on Brexit is. No-one with integrity would make this comparison.”

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A post from Anne Applebaum, a journalist and author, said: “He is doing this because he knows Brexit is a disaster, it has isolated Britain, made Britain poorer, less influential.

“He needs extreme forms of hyperbole to cover the gap between that reality and the false utopia that he and others promised.”

The comparison made by Johnson was also criticised by Tory peer Lord Barwell, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, who pointed out Ukraine is seeking to join the European Union.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Apart from the bit where voting in a free and fair referendum isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion and the awkward fact the Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom to join the EU, this comparison is bang on.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the Prime Minister “is a national embarrassment”, adding: “To compare a referendum to women and children fleeing [Vladimir] Putin’s bombs is an insult to every Ukrainian. He is no Churchill: he is Basil Fawlty.”

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Meanwhile, it was reported yesterday that Number 10 staff have been told to prepare for the possibility of a General Election in autumn next year.

While May 2024 remains the most likely date, David Canzini – the Prime Minister’s new deputy chief of staff – told advisers Johnson is “not out of the woods yet” over the Downing Street lockdown party scandal, according to The Times.

He also presented a slide showing delivering Brexit is at the top of the UK Government’s list of priorities, ahead of the cost of living crisis.