In Britain and the US, the idea that the EU could aspire to be a superpower is usually treated as either ludicrous or sinister.

So when Guy Verhofstadt, a prominent member of the European parliament, recently made the case for the EU to be part of an emerging “world order that is based on empires”, there was a predictable backlash. At the Conservative party conference a few days ago, his words, taken from a speech to their anti-Brexit enemies the Liberal Democrats, were cited as evidence of the dangerous imperial ambitions of the EU — and proof that leaving the bloc is the UK’s only safe option.

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