A decision by Britain to leave the European Union would trigger the break-up of the entire Brussels bloc as we know it, Vote Leave sources have suggested as Michael Gove claimed Brexit would be a “liberating, empowering moment of patriotic renewal”.

In a keynote speech in London, the Justice Secretary mocked what he regarded as the Remain camp’s string of scare stories and insisted Britain outwith the EU would be happier, wealthier and freer to control its destiny as an independent country.

He suggested that, having voted to leave on June 23, the UK would not be bound by Brussels bureaucracy but, rather, would operate in a free trade zone, stretching from Iceland to Turkey, which would boost employment and make goods cheaper.

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Using language that was employed by the Yes campaign in the Scottish independence referendum, Mr Gove said a Leave vote would mean the country would have “rejected the depressing and pessimistic vision advanced by In campaigners that Britain is too small and weak and the British people too hapless and pathetic to manage their own affairs and choose their own future”.

But he also said Brexit could be the beginning of the “democratic liberation of a whole continent” where EU member states see a different Europe was possible.

“So yes there will be ‘contagion’ if Britain leaves the EU but what will be catching is democracy.”

The Scot argued that there would be a new demand for more effective institutions to enable the more flexible kind of international co-operation that was needed and declared: “A different Europe will be a liberation.”

But after his address at Vote Leave’s HQ, a senior aide went further and suggested the Secretary of State would be happy if Britain’s in-out referendum sparked similar polls across Europe.

Asked if Brexit would lead to the break-up of the EU as we knew it, the aide replied: “Yes” and when asked if the Out campaign hoped it would trigger the end of the Brussels block, added: “Certainly.”

In his speech, Mr Gove suggested far from being the exception if Britain left the EU, it would be the norm as most countries chose to govern themselves; it was membership of the Brussels bloc that was the anomaly, he argued.

The Secretary of State mocked the EU as a multi-national federation with no democratically elected leader, comparing it to the Russian empire under the tsars and the Roman empire under the late caesars.

He warned that if Britain voted to remain, its people would be “hostages locked in the back of the car” heading towards deeper EU integration.

Mr Gove also ridiculed the notion that by leaving the EU Britain would become “some sort of hermit kingdom, a North Atlantic North Korea.” This, he argued, was a grotesque conceit that treated voters like “mere children, capable of being frightened into obedience by conjuring up new bogeyman every night”.

Under Vote Leave's plans, the UK, he explained, would secure a "unique" deal after Brexit, enjoying a tariff-free trade agreement but without accepting free movement of EU citizens, paying into the Brussels budget or being bound by the European Court of Justice.

"The core of our new arrangement with the EU is clear. There is a free trade zone stretching from Iceland to Turkey that all European nations have access to, regardless of whether they are in or out of the euro or EU. After we vote to leave, we will remain in this zone."

It was not credible, he said, to suggest that Britain - alongside Belarus - would be kept out of the zone. "Agreeing to maintain this continental free trade zone is the simple course and emphatically in everyone's interests."

The Justice Secretary added: "The idea that the German government would damage its car manufacturers - and impoverish workers in those factories - to make a political point about Britain's choices; or the French government would ignore its farmers - and damage their welfare - to strike a pose; or the Italian government would undermine its struggling industries just to please Brussels... well, that is ridiculous."

In response, Alan Johnson, the former home secretary, who chairs the Labour In for Britain campaign,  said Mr Gove wanted to “wish away reality but the truth is every credible independent forecaster says Brexit will hurt our economy”.

He went on: "Reports from the IMF, the LSE, Oxford Economics the CBI and others all show how important it is to jobs and our economy to remain in the EU.

"But,” he added, “it's vital for workers' rights, protecting our environment and keeping our social protections too; all issues that the Leave campaign have no credibility on and no interest in."