London mayor gambles on ‘Brexit’

London mayor gambles on ‘Brexit’

London Mayor Boris Johnson. Source: Flickr


London Mayor Boris Johnson has gambled his long-term goal to become British prime minister on the vote to leave the EU, as he became the most well-known member of the ruling Conservative party to call for a “Brexit”.

Johnson said that after a “huge amount of heartache” he made the “agonisingly difficult” decision to oppose Prime Minister David Cameron.

But he suggested that a “leave” vote might not end in the UK leaving the EU altogether but rather create a “new relationship based upon trade and cooperation”.

Speaking outside his London home, the mayor said the EU was “a political project that has been going on for decades, and is now in real danger of getting out of proper democratic control”.

Johnson said he could not “pass up the only chance any of us have in our lifetimes to put an alternative point of view”.

He asked: “Is it better for Britain to remain in Europe as it currently is, or is there a way that we could actually get a better deal that did more for Britain, and restored some control to the people in this country?

“The last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron or the government but after a great deal of heartache I don’t think there is anything else I can do,” he said.

“I will be advocating ‘vote leave’ … because I want a better deal for the people of this country to save them money and to take back control.”

Johnson praised his fellow Eton school and Oxford graduate Cameron on doing “fantastically well” in his recent Brussels negotiations but addressed earlier comments made by the premier by saying he would not be campaigning with “the likes of” leftwing firebrand George Galloway or UKIP leader Nigel Farage or taking on other Conservative members on television debates.

It makes him the instant frontrunner to replace Cameron if the country votes to leave the EU in the June 23 referendum.

While Cameron has insisted he would hold on to the job regardless of the vote, Conservative insiders say he will have no choice but to resign if the voters choose to leave.

In contrast, a “stay-in” vote would be seen as harmful to Johnson’s career.

Former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine branded Johnson “illogical”. “If it takes you this long to make up your mind about something so fundamental and you still have questions, then surely the right option is to stay with what you know rather than risk our economy and security with a leap in the dark,” he said.

Johnson’s would-be successor as London mayor, the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, confirmed he would vote to leave the EU.

Cameron is said to be “furious” both at Johnson’s pronouncement and the manner in which he has drawn it out.

“I can’t understand why Boris, as leader of the great financial capital, won’t support the city,” he was quoted saying to aides.

One anonymous minister said: “I think Boris has done himself quite a lot of damage. He’s been all over the place. Saying to people in the Commons, ‘I’m not an outer,’ but flirting with Brexit. People are left thinking that it’s not a point of principle.”

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