Tuesday 12 December 2017

London would 'flourish mightily' outside EU, mayor claims

London mayor Boris Johnson
London mayor Boris Johnson

Thomas Penny

London's finance industry would "flourish mightily" if Britain votes to leave the European Union on June 23, mayor Boris Johnson told British politicians yesterday.

Citing discussions with unidentified senior bankers, Mr Johnson, a leading opponent of Prime Minister David Cameron's campaign to keep the UK in the 28-nation bloc, said support for staying in the European Union is "shallow" among business leaders.

"What has struck me in private conversations I occasionally have with leading bankers is how finely balanced they believe it to be, and they say they don't think it will do any damage to London's position as a leading financial centre," Mr Johnson said.

He was appearing in front of the House of Commons Treasury Committee in London yesterday.

"When you dig into these people's opinions, they're much less strongly held than you might suppose."

Mr Johnson announced he would be backing a so-called Brexit last month in a blow to the premier and the "Remain" campaign.

His decision has won him the support of rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party and made him favourite with bookmakers to replace David Cameron as prime minister.

"I think the City would continue to flourish outside the EU, flourish mightily," Mr Johnson said.

"The critical mass is here in London for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the EU."

The London mayor, who compared "scaremongering" about the effects of Brexit to the exaggerated warnings over the 'Millennium bug', dismissed warnings from some forecasters that sterling could plummet if Britain leaves the EU, saying the economy would become more competitive.

The pound "will be as strong and robust as the UK economy," he insisted.

"The risks are with remaining in the EU. Why should we remain tethered to this anti-democratic system?"

Mr Johnson said that "there are good political arguments" for staying in the bloc "but I don't think there are good economic arguments".

The mayor was accused of "exaggeration to the point of a misrepresentation" by the committee chairman, fellow Tory politician Andrew Tyrie.

He was asked about allegations he has made about over-regulation by the EU on issues as diverse as coffin sizes, children's party balloons and the composting of tea bags. Some of the stories are "a figment of your imagination", Mr Tyrie told the mayor.

Mr Johnson defended his statements and said he would provide the committee with detailed evidence to back them up.

The broader issue that they illustrate is the influence of European regulation on British life and business, he said.

"The advantage of a Brexit is we could amend those regulations; without Brexit you can do nothing," Mr Johnson said. (Bloomberg)

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