Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Boris keen on new EU renegotiation

London Mayor Boris Johnson wants the UK to strip back its participation with Europe

David Cameron is under mounting pressure on Europe after Boris Johnson predicted he would back an "in-out" referendum.

The London Mayor suggested the Prime Minister would use a long-awaited speech to propose a public choice between dramatically slimmed down British membership of the EU, or exit.

The intervention came amid fresh manoeuvring within the Conservative Party on the traditionally thorny issue and days before an EU summit on banking union for eurozone countries. Mr Cameron has repeatedly hinted that he is ready to promise a referendum over UK membership but faces growing calls to clarify his position.

In a speech on Monday, former Cabinet minister and leading right-winger Liam Fox will warn that the party must have a "clear and concise" policy in place by next autumn.

Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, Mr Johnson rebuffed suggestions from some Tory backbenchers for an immediate national vote on membership. But he endorsed Dr Fox's timetable and said Britain should strip back its participation in Europe to the single market.

"If we have a simple in-out referendum, I think at the moment the chances are that the British people would say, stuff that for a game of soldiers - 56% say let's come out," the mayor said. "The really good bit about it (the EU) is the single market. That is something that allows British enterprise to trade freely with other European countries in a way that I think might be imperilled if we were to come out unilaterally.

"So, what I am saying is let's have a renegotiation in which we chop off all the kind of bits we do not like. Chop off all the excrescences like the fisheries policy, and the social chapter... why on earth are we continuing with that (Common Agricultural Policy) in this day and age - it is grossly unfair.

"That renegotiation is essential, because at the moment our European friends and partners are continuing to make this disastrous mistake. They are compounding the mistakes of the euro by going forward full tilt with political and fiscal union, which, by the way, this Government, our Government, should be opposing."

Mr Johnson predicted that Mr Cameron would commit to a referendum in a much-anticipated keynote speech on the issue - expected before or just after Christmas. "I reckon he's going to commit to a referendum, which will be broadly an in-out referendum on the new terms," he said.

The coalition has kicked off a cross-Whitehall review of Brussels rules and influence amid Conservative demands for powers to be repatriated. But any attempt by Mr Cameron to renegotiate a new relationship before 2015 is likely to be hampered by the Liberal Democrats, who have signalled they will resist efforts to loosen ties.

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