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London mayor calls for EU referendum

04 December 2012, 16:16 CET
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(LONDON) - London Mayor Boris Johnson called on Tuesday for a referendum on Britain's relationship with the European Union, in a speech to financiers urging a new trade-based arrangement with Brussels.

The elected mayor, a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, said the euro had been a "calamitous project" that Britain had been right to stay out of.

He rejected plans to resolve the eurozone debt crisis with ever greater unification as "anti-democratic and therefore intellectually and morally wrong", and said Britain should use these changes to renegotiate its own relationship.

"Boil it down to the single market. Scrap the social chapter. Scrap the fisheries policy," Johnson said.

"We could construct a relationship with the EU that more closely resembled that of Norway or Switzerland -- except that we would be inside the single market council, and able to shape legislation."

He added: "That is a renegotiated treaty we could and should put to the vote of the British people.

"It is high time that we had a referendum, and it would be a very simple question. Do you want to stay in the EU single market -- yes or no?

"And if people don't think the new relationship is an improvement, then they will exercise their sovereign right to leave the EU."

The call from such a senior Conservative, who many commentators tip as a future Tory leader, adds weight to the growing voices in the eurosceptic party for Cameron to call for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

Cameron told lawmakers last week that "opportunities are opening up" to form a "different relationship, a better relationship" with Europe.

"We'd have to work out exactly how to get the consent for that relationship that I think the British people would deserve," he said. "Of course, that could include a referendum."

Johnson denied that Britain would be punished for creating some distance with Brussels, "because our partners recognise that what is good for London is actually good for the EU as a whole".

"The future for London is to be at the heart of the world economy, the centre of a series of interconnecting sets, trading freely with the EU, but with our eyes on the growth economies of the 21st century," he said.

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