'Boil it down to the single market': Boris Johnson calls for EU referendum

A 'pared down' relationship was both 'essential and deliverable'

Britain should “pare down” it relationship with the European Union then put it to a vote in a referendum, the London Mayor Boris Johnson said today.

Mr Johnson said returning Britain to a “single market” relationship with the European Union was both “essential and deliverable”, but said if voters did not like it they could opt to leave the EU altogether.

He said it was “high time” that the British people had a chance to vote on the issue.

In the next few weeks David Cameron is expected to set out his approach to Britain’s relationship with Europe in a key note speech. He is expected to announce a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe after the 2015 election but is resisting calls for an in/out question.

But in remarks which are unlikely to be welcomed either in Downing Street or Brussels, Mr Johnson said he believed Britain should abandon the goal of being “at the heart of Europe” and instead demand a “common sense” relationship.

This would see the UK involved in the single market and the decisions governing it, but abolish much of the bureaucracy coming from Brussels.

Mr Johnson rejected warnings that a renegotiated relationship with the EU would turn the UK into a backwater, insisting that London would remain “the heart of the world economy”, trading freely not only with Europe but also the emerging economic giants like India and China.

And he set himself on collision course with Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne over their support for closer fiscal union within the eurozone, which he denounced as “anti-democratic and therefore intellectually and morally wrong”.

He also risked offending Germany by saying that the government of Greece appeared to have been “taken over” by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was not “the outcome the Greeks were hoping for in 1944”, when the Nazi occupation of the country was ended.

Speaking at Thomson Reuters, Mr Johnson said that the UK could establish a similar position in relation to the EU as that of Norway or Switzerland, with the added advantage of remaining within the councils which determine the rules of the single market.

However, pro-Europeans pointed out that there was little incentive for other Governments to agree to the change adding that Britain would also lose its say about the rules of the market if it opted out of other parts of the EU.

Mr Johnson said the euro had shown itself to be “a calamitous project”, as many in Britain had warned, and plans for fiscal and banking union would “make a bad situation worse”.

With EU politics increasingly consumed by projects to establish closer union between the eurozone states, “we can no longer pretend that this country is at the heart of Europe”.

But he described this situation as “liberating”, as it offered the chance for the UK to “seize the moment to ask the British people to define themselves and their future in Europe”.

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

“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...

“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.

“This pared down relationship is essential and deliverable.”

Mr Johnson insisted that Britain's European neighbours would not "punish or blame" the UK for seeking this new relationship, and would recognise that "what is good for London is good for the EU as a whole".

Even with a stripped-back EU membership, the City could be expected to continue to dominate global trade in the euro, he said.

And he argued that the new position would be best for the UK in the globalised world economy of the future, in which the Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - and other emerging giants will earn a growing share of GDP.

"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," said Mr Johnson.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Supervisor & Advisor - Automotive

£16500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones