Boris Johnson says economic fears about a Brexit are ‘wildly exaggerated’

PUBLISHED: 15:36 22 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:36 22 February 2016

Mayor of London Boris Johnson leaves his home in Islington, London, the day after he said he is to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in the forthcoming in/out referendum. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mayor of London Boris Johnson leaves his home in Islington, London, the day after he said he is to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in the forthcoming in/out referendum. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Boris Johnson has claimed that fears over the economic impact of a British exit from the EU have been “wildly exaggerated” as he hit out at “scaremongering” by supporters of a vote to retain ties with Brussels.

The London Mayor ended weeks of speculation on Sunday by announcing his support for a vote to leave the European Union despite a plea by David Cameron to join him in supporting the campaign to remain in the 28-member bloc.

Mr Johnson dismissed the arguments made against Brexit by people who “don’t think Britain could stand on our own two feet”.

At Mayor’s question time, he told London Assembly Members: “In any case like this there will always be people who say we should stick with the status quo. But the trouble with the status quo is that it is formidably bureaucratic, it is producing more and more legislation over which neither our parliament nor any parliament in Europe has any control.”

He told City Hall that Brussels’ reach had extended “into areas that we never dreamed of when we joined in 1972”.

Mr Johnson said: “I think there will be arguments both ways and you will certainly hear, in the next few months, all sorts of people scaremongering and you will hear people saying that we can’t survive outside Europe.”

Dismissing the “Anglo-scepticism” of the argument, he said: “There are people who don’t think Britain could stand on our own two feet, and all the rest of it. I have to say I think that is profoundly wrong. I think that the people who make these arguments are the same as the people who warned that we shouldn’t leave the ERM, which turned out to be the salvation of the UK economy; and they are the same as the people who said that we had to join the euro, which turned out to be a catastrophic mistake and a very unfortunate enterprise.

“I am inclined to take those views with a pinch of salt. I hear all sorts of prognostications from the City, I read plenty of people who think actually that the British economy could prosper outside the European Union, and not just the British economy but London and the City of London too.”

Labour leader in the assembly Len Duvall pointed out that business organisation London First had warned that a Brexit would “cost the capital £13.9 billion a year and 75,000 jobs to the London economy by 2030” and HSBC was prepared to move 1,000 jobs to Paris if the UK voted to leave.

He said the Prime Minister had warned that a vote to leave would be a “leap into the dark” but Mr Johnson dismissed the warnings about the impact on the City.

The mayor said: “I genuinely think those fears are wildly exaggerated. Those are the arguments that we have heard time and time again - we heard it before, I remember hearing it in 2008 when the financial markets crashed, everybody said that the banks were all going to leave London.

“I remember vividly hearing it in the run-up to the decision of whether or not we go into the euro - people said that if we didn’t join the euro, they said that Throgmorton Street would crack and yaw and great mutant rats would gnaw the faces of the last bankers and all this sort of nonsense. It didn’t turn out to be true, on the contrary the City of London is overwhelmingly the preponderant financial centre here in this part of the world, indeed it is the biggest on earth.

“It has a conglomeration of skills and a huge, huge range of talents that I don’t think would be jeopardised at all.”

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