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Boris Johnson lays down the gauntlet to David Cameron

6 August 2014

5:44 PM

6 August 2014

5:44 PM

Much has been made of the news that Boris Johnson intends to return to parliament at next year’s general election. The announcement, made in the Q&A session after his speech about London, Britain and the European Union, has got Westminster all hot and bothered. But another of Boris’s answers in that session also deserves to be highlighted.

Gerard Lyons’s report for the mayor sets out 8 key points of European reform, ranging from changing the relationship between the Eurozone and non-eurozone countries, to the completion of the single market, to halting unnecessary regulations. But Boris went much further than this when responding to a question from Peter Wilding, director of the in-at-all-costs campaign British Influence. Boris gave a list of specific reforms that he wanted to see:

  • Scrap social and environmental legislation
  • Scrap the Common Agriculture Policy
  • Put justice and home affairs back as an intergovernmental competence
  • Strike out the provision for ever closer union
  • A yellow card system for national parliaments
  • Managed migration so that Britain has greater control over immigration
  • Completion of the single market in services

This is a serious agenda for reform and renegotiation. The mayor’s answer was part of a characteristically polite slap-down of Peter, who was trying to suggest that the EU had already agreed to much of the reform agenda in the Lyons report. Boris argued that if these reforms could be achieved then:

Maybe, maybe we’re going to win this argument, in which case I would be all too happy to campaign for a ‘Yes’, which, by the way, shows the wisdom of David Cameron in leading this argument.’

We now have a clear idea of what the mayor thinks a new deal with the EU should look like. It covers a broad range of polices, all of which have strong public support. But this list could also be seen as a challenge. It shows what the PM must deliver by 2017 to secure the backing of the likes of Boris and other Eurosceptic heavyweights, like Michael Gove and Philip Hammond who are on record as being willing to vote ‘Out’ if powers are not repatriated.

There is a desire for many of these reforms across the continent; but whether they are delivered will likely determine how a large group of Conservative MPs campaign in any referendum. And now we know that that group of MPs will almost certainly include Boris Johnson.

Matthew Elliott is Chief Executive of Business for Britain.

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