LONDON — London Mayor Boris Johnson said on Tuesday the British people should be given a referendum on whether to stay in a European Union (EU) pared back to the single market only.
Speaking at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in London, Johnson said Britain's relationship with the EU should be renegotiated around a model based on free trade and fewer barriers to business.
If achieved, he said, that would allow London to flourish further as a financial centre.
"The euro is a calamitous project," he said in a speech. "We should use the opportunity of the Treaty changes — perhaps over the banking union — to convene an intergovernmental conference in which we bring Britain's membership in line with what people want.
"Boil it down to the single market. That is a renegotiated Treaty we could and should put to the vote of the British people," he said. "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?"
Eurozone member states aim to put the European Central Bank in charge of supervising some or all eurozone banks as step one towards a banking union but Britain wants the European Central Bank's influence curbed so that it does not restrict London's pre-eminence as a financial center.
Johnson, who made his reputation as a correspondent for the right-leaning Daily Telegraph in Brussels, said Britain should look to have a similar relationship with the EU as those enjoyed by Norway and Switzerland.
"Indeed, if that were the relationship then there is every chance that we would be joined in that outer tier by Norway and Switzerland, since both those countries are feeling increasingly frustrated by their lack of influence."
Britain's relations with Europe have shot to the top of the political agenda with rebellious anti-EU members of Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservatives pushing for a new role inside the 27-nation bloc — or even leaving altogether.
Johnson, a Conservative party member seen as a potential rival to Cameron, predicted the euro area would limp on with sclerotic growth rates before possibly blowing up.
Asked if he would campaign to keep Britain within the European Union if it renegotiated its treaty to be based around the single market, the mayor said he would.
"The choice is going to be staying in on our terms, or getting out," he said, when asked about the fact that other European countries are unwilling to renegotiate a special relationship for Britain.
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