Lon­don mayor says fi­nance in­dus­try would flour­ish out­side EU

The Pak Banker - - 6BUSINESS -

LON­DON: Lon­don's fi­nance in­dus­try would "flour­ish might­ily" if Bri­tain votes to leave the Euro­pean Union in the ref­er­en­dum on June 23, Lon­don Mayor Boris John­son told law­mak­ers. Cit­ing dis­cus­sions with uniden­ti­fied se­nior bankers, John­son, a lead­ing op­po­nent of Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron's cam­paign to keep the U.K. in the 28-na­tion bloc, said sup­port for stay­ing in the EU is "shal­low" among busi­ness lead­ers.

"What has struck me in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions I oc­ca­sion­ally have with lead­ing bankers is how finely bal­anced they be­lieve it to be, and they say they don't think it will do any dam­age to Lon­don's po­si­tion as a lead­ing fi­nan­cial cen­ter," John­son told the House of Com­mons Trea­sury Com­mit­tee in Lon­don on Wed­nes­day. "When you dig into th­ese peo­ple's opin­ions, they're much less strongly held than you might sup­pose."

John­son an­nounced he would be back­ing a so-called Brexit last month in a blow to the premier and the "Re­main" cam­paign. His de­ci­sion has won him the sup­port of rank-and-file mem­bers of the Con­ser­va­tive Party and made him fa­vorite with book­mak­ers to re­place Cameron as prime min­is­ter.

"I think the City would con­tinue to flour­ish out­side the EU, flour­ish might­ily," John­son said. "The crit­i­cal mass is here in Lon­don for all sorts of rea­sons that have noth­ing to do with the EU." John­son dis­missed warn­ings from some fore­cast­ers that ster­ling could plum­met if Bri­tain leaves the EU, say­ing the econ­omy would be­come more com­pet­i­tive.

The pound "will be as strong and ro­bust as the U.K. econ­omy," he said. "The risks are with re­main­ing in the EU. Why should we re­main teth­ered to this anti-demo­cratic sys­tem?"

The mayor was ac­cused of "ex­ag­ger­a­tion to the point of a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion" by the com­mit­tee chair­man, fel­low Tory law­maker An­drew Tyrie, as he was asked about al­le­ga­tions he has made about over-regulation by the EU on is­sues as di­verse as cof­fin sizes, chil­dren's party bal­loons and the com­post­ing of tea bags. Some of the sto­ries are "a fig­ment of your imag­i­na­tion," Tyrie told John­son. John­son de­fended his state­ments and said he would pro­vide the com­mit­tee with de­tailed ev­i­dence to back them up. The broader is­sue that they il­lus­trate is the in­flu­ence of Euro­pean regulation on Bri­tish life and busi­ness, he said.

"The ad­van­tage of a Brexit is we could amend those reg­u­la­tions; with­out Brexit you can do noth­ing," John­son said. "They are not ideally tailored to the needs of this coun­try."

John­son ar­gued that the EU's re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of crises meant other na­tions in the bloc would want to se­cure a quick post-Brexit trade deal. "They would want above all to min­i­mize un­cer­tainty and de­lay," he said. Ac­cused by op­po­si­tion Labour Party law­maker He­len Good­man of not know­ing whether he wanted an ar­range­ment with the EU like that of Nor­way, Switzer­land or Canada, John­son re­sponded: "I don't want to imitate the Cana­dian deal, I want a Bri­tish deal." Be­fore it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Ter­mi­nal.

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