Boris Johnson: UK better off outside EU

Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said he has decided “after a huge amount of heartache” to campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

He said the EU was eroding British sovereignty and PM David Cameron’s reform deal would not bring about the fundamental change that was needed.

His decision pits him against Mr Cameron, who is calling for Britain to stay in a “reformed” EU.

The prime minister says leaving the EU would be a “leap in the dark”.

The announcement by Mr Johnson, MP for Uxbridge and Ruislip South, follows intense speculation about which side he would back.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mr Johnson’s decision would be seen as a huge boost to the Out campaign and a major blow to the prime minister, who had hoped to persuade friends and rivals to back the campaign to remain.

Addressing reporters outside his home in north London, Mr Johnson said the EU was a “political project” that was in “real danger of getting out of proper democratic control”.

He praised the prime minister for the deal he negotiated with EU leaders to reform the British relationship with the EU, saying Mr Cameron had done “fantastically well” in a short space of time.

“But I don’t think anybody could realistically claim this is fundamental reform of the EU or of Britain’s relationship with the EU,” he said.

The MP added: “It’s my view, after 30 years of writing about this, we have a chance, actually to do something. I have a chance to do something,” saying he wanted a relationship with the EU based on “trade and co-operation”.

‘Safer and stronger’

Earlier, Mr Cameron had issued a last-ditch plea to Mr Johnson – seen as a potential future Conservative party leader – to back staying in the EU, during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show earlier.

He said if Mr Johnson cared about “getting things done” in the world, being a member of the EU was key.

And, he added, “linking arms” with Nigel Farage and George Galloway – part of the Grassroots Out movement which is one of two groups vying to become the official ‘Leave’ campaign – is “taking a leap into the dark and is the wrong step for our country”.

Mr Cameron, who renegotiated the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU, argues that the UK is “better, safer and stronger” being in the EU.

And he said that withdrawing from the 28-member bloc might give the “illusion of sovereignty” but would actually weaken the UK’s power and influence.

However, his argument for remaining in the union was not enough to convince Mr Johnson, who joins six other ministers who attend cabinet in backing the campaign to leave.

Among them are Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

Zac Goldsmith, who is hoping to become Mr Johnson’s successor as London mayor in May, has also said he will vote to leave.

Some of those backing Brexit had spoken of their hopes that Mr Johnson would become the figurehead of the Out campaign, reaching out to large swathes of voters in a way that many politicians in Westminster cannot.

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