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5th Mar 2024

Cameron set for EU showdown with MPs

  • PM David Cameron (l) and Boris Johnson together on a visit to London cab makers in 2015 (Photo: Prime minister's office)

British prime minister David Cameron will make his case for the UK to stay in the European Union on Monday (22 February) after London mayor Boris Johnson announced over the weekend that he would be campaigning to quit the 28-member bloc.

Cameron will take the EU deal he secured last week at an EU summit to MPs and make his case that Britain is better off staying in the EU in the referendum called for 23 June.

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But in a major blow to his efforts, fellow Tory politician and media darling Boris Johnson announced on Sunday that “after a huge amount of heartache” he was backing the leave campaign.

Cameron pleaded with Johnson only a few hours before the blond-haired Johnson announced his decision, urging him to avoid “linking arms” with UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, and George Galloway, a left-wing campaigner often accused of anti-semitism, in backing a British exit from the EU.

Cameron said “taking a leap into the dark” was “the wrong step for our country”.

But in his column in the British daily The Telegraph, Johnson suggested that the EU was continuously expanding its powers, stifling Britain's sovereignty.

“We are seeing a slow and invisible process of legal colonisation, as the EU infiltrates just about every area of public policy,” Boris Johnson argued.

He argued there was “nothing necessarily anti-European or xenophobic in wanting to vote Leave on June 23”.

Just say 'no'

Johnson, seen as Cameron's possible successor as Tory leader, congratulated the prime minister for trying to make a better deal for the UK in EU.

He said he would not participate in TV debates against members of his own party, but his decision could galvanise support for the 'out' campaign among the public.

Johnson joins six cabinet ministers who will be campaigning for Britain to leave the EU. The ministers toured UK media over the weekend to make their case.

Worrying about the “extension of EU authority and centralisation in Brussels”, Johnson warned that EU legislation was unstoppable and irreversible, infringing on the UK’s sovereignty.

Johnson railed against the supremacy of EU law and warned that the European Court of Justice might interfere with UK legislation.

“That is what we mean by loss of sovereignty – the inability of people to kick out, at elections, the men and women who control their lives,” Johnson argued, saying this contributed to voters’ apathy and the rise of extremist parties.

He also warned that more centralisation is on the way from Brussels, as eurozone members try to forge a closer union.

“All EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says 'no',” he said, arguing that the risks of leaving the EU cannot be dismissed, but they are exaggerated.

In another blow to Cameron, his justice minister and close friend, Michael Gove will also campaign to leave the EU, saying over the weekend that EU policies have become a source of instability and insecurity.

No 'plan B'

The European Commission has no “plan B” if Britain votes to leave the EU, finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on Sunday.

In an interview on France 5 television, Moscovici said: “No, there is no plan B. It doesn't help us in any way to envisage disaster scenarios.

“The day we start talking about a plan B is the day we no longer believe in our plan A. I have just one plan. The United Kingdom in a united Europe.”

He added that the EU’s executive would not take part in the referendum campaign.

“For me, it is prudent not to go campaign and try to impose a choice on a sovereign people. Referendums are dangerous, especially for Europe,” he said, warning that any campaigning by the Commission could backfire.

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