Life outside the “sclerotic” European Union is an “attractive” option for Britain, Boris Johnson will say today.
In his hardest-line comments on the issue so far, the London mayor is to insist that the UK should not fear leaving the group if it cannot secure necessary reforms.
Although he will stress remaining in a streamlined EU is the best option, Mr Johnson will suggest a looser association could boost trade with the rest of the world and add 1.1% to GDP.
The intervention comes in a speech to accompany the publication of a report by his senior economic advisor Gerard Lyons, which argues that ‘Brexit’ is a “viable option”.
Mr Johnson is set to endorse an eight-point plan for reforming the EU, going significantly beyond the goals set out by Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of a mooted in-out referendum in 2017.
The move has already reignited speculation that the Mayor is wooing Eurosceptics with a view to a future Tory leadership bid.
In his address, Mr Johnson will praise Brussels as a “force for stability and economic integration” after the Second World War.
But he will warn that the union is now suffering from a “crisis of economic under-performance, and a related collapse of political trust”.
Despite talk of a corner being turned, he will highlight huge youth unemployment across much of the continent – putting the blame squarely on the troubled euro project.
“Half an entire generation chucked on the scrapheap for the sake of a misbegotten political project that alas shows no sign of breaking up,” he will say.
The single market is “failing to deliver”, according to the Mayor, with an uncompleted market in services and sluggish growth in trade.
“There is little doubt that it is that extra stuff, the stuff from Brussels, that is helping to fur the arteries to the point of sclerosis,” he will add.
“We still have an expansionist Commission culture, in that they do too much of the things they ought not to do and not enough of the things they ought to do.
“The weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking: the collective redundancies directive, the atypical workers directive, the working time directive and a thousand more.
“If we succeed in getting these reforms we should put the amendments to the British people for an in-out referendum, and if we get the reforms then I would frankly be happy to campaign for a yes; and as Gerry Lyons argues in his paper that would be the single best option for Britain and London, with London’s economy almost doubling in size over the next 20 years to £640 billion.
“But it is crucial to understand that if we can’t get that reform, then the second option is also attractive, that we follow something like the path set out by Iain Mansfield in his excellent Brexit paper and go for a new approach….
“If we get it right it’s win-win.
Mr Johnson will argue there would be “no reason for hostility or rancour on either side” if Britain did choose to leave.
“If we got it right, we could negotiate a generous exit, securing EFTA style access to the Common Market – and they would have every motive to do such a deal, given that the balance of trade is very much in their favour,” he will say.
“And that combination of a lower regulatory burden and undiminished trade access would cause exports to boom, and the whole thing would be turbo-charged by new trading agreements with major partners such as China, Brazil, Russia, Australia and India.
“With less red tape for business, and a more competitive tax environment, it has been persuasively argued that British GDP would grow by 1.1%.”
Mr Johnson will insist he wants to stay in a “reformed EU that really serves the consumer, a Europe of citizens and not of bureaucrats and politicians, a Europe where our children can go to other European countries and start businesses and learn languages and find boyfriends and girlfriends if strictly necessary but above all understand the glories of the greatest civilisation the world has ever produced”.
“I want a Europe of opportunity, a cartel-busting, market-opening Europe, a Europe of mutual recognition where we get back to the sublime simplicity and wisdom of cassis de Dijon rather than the grinding mastication of harmonisation and job-destroying regulation, a Europe in which we truly take decisions at the level they need to be taken,” he will add.
“That is the vision of David Cameron and a vision of Europe that is worth fighting for.
“And this is the crucial point – I think we can get there; but if we can’t, then we have nothing to be afraid of in going for an alternative future, a Britain open not just to the rest of Europe but to the world, where we have historic ties and markets with vast potential for all the goods and services that originate in London – and will continue to do so under any circumstances.”