British PM to make EU case to Commons on ‘Brexit’

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 24, 2012 shows British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and London Mayor Boris Johnson (L) pointing at each other as the London 2012 Paralympic Cauldron is lit in London's Trafalgar Square, on August 24, 2012.  Prime Minister David Cameron made a last-ditch appeal to London Mayor Boris Johnson on February 21, 2016 to support Britain staying in the EU as battle lines hardened ahead of a June 23 membership referendum. / AFP / WILL OLIVER

London / Bloomberg

David Cameron will make the case for staying in the EU to Parliament after London Mayor Boris Johnson became the highest-profile figure to say he’ll campaign for Britain to quit the 28-nation bloc, sending the pound plummeting.
Cameron is due to address lawmakers in the House of Commons on the reform deal he struck with fellow European leaders on Friday. The agreement is aimed at helping him to argue that Britain is better off in the EU going into an in-out referendum he’s called for June 23.
That stance suffered a setback after Johnson, one of the U.K.’s most popular politicians and prominent Conservatives, said he’ll campaign for so-called Brexit, putting himself in direct opposition to Cameron, his party leader. The pound fell the most since the financial crisis against the dollar as investors woke up to the likelihood of an energized “Out” campaign.

Scotland Risk
“He is a superb campaigner, so he’s a good asset to the cause,” Nigel Lawson, a Conservative former chancellor of the exchequer who leads the Vote Leave movement, said in an interview on BBC Radio’s “Today”
program. “What this is about is a declaration of independence by the UK. It’s about time we became a self-governing, independent democracy.”
U.K. assets are under pressure amid uncertainty over the likelihood of an unprecedented exit from the world’s biggest trading bloc. With polls disagreeing on the outcome of the referendum, concerns are also resurfacing over the possibility of Scotland’s secession from the U.K. in the event of vote to leave.
“The dramatic fall in sterling today is driven by fear of Brexit and means that the threat of leaving is already costing British business,” Susan Kramer, economic spokeswoman for Cameron’s former coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, said in a statement. “Imagine how much worse it will for British exporters if we withdraw from the world’s biggest single market.”
Britain’s Institute of Directors said the deal was sufficient for more than 600 of its members to vote to stay in the bloc. The EEF, which represents engineering, manufacturing and industry firms, said separately that 61 percent its members want to remain in the EU, mainly because membership makes it easier for companies to export.
“Companies, particularly those interested in exporting, do not see the point of the UK cutting itself off from its major market,” EEF CEO Terry Scuoler said. The view from the business community contrasted with that of Johnson, who told reporters outside his home in London on Sunday that he’d vote to leave the EU “because I want a better deal for the people of this country: to save them money and take back control.”

‘Pop-Star Charisma’
His move was a second blow to Cameron after Justice Secretary Michael Gove, one of his closest political friends, announced on Saturday that he too will campaign for an exit. Cameron had urged Johnson to stay on his side.
“He definitely has pop-star charisma and appeal,” Jacob Nell, a U.K. economist at Morgan Stanley, told journalists at a briefing in London. “If the ‘Out’ campaign get it right, they could appeal to both the anti-immigration and the deregulation group of voters and Johnson could help make voting for Brexit seem socially acceptable.”
Johnson is among the favorites to succeed Cameron, who’s said he’ll step down as PM before the 2020 general election. It means much of the coming debate will be conducted, in public, between members of the governing Conservative Party.

‘Feel Good’
“There’s enormous numbers of voters who are not sure what to do in this referendum,” Johnson’s biographer, Andrew Gimson, said in an interview. “Whether this will help them to make up their minds, I don’t know. But for people who want to feel good about voting to leave, Boris is good at making people feel good about things.” A telephone poll carried out by Survation on Saturday showed 48 percent of respondents want the U.K. to stay in the EU, compared with 33 percent who would vote to leave and 19 percent who are undecided. In recent months, most phone surveys have shown double-digit leads for remaining in the EU, while online polls have had the race much closer, some suggesting the “Leave” camp is ahead.

No Going Back
Cameron’s spokeswoman, Helen Bower, said there is no going back if Britain votes to leave the EU.

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