Londonâ€™s finance industry would â€œflourish mightilyâ€ 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 Cameronâ€™s campaign to keep the U.K. in the 28-nation bloc, said support for staying in the EU is â€œshallowâ€ among business leaders.
â€œWhat 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 donâ€™t think it will do any damage to Londonâ€™s position as a leading financial center,â€ Johnson told the House of Commons Treasury Committee in London on Wednesday. â€œWhen you dig into these peopleâ€™s opinions, theyâ€™re much less strongly held than you might suppose.â€
Johnson announced he would be backing a so-called Brexit last month in a blow to the premier and the â€œRemainâ€ 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.
â€œI think the City would continue to flourish outside the EU, flourish mightily,â€ Johnson said.
â€œThe critical mass is here in London for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the EU.â€
Johnson dismissed warnings from some forecasters that sterling could plummet if Britain leaves the EU, saying the economy would become more competitive.
The pound â€œwill be as strong and robust as the U.K. economy,â€ he said. â€œThe risks are with remaining in the EU. Why should we remain tethered to this anti-democratic system?â€
The mayor was accused of â€œexaggeration to the point of a misrepresentationâ€ 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, childrenâ€™s party balloons and the composting of tea bags. Some of the stories are â€œa figment of your imagination,â€ 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.
â€œThe advantage of a Brexit is we could amend those regulations; without Brexit you can do nothing,â€ Johnson said.
â€œThey are not ideally tailored to the needs of this country.â€ Johnson argued that the EUâ€™s recent experience of crises meant other nations in the bloc would want to secure a quick post-Brexit trade deal.