Aylesbury MP David Lidington says he is disappointed with London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to campaign to leave the EU, arguing that the capital in particular would be put at ‘serious risk’ if Britain pulls out.
Mr Lidington, who is the government’s minister for Europe, helped Prime Minister David Cameron negotiate the UK’s ‘new settlement’ with the European Union.
He told The Bucks Herald he will be involved in the ‘In’ campaign ahead of a referendum on June 23 and has already been invited to speak at a number of events around the country.
“I will put the case that while the EU is not perfect the prosperity and security of the British people is better served by remaining in than by leaving.”
He said the free market, European arrest warrant and being able to influence such a ‘massive bloc’ which has a ‘really powerful voice’ in the world were all good reasons to remain in.
“We are not obliged to join the Euro and we have explicitly opted out of ever closure union and got greater fairness in the welfare system.”
He said there is ‘stength in numbers’.
“The discussions about the rules of world trade and world finance and climate change discussions, these take place increasingly between the US, Europe, China and India. Smaller countries tend to row in behind one or other of these bigger blocs. The advantage we have at the moment is we’re one of the biggest EU countries and we have a big impact on shaping the EU position and therefore the global position.”
He said Mr Johnson’s decision to campaign for the so-called ‘Brexit’ was ‘disappointing’.
“I think particularly London would be at serious risk if we were to pull out. Something like a third of the City of London business is with the rest of the EU. The global financial institutions have often made their business with Europe in London because they can trade right across the European single market.”
He said Paris and Frankfurt are ‘jealous of London’s pre-eminent position in financial services and I cannot see why they would let’ the current arrangement continue if the UK leaves.
“HSBC has said that if Britain leaves they will be transferring operations and 1,000 jobs from London to Paris.”
He said it “is not just bankers’” jobs at risk, but those of ‘thousands of people who commute into London from the Home Counties’ who work for firms which provide services to the City.
He added: “It is a fantasy to think we can and still have all the things we like about EU membership without any cost. That is not the case with Norway or Switzerland. Both have to accept rules and pay into the [EU] budget and both have to accept freedom of movement. We are better off working within the bloc.”
Earlier this month Tory Wycombe MP Steve baker had some choice words for Mr Lidington during a debate in the Commons about the draft agreement with the EU.
He said: “This in-at-all-costs deal looks funny, it smells funny, it might be superficially shiny on the outside but poke it and it’s soft in the middle. Will my Right Honourable Friend admit to the House that he has been reduced to polishing poo?”
Mr Lidington responded: “No, I don’t and I rather suspect that whatever kind of statement or response to question had been delivered by me or any of my colleagues from the Despatch Box my Honourable Friend would have been polishing that particular question many days ago.”