London Mayor Boris Johnson has thrown his weight behind the campaign to leave the European Union, dealing a blow to David Cameron by increasing the chance British voters will drop their membership in a June referendum.
In a move that electrified the referendum campaign by pitting one of Britain’s most charismatic politicians against the prime minister, Johnson said Cameron had failed to deliver fundamental reform with an EU deal struck on Friday.
Johnson, is believed to have a fierce ambition to succeed Cameron.
He said he loved European culture, civilization and food but that the European project was in danger of getting out of democratic control.
“The last thing I wanted was to go against David Cameron or the government, but after a great deal of heartache I don’t think there’s anything else I can do. I will be advocating Vote Leave,” Johnson told reporters outside his north London home 20 minutes after texting the prime minister his decision.
“I want a better deal for the people of this country to save them money and to take back control,” said Johnson, mayor since 2008 and a member of parliament for Cameron’s Conservative Party.
Sterling fell in Asia as concern grew that Britain would quit the EU. The pound fell around 1 percent against the dollar, euro and yen.
Johnson, 51, said he would not take part in debates against members of his own party. But his decision gives the “out” campaign a de facto leader who is one of Britain’s most high-profile politicians.
Johnson dismissed questions from reporters about whether joining the campaign to leave the EU was the first step toward a bid to succeed Cameron. On the contrary, he said with a smile, Cameron should stay no matter who won the June 23 referendum.