Boris Johnson WAS in favour of an In/Out referendum. No longer it seems...
By Tim Montgomerie
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Earlier today, during his visit to India, Boris Johnson was mistaken for Boris Becker and also for the King of England. People at the Peoples' Pledge will also be wondering if Radio Five's Jon Pienaar has interviewed the correct Boris Johnson. In March of this year the Mayor of London signed the Pledge in support of a referendum on British membership of the European Union. Only last week he reaffirmed his belief that an In/Out referendum was a good idea. Talking to Mr Pienaar earlier today, however, he said this:
"I don't think it's as simple as yes, no, in out. Suppose Britain voted tomorrow to come out. What would actually happen? In real terms, what would happen is that the foreign office would immediately build a huge - well, the entire delegation would remain in Brussels. UKREP would remain there, we'd still have huge numbers of staff trying to monitor what was going on in the community, only we wouldn't be able to sit in the Council of Ministers. We wouldn't have any vote at all. Now I don't think that's actually a prospect that's likely to appeal. What you could do, is think of a new arrangement, new areas of the treaty that we didn't want to participate in any more. That is the where people are thinking now. So I don't think it is - I mean, with great respect to the sort of in-outers, I don't think it does boil down to such a simple question."
Number 10 were rejoicing at Boris' intervention - pointing journalists to his remarks. They clearly see it as significant. In my column for tomorrow's Times (not yet online) I argue that an In/Out referendum is still vital. It's the best way of putting a lid on the UKIP vote and also, as Michael Gove has argued, it's the best way of delivering serious renegotiation. Unless EU leaders think we might leave the Union they're less likely to give us the scale of repatriation that most Britons want.