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London mayor enters UK-EU debate from Davos 'cyclotron of egos'

By Kevin Voigt, CNN
updated 6:55 AM EST, Fri January 25, 2013
  • London Mayor Boris Johnson believes Britain would vote to stay part of EU "one way or another"
  • Prime Minister David Cameron said he plans to hold a national referendum on membership
  • Johnson also condemned attempts in Europe to build financial trading hubs away from London
  • Johnson on World Economic Forum in Davos: "It is this great cyclotron of egos isn't it?"

Davos, Switzerland (CNN) -- While Prime Minister David Cameron's speech this week -- voicing his intent to let the British people vote on whether to stay in the European Union -- has caused concern on the continent, the mayor of London says it's all part of democracy.

"I think if you ask most international business leaders, bankers whether they wanted to abolish elections to remove any element of uncertainty in the commercial world, well of course they would love to do that," Mayor Boris Johnson told CNN's Richard Quest at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, which he described as the "cyclotron of egos."

"You've got to consult the people from time to time, the British people haven't been consulted since 1975, the French have, the Dutch have, the Irish have -- now is the moment."

Cameron made headlines Wednesday by promising the British people a vote on European Union membership if he wins the next general election in 2015.

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Cameron told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he has no regrets over the referendum promise, despite unhappiness among some European partners.

"It's really important that we've set out a plan for how we get change in Europe that will benefit all of Europe, making it more open, more competitive, more flexible, and how we secure Britain's place within that," he said.

iReport: Do you think Britain should stay in the EU?

The European Union is already changing to meet the needs of the 17 members who are part of the euro single currency, Cameron said. Britain is not in that group.

After Cameron's speech on Wednesday, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz tweeted: "#Cameron's Europe a la carte not an option. We have to focus on jobs & growth rather than getting lost in treaties discussions." French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius used similar language in an interview on France Info radio saying Europe could not be "a la carte," Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Cameron: We must focus on trade, taxes, transparency

Johnson believes any vote would result in Britain remaining in the EU. "I think most people can see that the overwhelming likelihood, in fact the certainty, is that Britain one way or another will be part of the free trade zone," he said.

Johnson also condemned attempts in Europe to build financial trading hubs away from London. Last month, the governor of the Banque de France told the Financial Times the City of London should be deposed as the euro's main financial center so the single currency club can "control" most financial business in the eurozone.

"All these thing come and go, of course it will always be and always has been a historic aim of the French in particular, other countries certainly, to try and chip away at the financial dominance of the city," Johnson told CNN. "That is always going to be their objective and you have to forgive them for that, they are bound to use what bureaucratic tools they can to achieve those goals.

They haven't succeeded I the past, I don't believe they will succeed," he added. "I think the key reason is actually in the end most sensible people in other European capitals know that it is in their interest, in the interest of the EU, to have a massive global powerhouse in London rather than in Singapore or New York."

And what did London's mayor think of the World Economic Forum in Davos?

"It's all a bit intoxicating isn't it? It is this great cyclotron of egos isn't it, everybody is bumping into each other and having an enormous ghastly, nauseating, mutual feelings of self-regard," he said. "But you know it is important, I never come away feeling without having met people that could put a lot of money into London, and that is generally what we achieve."

CNN's Irene Chapple, Susannah Cullinane and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report

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