has clashed with Chuka Umunna, the one-time Labour leadership candidate, over the London mayor’s handling of his campaign to see Britain leave the EU.
Calling in to LBC’s Ask Boris show as “Chuka from Streatham”, Umunna challenged Johnson over his suggestion that Britain could emulate Canada when striking a deal with the EU if the country were to vote to leave on 23 June.
Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham, also attacked Johnson for the way he revealed his position on the EU in/out debate, accusing the mayor of selfishly putting himself at the heart of the discussion.
In a barbed exchange, Johnson accused Umunna and the remain campaign of running the country down.
Johnson said: “There’s a massive opportunity for us to strike deals around the world and I think it’s running this country down, and the sheer negativity and lack of optimism about our ability rise off the remain campaign like a vapour.”
Umunna replied: “If anyone is talking down our country and has been doing so for some time now it is you.” “Rubbish,” Johnson retorted.
Boris Johnson claimed Britain could follow Canada’s model last week, a suggestion swiftly .
The EU-Canada agreement will eliminate virtually all trade tariffs between the two blocs and was described by Canada’s former prime minister Stephen Harper as the “biggest deal Canada has ever made”. When it comes into force, possibly this year, it is expected to increase bilateral trade in goods and services by a fifth.
But Umunna said the deal took seven years to negotiate and does not give Canada full access to the single EU free market area that the UK has now.
Johnson said the remain campaign was “completely freaked out” by the Canadian discussion and while he liked elements of the model he would be seeking “a British deal”. “We’ve been in the EU for 40 years. We are a massive economy. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do a deal very rapidly indeed,” Johnson said.
Umunna then accused the mayor of denigrating the UK’s influence in the EU before criticising Johnson’s procrastination before revealing he would back the leave campaign, suggesting he should have supported fellow leave campaigners Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith sooner.
“I’m a Londoner, you’re our mayor. I’m looking at those campaigning for us to come out – take Michael Gove. I disagree with Michael on a huge amount but he is a man of conviction,” Umunna said. “You brought a circus to your house to make your announcement instead of campaigning with Michael and Iain Duncan Smith and the others. What you need to understand is this isn’t about you, this is about our city.”
Johnson said: “Nor is it about you, quite frankly. This is about the prospects of the British people and their democracy.”
Johnson also claimed Umunna had been quoted as saying the EU is behind 50% of British legislation, which Umunna denied.
“You said 50%, don’t weasel around, come on, man up,” Johnson said. “No, you man up,” Umunna replied.
In the same phone-in Johnson said it was wrong to drag the Queen into the EU referendum debate, but added that it seemed plausible the monarch “threw a wobbly” at Nick Clegg for delivering a “pro-EU sermon”.
Buckingham Palace has complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) about a story in the Sun, which claimed she expressed Eurosceptic views to the then deputy prime minister.
Johnson also suggested the UK could take on “associate membership” of the EU if it voted to leave, in an arrangement similar to that currently applied to Turkey.
Turkey took associate status in 1963 as a result of an agreement to create a customs union, with a view to progressing towards full membership.
Meanwhile, David Cameron has again criticised Johnson and the leave campaign. Speaking at a campaign event in Felixstowe, the prime minister said: “They are literally making it up as they go along. They are rolling the dice, they are taking a risk and they are taking a risk with people’s jobs, taking a risk with families’ finances and I don’t think that is good enough for the British people.”
The latest Brexit clash comes ahead of the Guardian’s EU debate at the Palladium in which the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, and Tory minister Andrea Leadsom will take on Nick Clegg and Labour’s leading pro-EU voice, Alan Johnson.
The four politicians will battle it out on Tuesday evening, fielding questions from the audience and Guardian readers about the economy, immigration, trade and “Project Fear”. The event will be streamed live.