London Mayor Boris Johnson spoke with Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu today about Greece’s future, the outlook for the U.K.’s membership in the European Union, concerns over citizens who join Islamic State, and technology in the U.K. He also shared that during his visit, he was mistaken for Donald Trump: “I was walking down, having my photograph taken just yesterday in the street in New York, and a young woman walked by and said, gee, is that Trump?”
On Greece, Johnson said: “I have a hunch 70 percent of the Greek population want to remain in the euro. The entire Greek establishment wants to remain in the euro. Everybody in power in Europe basically reckons there’s nothing for it; they’ve got to try and keep this thing together.”
When asked about European citizens who have gone to join Islamic State, Johnson said: “They’re principally young men, who are alienated, who are disaffected…The first thing to do is to have a serious criminal approach, to surveil them, to make sure that you know what’s going on, that you’re monitoring their conversations.” He noted that anybody who joins is “presumed guilty” when they come back.”
On the fad of cycling, Johnson said: “I cycle very slowly on my bike. I cycle at about the speed of an elderly French onion seller. I don’t break the sound barrier and it doesn’t do much for my weight. But it makes you feel good. Anybody thinking of taking up a bike, it makes you feel good. When you arrive at meetings, you are in an irritatingly good mood and full of ideas.”
Boris Johnson: ‘Brexit’ Unlikely If EU Terms Renegotiated
Why the Smithsonian (and Others) Want to Go to London
BETTY LIU: As we have been hearing, it is crunch time in Europe today with two big meetings to discuss the future and fate of major concerns for the continent. A peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine and what to do about Greece’s bailout.
So on that, you might have heard him in the background. I want to bring in my guest for this half hour, the long serving mayor of London, Boris Johnson. As I mentioned, a native New Yorker, author of the most recent book, which he just signed for me, “The Churchill Factor”. I’m going to get one –
BORIS JOHNSON: Well remembered.
LIU: Yes. So Mayor, great to see you.
Boris Johnson: Glad to see you, Betty.
LIU: This morning, I know you’re on a tour, a six-day tour here of the U.S.
Boris Johnson: We are. We are here to talk about London and New York and the investments that we’re trying to attract to London. With some success, I’m proud to say.
LIU: Oh good.
Boris Johnson: American companies want to come and expand in our city and that’s very, very encouraging.
LIU: I’m glad to hear that.
Boris Johnson: We’re talking up the advantages of coming to live and work in London. Because your place is absolutely full, positively, with British talent. I can’t believe it. What’s going on?
LIU: You know what? We just hired them today just to be with you, and then they’re all gone tomorrow.
OK, so Mayor, we’re going to get, by the way, to the technology investment in London. But, first, I got to ask you about Greece. So you’ve been highly critical of the bailout. You said Greece should never have joined the euro in the first place. But it’s all too late. What to do now? What do you think is the best solution?
Boris Johnson: That’s right. Well, I think it’s very difficult. Because the real opponents of being nice to the Greeks and allowing them more loans and all the other lender countries taking a big haircut, as they say, are not just the Germans, but all those southern European countries, the Spanish, the Italians, the Portuguese, who have been through this mangle themselves. And they think if we bear out the Greeks now, what’s that going to say about the policies we’ve been pursuing all the — or what we have told our electorates about us being unable to do anything else? And so that’s the real issue. If you give too much to the Greeks, then there will be a knock on effect in the politics of all the other countries.
LIU: So let them hang themselves?
Boris Johnson: Well, the trouble is the alternative is possibly that you could get a Greek exit from the euro. And that would itself have a huge contagious impact. And I don’t think, myself, there is any way you can insulate a Greek exit, a Grexit, from the –
LIU: From the rest of the eurozone.
Boris Johnson: No, no, no. Because we saw in the collapse of the ERM in 1992 and previous experiments with linking the currencies, when one goes, they all tumble out. And I think if you unpick the bundle of wool, as it were, the whole thing will unravel.
LIU: So essentially you’re all in it together. Right?
Boris Johnson: I think so. My basic hunch is — I have a hunch . 70 percent of the Greek population want to remain in the euro. The entire Greek establishment wants to remain in the euro. Everybody in power in Europe basically reckons there’s nothing for it; they’ve got to try and keep this thing together . So I think they’ll try and do a deal with Tsipras. I think they’ll try and make an arrangement with –
LIU: A bridge loan?
Boris Johnson: I think they’ll shell out. Some will, all the other — I mean, I can’t tell you exactly how it will be done, but I think that if I were sitting in Athens’ place, I think I would feel my negotiating position was pretty strong.
LIU: But if you were in Germany and you are reading and seeing these comments coming out from (INAUDIBLE), from Merkel and others —
Boris Johnson: You mean the hardline stuff?
LIU: Right. I sense the opposite. I mean, is that just posturing ahead of a meeting?
Boris Johnson: It’s negotiation. It’s a negotiation. I think it’s a very different situation but I think there’s going to be — the way these euro things end is a huge amount of fudge all over the floor. That’s what’s going to happen.
LIU: That’s raising some ire within the U.K. and you, yourself, have spoken out about this. In fact, I think you just wrote a column recently about this, where — why don’t we get on with it? Why don’t we get on with the referendum on membership in the E.U. for the Brits?
Boris Johnson: Yes, I think it’s very important to stress that this referendum, this renegotiation that the British are seeking under David Cameron and the conservatives, is not just the kind of narrow, parochial, xenophobic — this isn’t just a chauvinistic, nationalistic thing. We think that changing Europe, trying to reform Europe, is a good idea for Europe as a whole. And the whole area.
LIU: But not for the U.K.?
Boris Johnson: And