London Mayor Boris Johnson has hinted he is in favour of voting “no” in the EU membership referendum.
Ultimately, he says he wants the UK to remain in the bloc, but hopes voting to leave will shock EU leaders into giving Britain a better deal.
According to sources who spoke to The Sunday Times, he told friends he wants a two-stage referendum, where the public initially votes in favour of an exit, and then votes to stay in once a better deal is offered.
“We need to be bold. You have to show them that you are serious,” he told them.
A friend of the Mayor said:
I don’t think in his heart Boris wants us to walk away. But he’s interested in us saying no because it won’t be what we want. That would mean a second vote. He thinks the only way to deal with these people is to play hardball.
The news will come as a surprise to those in Downing Street who assumed the Mayor would stand by David Cameron on the matter.
The Prime Minister has promised to hold the vote before the end of 2017, but hopes the public will vote to stay in once he renegotiates the terms of Britain's relationship with the bloc.
He set out his initial proposals to other EU leaders at a summit in Brussels earlier this week, but conceded that any treaty change would only go ahead after the referendum.