Boris Johnson hits Pound, joins Brexit so Britons can “take back control”

The Rand broke below R22 to the Pound this morning for the first time since Nenegate after news one of the UK’s most popular politicians is siding with those who believe the UK should leave the European Union. Boris Johnson, tousle hair-styled Mayor of London who is tipped as the next leader of the ruling Conservative Party, has thrown his considerable weight behind the “Brexit” group which includes half his party’s MPs. UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s plea that Johnson refrain fell on deaf ears after “a great deal of heartache”. The way Johnson sees it, once Britain has withdrawn from the EU it will be better placed to negotiate more favourable terms of trade and co-operation with its European partners. For Britons generally, he reckons it will “save them money and take back control…that’s what this is really all about.” Although he thinks the Brexit camp will lose, the markets are not as certain, giving Sterling its biggest hit in a month on Johnson’s statement. – Alec Hogg

By David Goodman and Chikako Mogi

(Bloomberg) — The pound fell the most in a month against the dollar after London Mayor Boris Johnson, one of the U.K.’s most popular politicians, said he’ll campaign for Britain to leave the European Union in a June referendum.

London Mayor Boris Johnson prepares to speak to the media in front of his home in London, Britain February 21, 2016. Britain will hold a referendum on European Union membership on June 23. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
London Mayor Boris Johnson prepares to speak to the media in front of his home in London, Britain February 21, 2016. Britain will hold a referendum on European Union membership on June 23. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Sterlin dropped against all its 16 major peers, reversing a gain made on Friday when Prime Minister David Cameron secured a deal on membership terms with EU leaders in Brussels and set a June 23 date for the vote. Johnson joins Justice Secretary Michael Gove as another prominent member of Cameron’s Conservative Party to favor an exit. The yen weakened as a rally in Asian stocks damped demand for haven assets. Australia’s dollar advanced.

“Even if an exit isn’t likely, uncertainty and concerns about it will continue and weigh on sterling,” said Kengo Suzuki, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo. “On the economic front, there isn’t much to undermine the currency, but the uncertainty over a potential exit will cap sterling, keeping it in a $1.40 to $1.50 range. ”

Read also: I have more chance of being “reincarnated as an olive” than being PM – Boris Johnson

The pound dropped 0.9 percent to $1.4277 as of 11:55 a.m. in Tokyo on Monday, the biggest decline since Jan. 15. Sterling weakened 0.8 percent to 77.87 per euro. The U.K. currency has tumbled against all its Group-of-10 counterparts in the past three months, losing 14 percent against the yen and 10 percent versus the euro.

‘Better Deal’

“I have decided after a huge amount of heartache,” Johnson told reporters outside his home in London on Sunday. “I will be advocating Vote Leave — or whatever the team is called, I understand there are many of them — because I want a better deal for the people of this country, to save them money and take back control.”

A measure of traders’ expectations for price swings in the pound against the euro during the next six months climbed to the highest since October 2011 on Monday. Although the announcement of the date removes one aspect of ambiguity for traders, they now face months of polls and campaigning that may boost volatility further.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said earlier this month if Britain quits the EU the pound may fall to $1.15-$1.20 — levels last seen in 1985. HSBC Holdings Plc said in January a forecast for a jump to $1.60 by year-end relied on the nation remaining in the 28-member group.

The yen fell for the first time in three days as Asian stocks started the week higher, sapping demand for safer assets. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.6 percent and the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.4 percent.

Japan’s currency dropped 0.2 percent to 112.89 per dollar and fell 0.1 percent to 125.48 per euro.

Australia’s dollar climbed 0.2 percent to 71.62 U.S. cents, and New Zealand’s gained 0.3 percent to 66.51 U.S. cents.

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