Ex-chancellor Lord Lawson calls for UK to exit EU


"Disadvantages of remaining in the EU outweigh any advantages"

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Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson has called for the UK to leave the European Union.

He said economic gains "would substantially outweigh the costs" and predicted Prime Minister David Cameron's attempts to renegotiate relations would be "inconsequential".

Leaving the EU would free the UK from red tape, he wrote in The Times.

Mr Cameron said his planned referendum would deliver "not just a voice... but a vote on our future in Europe".

The prime minister is facing increased calls to bring forward a promised referendum on the UK's EU membership following the success of the UK Independence Party in last week's local elections in England.

'Warm embrace'

He says he will hold a vote early in the next Parliament, should the Conservatives win the next general election, but only after renegotiating the terms of the UK's relationship with the EU.

However, Lord Lawson said any such renegotiations would be "inconsequential" as "any powers ceded by the member states to the EU are ceded irrevocably".


Cabinet ministers took to the airwaves over the weekend to pledge that draft legislation would be introduced on an EU referendum before the next election.

But if David Cameron thought that would appease those in the party who want to see a referendum sooner than 2017 he was wrong.

Now, Lord Lawson, Margaret Thatcher's long-serving chancellor, has stepped up the pressure by calling for the prime minister to lead the country out of the EU altogether.

His intervention is damaging for Mr Cameron. After losing support to UKIP in the local elections he wanted to get on the front foot over Europe.

Instead the issue has again exposed deep divisions within his party over the issue that dogged the leaderships of John Major, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith before him.

The peer - who was Margaret Thatcher's chancellor for six years - voted to stay in the European Common Market, the EU's predecessor, in 1975, but said: "I shall be voting 'out' in 2017."

He said he "strongly" suspected there would be a "positive economic advantage to the UK in leaving the single market".

Far from hitting business hard, it would instead be a wake-up call for those who had been too content in "the warm embrace of the European single market", adding: "Over the past decade, UK exports to the EU have risen in cash terms by some 40%. Over the same period, exports to the EU from those outside it have risen by 75%."

Withdrawing from the EU would also save the City of London from a "frenzy of regulatory activism", such as the financial transactions tax that Brussels is seeking to impose.

Lord Lawson said his argument had "nothing to do with being anti-European", adding: "The heart of the matter is that the very nature of the European Union, and of this country's relationship with it, has fundamentally changed after the coming into being of the European monetary union and the creation of the eurozone, of which - quite rightly - we are not a part.

"Not only do our interests increasingly differ from those of the eurozone members but, while never 'at the heart of Europe' (as our political leaders have from time to time foolishly claimed), we are now becoming increasingly marginalised as we are doomed to being consistently outvoted by the eurozone bloc."

'Clear timetable'

At the local elections last week, the UK Independence Party - which campaigns for the UK to leave the EU - made substantial gains, while the Conservatives lost control of 10 councils.

The UKIP surge prompted a call from some senior Tories bring forward the planned referendum, while some others have urged Mr Cameron to take steps to give the public more confidence that a referendum would indeed take place if he wins the next general election.

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As it happens, those who run our biggest companies would tend to be horrified at the idea of withdrawal from the EU.”

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Asked whether Lord Lawson's comments had given UKIP a boost, Mr Cameron said: "I think it's been a good day for the pledge that, if re-elected, I will hold to it in a referendum, so that everyone can have not just a voice on everyone's future in Europe, but a vote on our future in Europe."

He added that he welcomed the attention Lord Lawson had brought to his plans to renegotiate the UK's relations with the EU.

Mr Cameron said: "I want to give people not just a choice between the status quo and leaving the EU, but the choice between staying in a reformed EU and leaving."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said leaving altogether would "make us less safe because we co-operate in the European Union to go after criminal gangs that cross borders".

He said it could put three million jobs at risk, made it difficult to deal with cross-border threats such as climate change, and would also mean Britain was "taken less seriously in Washington, Beijing, Tokyo".

Replying, Lord Lawson told BBC Radio 4's World at One of the 3m jobs claim: "Well, that's poppycock - but I don't think Nick Clegg, who is a charming young man, has ever purported to know anything at all about economics."

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said Lord Lawson's intervention "legitimised" his party's longstanding argument that the UK could prosper outside the EU, while exposing "serious divisions" in the Conservatives.

BBC political editor Robert Peston said the people running "our biggest companies would tend to be horrified at the idea of withdrawal from the EU".

Pie charts showing UK trade with the EU and other parts of the world

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1129.

    Europe and the US suffered a banking crisis. That is what happened. Europe did not openly address their disaster or take steps to resolve it other than wait for inflation to do its thing.

    Then, of all things and in Austrian economic stupidity, the EU economy has been systematically and brutally smashed by hog wash trussed up as economic therapy.

    The EU is stuffed and realising it 5 years later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1128.

    It's about time somebody with common sense spoke up for the good of this country. The present lot in power are only there to carry out the orders of the City cronies and to feather their own nest.Of course they will promise a referendum in 2016 if they are in power because there is not a cat in hell's chance that this will come about. As a lifetime tory supporter it grieves me to have to say that

  • rate this

    Comment number 1127.

    Mr Lawson "strongly" suspected there would be a "positive economic advantage to the UK in leaving the single market". So we are being governed by hunches now how exciting. If thats the case then the simple answer to the deficit is to head of to Monte Carlo and put the nations 2013 GDP all on Red!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1126.

    Those seeking a debate with rigorous analysis of the benefits of future EU membership are going to be sadly disappointed The future is far to unpredictably for that. We can only look to history as a guide and extrapolate the trends into the future. On that basis I will be voting to leave the EU, because IT IS undemocratic, bureaucratic, corrupt and has cost us far more than we have gained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1125.

    What worries me the most is it appears that a significant portion of this debate is based on very limited facts and conjecture about what the EU does for us. I've just come back from holiday in Italy and as i sailed through italian customs with just a flash of my passport i realised what could potentially be at stake. We need a proper debate with the FULL FACTS of what is at stake if we leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1124.

    One of the reason for the 'success' of Thatcherism lay in the view that the the country was held to ransom by the trade unions. Fast forward 30 years and we are still held to ransom, but now by the world of finance. Lawson is a prime architect of this, and should be regarded as a right-wing Arthur Scargill. Since 1979, no UK industry has been deemed to big to fail - except the city.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1123.

    9. goldenbales
    Nigel.....you shouldn't be on this site posting support for your own misguided ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1122.

    We joined 'The Common Market'.

    Now this is the EU with a single currency that is the biggest economic balls up in history!

    The USA has no problems exporting to the EU.

    Since 1973 there have been massive new opportunities to export to other new wealthy nations like Russia or China.

    We are net contributors to the EU.

    The Spanish steal our fish.

    The French burn our lamb.

    PLEASE, lets leave!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1121.

    @Ahmed - 1054.

    Britain will never be an Islamic state. If you want to live in an Islamic state, do us all a favour and emigrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    Whilst I believe the EU is now nothing more than a collection of unellected money wasting individuals pandering to interest groups. Where there are more lobbyists than the US. And where unless everyone agrees nothing happens (CAP, Fisheries et al). I also dont agree with referendums. I dont believe enough of the people who vote will take the time to understand it and instead vote on nationalism

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    1092.Trout Mask Replica
    Can I prove we'll be better off? Yes.
    There is nothing to stop us negotiating a Free Trade Agreement.

    We can trade without the hassle of paying for MEPs in Brussels to rule us. If South Korea et al can do it, surely the United Kingdom can too.

    "Can you prove that we'll be worse off outside the EU?"
    I guess you cannot... Little wonder you resort to fear-mongering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.


    " if you vote Conservative, the referendum will be conveniently forgotten directly after they get a second term."

    There is no reason for saying that. The Tories wanted a ref on Lisbon and immediately they got to power they passed a law requiring
    refs on all future treaties. They can not have a ref now because of the Libs but a majority of Tories want a ref.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1117.

    Europe's main problem is its opacity. The difference between the EU, the EC & the European parliament and their functions, for example. I can understand some of the misinformation and consequent suspicion that has resulted. The EU is democratic. We vote for MEPs which in turn vote for the Commission. If you want free trade on a level playing field, it needs regulation which the Commission provides

  • Comment number 1116.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    1060. The Orfull
    Having read the all the comments and fascinating to see how half of the people talk about lack of information and the other half state facts and figures.


    I think a more accurate is that half talk about lack of information and the other half regurgitate the rhetoric and numbers plucked out of mid air that their respective (in or out) politicians have already spouted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    1078 gusgog
    ..its only the Old Peculiar thats keeps me sane enough to understand Brussels, old fruit..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    I seriously doubt even the best economists on the planet can predict the outcome if the UK leaves the EU. As for "informed" debate, mostly this will be personal preference of those giving their opinion - in which case just hold a vote on it !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1112.

    "My grandfather died in WW2 and in his memory I won't entertain Germany dictating to me thanks very much"

    I think you would find, if you thought a little deeper, that today's Germany is quite a different place to that which your grandfather died fighting.
    In fact, I think you would find that the average German is very grateful for that sacrifice which was made by millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1111.

    Come what may, its time the people had the chance to vote on their future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1110.



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