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 1149.

    We could join the euro and embrace everything european. We could change our curriculum and everyone could learn a eurpoean language. Our telivision could have all the european channels - we could become the best europeans there are.

    But the french and germans still wouldn't like us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    Says a lot that an ex-chancellor has forgotten that UK already has a transaction tax similar to those he is opposed to. Its called 'Stamp Duty'. Can't say I remember him doing much to repeal it during his time in office

  • rate this

    Comment number 1147.

    Norway and Switzerland are doing just fine outside the EU and plan to stay that way.

    Really? The same Norway and Switzerland that have to comply with almost all EU rules but have no say in setting them? The same Norway and Switzerland that are members of Schengen so have less control over their borders that we do? They even pay towards the EU itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.

    A tragic example, but I do not see your point.
    Europe, Italy, convicted scientists for not predicting an earth quake killing 100s. "Is that your model for life inside the EU then?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    I guess you cannot... Little wonder you resort to fear-mongering.
    You do know that insulting and accusing people means you have lost the argument. You have done more of that than providing evidence for any of your allegations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1144.

    1127.Adrian Hamlin

    "Mr Lawson "strongly" suspected there would be a "positive economic advantage to the UK in leaving the single market

    Seems perfectly sensible to me. No one can honestly claim to know which way it will go. The claims of UKIP for savings are unlikely just as the scaremongering of the europhiles. I suspect that there may be some advantage but it might go the other way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    EU in/out it will cost the UK either way
    We are in a no win position we might reduce unemployment but then employers may quit the UK as well
    Too many EU countries have there own ideas of what the EU should do and like any thing that is designed by Politian's it has a Bureaucracy that is over sized.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    Ted Heath took us into Europe under a false pretence.

    It is now only right that the populace has the right to make its anger known, and for the UK to reclaim its independence from a failing wannabe superstate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

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

    not Germany. Don't forget how many Germans Hitler killed also.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    Quite right that we as the people of this great nation, who are for-fathers fought and die for should have a say in what is right for this country. Why is it right that we should import more people into this country, when we have 2.5m unemployed already. Where are these people going to live? who is going to police them? who is going to school them? etc. etc. in this day of Austerity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1139.

    Whether or not we stay in the EU is irrelevant. If you have something other countries want, such as manufacturing skills, then the market dictates that those countries will buy it from you regardless of your inclusion in the EU or otherwise.

    The problem is we've starved this country of manufacturing and sciences, don't have anything anyone wants, and we are doomed to economic failure either way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    What difference does leaving the EU have on the financial transactions tax? Any American bank has to pay tax on transactions to banks in the zone or branches of those banks in other parts of the world. Are you saying the US are in the EU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1137.

    I just hope that, if and when we get a say, that we are given a full and open debate about all the ramifications of both staying and leaving the EU because at the moment it is all about emotions and not about facts.

    -Nice to see a rational comment voted up for once

    UKIP are doing pretty well on the basis of no facts and the Daily Mail works on the principal of make it up as you go along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1136.

    I say we keep a very close relationship with the EU. This way we can continue any trade and investment, However i think remaining in the EU can break several country's, one goes down in dept, the rest bail them out which can also lead to recession

  • rate this

    Comment number 1135.

    The EU isn't Germany and Germany isn't the EU. the fixation on our former enemy is frightening. What we should be focussing on are the reasons for this dramatic conversion by an ex chancellor who was secretly at odds with Thatcher over the EU. The EU is no longer the EU we signed up to. It's purpose has also changed. Now former Soviet states have joined. we either get out or change the terms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1134.

    1091. hippoellie
    I don't know what the comment was but we live in a free societey and free speech includes racism, sexism, homophobia etc. If YOU cannot tolerate this, you are an intolerant person and as such I suggest you transfer to a more totalitarian country such as North Korea where freedom of expression is bannned you would feel perfectly at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1133.

    The truth is that I, and I suspect the vast majority of us, don't know if we should leave the EU or not.

    I don't like the idea the EU seeks a 'one size fits all' system for economically and culturally diverse states. That idea seems more about power grabbing than sense.

    Conversely, I very much doubt that leaving the EU would be consequenct free.

    We need transparency. Wishful thinking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1132.

    Shopenhauer promoted renunciation of the illusory world; in keeping with Vedantic scriptures; I am sure most Germans have no idea about renunciation, they are only interested in the economy, which is where all our problems lie; exploit anything, everything till there is nothing left, wonder what S would have made of Ms Merkel, whose only interest is in making the Euro, even grosser than it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1131.

    Whilst there are some UKIP voters who want Britain out of the EU, I seriously doubt this explains why that party picked up so many votes in the local polls. To call an immediate in/out referendum on the strength of a 23% vote in shire council elections isn't only missing the point, it's undemocratic as UKIP have no MPs so shouldn't influence national policy. Mr Farage came 3rd against Speaker 2010

  • rate this

    Comment number 1130.

    1090 MARIAN
    Foreigners coming to England and living off us...

    Are you talking about Polish people.??? Can i invite you to where i work so you can see how hard they work.


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