Ex-chancellor Lord Lawson calls for UK to exit EU


"Disadvantages of remaining in the EU outweigh any advantages"

Related Stories

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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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

More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1269.

    most of the anti EU fraternity seem to think we are still a world player and haven't realised yet that we are not , we are a cold and wet island off the coast of Europe

  • rate this

    Comment number 1268.

    1258. joblogs

    Well said - with the banking bailout put down as an unintended consequence of the 'big bang' when Lawson was chancellor.

    Why would one take this guy seriously as an independent observer ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1267.

    Some very racist comments about Germany ( Hitler) etc. Will we now add the Spanish Inquisition and Edward 1 of Britain who gave the jews 24 hours to leave, convert or be put to the sword.
    Britain owes its cultural structure, language etc to the Romans ( Italians) the current royal family is of German descent and the French ruled for 400 years. Is this why many Brits have such anxiety??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1266.

    It is imperative that the govt is honest and open as to the information it provides to convince us to vote to stay in or out. The decision we take will have a major impact on our lives for years to come.

    Emotions and rash talk needs to be taken out of it. There are too many hotheads writing here today!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1265.

    Our American “allies” already said they don’t have interest in a UK out of Europe I think this is not going to help us. What I think is get out of Europe is not a smart choice.I am not a supporter of this new EU but while it exists let’s keep going with them.Maybe the Trojan horse serves us as inspiration. If we don’t believe in this Europe let’s fight this situation but from inside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1264.

    Lawson is right - but it's easy to say these things in retirement.

    Why didn't he push for it when in power? The political and economic train wreck that is the EU was as clear as day even then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1263.

    Must be blind, it's the EU that create so much red tape that makes it hard enough to set up a shop now nevermind start a manufacturing business or an absolute mine field if you want to develop a new product. You need billions and a army of admin.

    The EU also prevents state aid so no hope of energy being nationalised n costs the UK 50million a day. The EU is a dinosaur.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1262.

    1255. Trout Mask Replica
    This is quite funny"

    You keep asserting and without evidence that we could enter some new free trading nirvana if only we were free of the "shackles" of the EU. You have no evidence that we could negotiate a better trading deal than we have now....You're deluded beyond belief.
    I am surprised it took you so long to realise that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1261.

    The vast majority of those saying we need to leave the EU are people who do not like the fact that the EU has said that you can only treat employees properly. Reminds me of those people who loved child labour because it was cheap, and that you could run places without proper safety equipment etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1260.

    I have never understood the argument that you have to allow other countries make your laws in order to be allowed to do business with them.

    It is scare mongering to suggest we would be banned from doing business in Europe if we pull out of the EU.

    China has no problem selling its exports throughout Europe without any sort of political union – why shouldn’t we do the same?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1259.

    You may be right.

    1227.Trout Mask Replica
    We want to trade, so do they. It's in all interests to be open. If they want to be protectionist, fine. It harms them more than us. Protectionism harms the one implementing it more than its intended target.

    I perceive your source, OpenEurope.org, as a biased think tank with a pro-EU agenda, & a history of meddling in nations' affairs

  • rate this

    Comment number 1258.

    8 EU countries bailout = £405 Billion Pounds
    Britain has printed (bailout) = £375 Billion
    + BANK Bailouts

    Work it out - this country is in the same, more or less, situation as, EIGHT EU countries who are in difficulties.

    Perhaps the EU should ditch the UK and concentrate on ASIA!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1257.

    Look at the unnecessary thing the EU did to Cyprus! If they had their way entirely their hands would be in everybody's pockets not just the 100k+ accounts. This was an opportunistic attack on the EU member's once promising financial sector. I recall the EU wish to attack the UK's financial sector aswell? am I wrong? One could call this economic warfare...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1256.


    "One example, all those EU regulations? Given how much we trade with the EU we'd still have to follow them all on the outside but have no control over determining them in the first place."

    As it stands, ALL companies must adhere to ALL EU legislation. If we left then only companies exporting products/services would need to adhere to the relevant regulation. A Massive saving

  • rate this

    Comment number 1255.

    This is quite funny"

    Yes it is. You keep asserting and without evidence that we could enter some new free trading nirvana if only we were free of the "shackles" of the EU. You have no evidence that we could negotiate a better trading deal than we have now. Would other states rather negotiate a better FTA with us than they can with the EU? You're deluded beyond belief.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1254.

    I have to congratulate whoever did that pie chart for their colour choices. Orange, amber and yellow, genius!

    The suggestion that by leaving the EU, we would end all our trade with them is tosh. As these pies show, we import and export the same amount to the EU so they wouldn't want to turn our money away any more than we would theirs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1253.


    It will be the main political party stooges and lackies. Following a dictated email. That states"support the party line, use social media, and opinion based web pages to spout what we want"
    Dont believe me? Then check out what the labour party did to get herr blair elected. And all parties have been doing since

  • rate this

    Comment number 1252.

    The UK will not decide whether they should stay or leave the E.U...the markets will. Central banks have been printing and back stopping trillions in the past few years to get the E.U economy moving. They have yet again lowered interest rates from basically zero to minus zero in expectation of a miracle...trouble is the banks won't lend. Keep the markets pleased but ruin the countries and people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1251.

    107.David Totally agree. Britain entered the Common Market in an ill considered way as a panacea for the ills of post war Britain coming to terms with no more empire. We should indeed have an informed debate on this. The hardest point to get unbiased facts though is on what the EU really is. I would observe though that doing nothing whilst simple is not always the best solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1250.

    1227.Trout Mask Replica
    OE also wants to reshape the EU to more of a trading pact with less interference and less EU control. Nothing will ever change in the EU unless nations do withdraw, the EU cannot see beyond the status quo or more integration. When one of the architects of the euro starts questioning whether it should survive then you can see the issues.


Page 19 of 82


More Politics stories



  • How ebola spread graphicPatient zero

    How one boy’s death triggered Ebola outbreak

  • Passport control at airportNews quiz

    How much do you know about migration?

  • Phillip Hughes playing cricket for Australia in September 2014Brain trauma

    How is the brain injured and protected from injury?

  • Passengers pushing planeHeave!

    How many people does it take to push a plane?

  • Complainant'Like being in hell'

    The story of one victim of paedophile care home boss

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.