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 1369.

    As soon as we're out of the EU the Tories will:

    Reverse all the employment laws which have benefited UK workers for years.
    Get rid of the minimum wage
    Introduce US style hire and fire laws and other nasties.

    How else do you think we're going to compete with India, China etc?

    To the working people of Britain (that's most of us) - be careful what you wish (or vote) for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1368.

    I reiterate what I wrote a few days ago, the people of this nation voted in the 1970's to join the Common Market, or the EEC.

    The European Economic Community was set up to promote free trade between member states.

    It has however been hijacked and become a political bloc where member states are forced to adopt laws that are not always in their best interests.

    Its time we voted again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1367.

    Nick Clegg is just clinging to his beliefs despite all the evidence to the contrary to save face and he himself and all the rest of us know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1366.

    The UK could probably leave the EU - but only in the unlikely event of the tories winning the next election. Possible, if there's some hideous pact with the BNP-in-tweeds lot. But we're not Norway or Switzerland who can survive outside a trading block like the EU because they're small and nimble. If the UK left we'd see our biggest trading partners close the shutters to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1365.

    You should read my previous comment. The minimum wage is not set by the EU, indeed Germany and Austria are the only 2 nations in the EU who don't have a minimum. Your redundancy rights are set by the UK, we opted out of the Working Hours directive. Germany doesn't enforced any employment rights on small business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1364.

    " If one has no constitution one has few if any rights in the UK. What a state of affairs!"

    that's the weakest argument yet for staying in the EU!!! YES the UK needs a proper constitution and bill of rights, but it should be written in Britain, for the benefit of the British people, and that will only be possible when we are free from the EUSSR.

    the EU is a tsunami of red tape and nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1363.

    Shouldn't we be making plans for Nigel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1362.

    "1319. Comber
    If all the Pro Europe people put as much effort into fixing this country as they do kissing Brussels behind, there wouldn't be as many problems here"

    If all the anti-EU people on here put as much effort into making the EU work better for us than complaining that having to deal with foreigners was such a pain, there wouldn't be as many problems with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1361.

    1313.The Bloke
    Those who don't believe in 'innocent until prove guilty' (an EU concept never in UK law) WRONG - IT'S A WELL-ESTABLISHED PART OF UK LAW!!
    No it isn't, it's a misconception. They were able to intern Irish Catholics during the troubles, now Qatarda was released
    People who want to scrap the minimum wage WRONG

    It was in UKIP's last general election manifesto

  • rate this

    Comment number 1360.

    Europe could print money but have decided not too, unlike the UK.

    The point in the Euro is that individual countries cant print, just the ECB & it chooses to keep the value artificially high & force countries who cant live with that valuation to devalue internally through austerity which destroys their economies

  • rate this

    Comment number 1359.

    Sad to say that the last sensible post I saw on here which was a fair and balance view on the subject was from a poster who went by the name of Tsunami of Logic. It seems now that most boil down to one thing. How much Benefits can I get inside the E.U. what Benefit will I lose outside of the E.U. worse than that the same people castigate the bankers for being greedy in the same breath. shocking

  • rate this

    Comment number 1358.

    hey 1301.countryboy
    I do want Scottish Independence. I do not hate the English. You are right on the money with your idea - lets go for it. The EU is not great for City of London - but as the City of London is only great for 1% you have to think we are two nations.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1357.


    The 'Swiss model' is that of a parasite. It benefits from a stable Europe (especially militarily) but chickens out of any contribution to it.

    Then it sells its 'neutrality' to the highest bidder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1356.

    Not many of you UKIP activists posting here do much work! Must all be on benefits!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1355.

    Got to admit his or her stubbornness.

    I think it's a formailty that the EU will break apart. Either through extreme nationalism, or through economic forces. I hope it's the latter, but that will be no pic-nic either. The further the UK can distance itself from entanglements with the EuroTitanic, the better.

    We can't even negotiate a trade deal without Brussels's approval!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1354.

    No doubt lots of people do want out of the EU but my question is why? Can you name a single piece of EU legislation that you don like or a court decision you thought was contrary to justice and the rule of law? I suspect that it is in fact that people see an exit as a means of stemming immigration to urban areas or a return to some supposed 'golden age'. Are there not less reactionary responses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1353.

    uffff so boring!In Italy I've been listening for years to debates on how Italy was damaged by the EU and that Germany was to blame for everything(well, hard not to agree since Italy was the first industry in EU, now Germany is).I moved to the UK and it's the same story.I say let's go back and have everyone take full responsibility for their economic situation

  • rate this

    Comment number 1352.

    It is time for the pro Europeans to make their case, so that we do get a proper debate and not just the hysterical rhetoric of the Tory press. Wake up where ever you are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1351.


    The deficit under Brown was no bigger (pre-banking crash) than any other government .. All government expenditure is based on GDP. Don't suppose you knew that do you.. To suggest he was responsible for the global crash is just right wing hysteria and total nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1350.


    "...On the EU, Lawson is right as with climate change...."


    Not by any chance the tipster for the racing on R4's "Today", are you?


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