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 1389.

    Do you have a crystal ball? You can not predict anything with any confidence. No one can. Such little faith in your fellow Brits as well, we're not going to instantly revert into your melo-dramatic vision of future feudalism. Honestly, your entire post is negative speculation and doom mongering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1388.

    Agree entirely with Nigel Lawson - we would fare much better by leaving the EU than remaining in. Make a decision now Cameron, or give us our referendum BEFORE the next election. It is too serious an issue to dangle as an election "carrot". The LibDems will just have to accept a referendum. Otherwise Labour will win the next election on the back of the split Tory/UKIP votes anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1387.

    Remember Nick Clegg was a Member of the European Parliament (1999–2004). Once indoctrinated, always indoctrinated.
    So you an imagine how far gone Farage is...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1386.

    Seems to me this is a knee jerk reaction to the midterm council gains by UKIP and as such should be resisted. Taking the rightwing xenophobic stance is just pandering to blame it on the EU culture, let's fix what's actually wrong and not sling out the baby with the bathwater for short term political gains.

  • Comment number 1385.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1384.

    @ 1340.SWISSPF1,

    Switzerland also has Direct-Democracy, which is more than can be said of most of the mis-representative democracies in the world, let alone the EU which doesn't even qualify as the latter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1383.

    Indeed the Minimum Wage hasn't been adopted by Germany and Austria, which 2 nations have the lowest unemployment? 30% of Germanys workforce earns less than 500 euros a month. So the EU is hardly a paradigm of workers rights.//

    Well said. Look at Spain, where employment rights haven't stopped mass unemployment. Germany, which has a fight with Belgium over 'mini-jobs'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1382.


    "the EU is a tsunami of red tape and nonsense."

    So you won't mind when you lose the minimum wage, paid holidays, equal pay and non-discrimination. Consumer protection, cleaner rivers/beaches and air quality. To name a few. The red tape you detest so much does an awful lot for you... quietly in the background.. And all for £67 a year..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1381.

    1362.Trout Mask Replica
    If all the anti-EU people on here put as much effort into making the EU work better for us than complaining... there wouldn't be as many problems with it.
    Haha, wow! It can't be the fault of the drunk driver of the car, blame the people for pointing out he's drunk.

    Are you an apologist for the EU?
    The EU "project", Brussels Mafia, did this to themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1380.

    Remember Nick Clegg was a Member of the European Parliament (1999–2004). Once indoctrinated, always indoctrinated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1379.

    Not many of you UKIP activists posting here do much work! Must all be on benefits!!
    That is unfair. They probably all work for UKIP, getting paid to post on here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1378.

    1347. Mike Hill
    The EU is nothing more than 21st Century Communism.
    As Tony Blair demonstrated, 21st Century Communism is basically capitalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1377.

    To Polly8122
    Very well put......and let's not forget the Swiss "shadow" banking industry and the billions it now has to pay back to the jewish people for funds invested circa WW2.
    It appears that the UK now also wants to be a fair weather friend to Europe. To get super rich she stole from her colonies, now Europe tomorrow Asia.
    Had the chance to take the arab oil states after WW2, missed that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1376.

    If the EU were to concentrate on Environmental issues and other cross border cooperation and stop writing detailed procedures about shape size and weight of foodstuffs and other unnecessary rules we should stay in.

    It will not so yes it is now time to leave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1375.

    What i marvel at is the fact that so many people are asking for proper debates on this EU membership thing. Why is this so important? Why don't you instead use your own initiative and research the pros and cons instead of always having to be bottle fed by the government? No wonder this country is turning into a nanny state because it knows we just cannot think for ourselves. They do it for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1374.

    The top Tories who want to leave the EU want to do so because they fear EU regulation on the large financial companies who nest cosily in London. They fear regulation will not make the nest an appealing place to sit and avoid tax and conduct questionable business deals.
    The world and his wife has conceded that such institutions need harder regulating. Who is opposed? The Tories. The rich right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1373.

    I don't want to choose 'in' or 'out'. I don't understand the complex issues and anyway I suspect the future holds the right answer and I haven't got a crystal ball.
    We choose MPs to make the hard decisions for us. I vote for the party whose outlook most nearly matches my own, then decide whether to go to Sainsbury's or Tesco's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1372.

    I find it astonishing that we treat Europe so badly and America so well when the largest part of our wealth comes from trade with Europe. Yes, Europe has some problems but I think we are in serious danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater (at the eventual referendum). There's a danger as well that the referendum will be used to punish the Government rather than make a good decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1371.

    We need to get out now. The EU is going to implode in the next 5 years as democratically elected governments become more and more anti-EU. This debate is not only happening in this country. Its happening in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy. The EU is a project on the path to failure and its end will be messy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1370.

    I wished we'd given as much thought about joining as we are leaving. A common market, reduction in border controls and removal of tariffs were sensible but who asked for the super-nanny state we have today?

    Can we not just strike a line through Maastricht and pick up from there?


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