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 1409.

    1363. paulmerhaba
    Shouldn't we be making plans for Nigel?
    If young Nigel says he's happy, he must be happy, he must be happy, he must be happy in his wooooooorld.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1408.

    Several people have posted to the effect of: "We pay politicians to make hard decisions for us".
    Well you people can speak for yourselves!
    I believe politicians are there to represent the people of this country, & as a fully grown adult I do not need anybody making any decisions for me.
    I resent/resist anyone presuming to do so.
    Govt, I fear, thinks as the 'children' do....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1407.

    I remember this guy, he's the one who pushed m Mortgage interest up to near on 15% in the late 80's and nearly killed me finically so I can't take anything he says to seriously, mind you the EU has suffered serious mission creep but that's what you get for allowing the French to pack the club full of poor countries who r net takers, they will always vote for the French model as it means more cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1406.

    Even the trade figures are distorted by the Europhiles/BBC. They say 51% of our trade is with the EU, a deliberate con 20% of these EU exports are actually exports to the rest of the world shipped through EU, It’s called the Rotterdam/Antwerp’ effect. So the real figure Is around 40%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1405.

    Lord Lawson; who rattled his cage? Mug.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1404.

    The most telling fact of this conversation is the person who comes on to this board, says that they don't understand the issues and gets down-voted 7 times in 9 minutes.

    That and the fact that in the last 7 years we have gone from, "let's have a referendum on joining the Euro" to "let's have a referendum on leaving the EC".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1403.

    I disagree strongly with Lord Lawson's view of an 'EU exit'. Whilst there are many flaws and issue in the current European Union, we must remain members of the EU, and negotiate from within. Otherwise, the results would be loss of european employment rights, massive unemployment, which in itself would create an immense economic downturn. We need a clear, open and informed debate now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1402.

    Why do the BBC keep on publishing the views of discredited individuals in relation to important debate?
    I doubt many here will remember Lawson, but those of us who do know his track record left a lot to be desired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1401.

    You honestly think you'll get paid less without the EU?
    I put it to you you'll get paid nothing if you stay in the EU, like Spain, because you're unemployed.

    the EU certainly is quiet?
    Hmm... Are you ignoring Greece being forced to retake their elections? Insolvent Italy forced to lend to even more insolvent Spain? Cyprus robbed after being forced to lend to Greece?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1400.

    If a European company(Mercedes,Siemens) makes money through dealing with the UK then this will continue if we leave the EU.Some people are saying jobs will be lost if we leave the EU,what jobs will be lost? British companies exporting to Europe will carry on the same as EU companies export to the UK.The argument is about do we want to govern ourselves or allow ourselves to be governed by Brussels

  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    #1347 When the Euro started it was valued at 69p. It's worth about 84p today. So that's a significant devaluation of the pound against a so-called 'weak' currency. Eurosceptics must really get their act together rather than just blustering about everything most of the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1398.

    I think Britain can learn something from Switzerland in terms of making the nation an attractive place for investment in industry and innovation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1397.

    If we left the EU we’d still be fully covered by the 4 freedoms of movement of people, services, goods & capital but wouldn’t be beholden to the Common Ag & Fisheries Policy. Like Switzerland & Norway we’d take back control of our own borders & human rights disputes and be at liberty to sign free trade accords with non EU countries without being bound by common commercial policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1396.

    1382. koolkarmauk.

    Your argument is a straw man's. Are you saying we need to pay £67 a year just to have rules that we, as an independent nation couldn't impose upon ourselves? Why do we need an "EU" to impose minimum wage, paid holidays etc? We don't! Your argument is completely invalid unless you would rather be goverened by a centralised behemoth of a bureaucracy to impose these rules

  • rate this

    Comment number 1395.

    If politicians were asked to run a bath, they would fill it with the water that would be most beneficial to their career in and post politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1394.

    @1383. The Bloke

    Well said. Look at Spain, where employment rights haven't stopped mass unemployment. Germany, which has a fight with Belgium over 'mini-jobs'.
    fortunately, employment rights were never meant to stop unemployment, only to stop exploitation. To which end they totally succeeded.

    interestingly, before employment rights in the UK unemployment was still rife.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1393.

    I hope the Lib Dems and the socialists renounce the EU. I know its going to be hard for them to change, it's a bit like being married for 25 years and having to accept it doesn't work any more or following a religion all your life only to realise it's a scam. New information and evidence require a new way of thinking sometimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1392.


    "just because the anti EU brigade have the loudest voices it does not follow that they are right or have the following of most of the population . But I suppose if you repeat lies often enough people will start to believe them. such is the way of all right wingers"

    Pathetic ad-hominem attack.

    Polls show the majority are on our side not yours. Nothing to do with loud voices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1391.

    "Stay out of Europe. Stop immigration now. We were ok on our own." Like in the 1950s. Yes, let's wind the clock back to the good old days of Empah, what ho! and a non-existent golden age. Oh wait, the rest of the world couldn't give a stuff about us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1390.

    So Lawson wants us out? I seem to remember the disastrous policies which he was responsible for, causing a housing boom and bust and another recession. We need more billboards up at every project/industry in receipt of money from the EU showing us what we're getting, as the press certainly won't enlighten us. We need wiser heads than Lawson's.


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