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 1629.

    So we pull out of the EU, then what? None of the money that gets spent on it now will be spent on the nation will it, and all those companies will be free again to shove all their lorryloads of money abroad so that they can pay even less tax at home again. Brilliant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1628.

    Seeing some of the astounding comments on here I hark back to watching an episode of Pointless...The question was name a country in the original 'warsaw pact' 2 seemingly 'intelligent' young students answered 'Japan'.. not wanting to tar all students here but if this is the sort of calibre of learned people our education system turns out I worry about people voting in an EU referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1627.

    Not for the first (nor, I fear, the last) time we are told by the BBC de haut en bas that the majority of our trade is with the EU. This is untrue. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a useful lie that EU obsessives constantly repeat. All our non-EU trade which happens to travel via a continental port, such as Rotterdam, is classed as trade with the EU. This is a fact, not an opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1626.

    Again, thank you for another insult, instead of contributing to discussion.
    I feel with you I am entitled , as you don't contribute anything yourself, least of all evidence for anything you say, as you've been told repeatedly by various people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1625.


    >if its so good people will vote yes to stay in.

    I don't think people's research will be thorough enough to make an informed decision. Most people will vote the way the media tells them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1624.

    Lord Lawson is absolutely right, the time has come for us to part company with the EU. I suspect that the scaremongering about our future outside the bloc comes from the members of various parties looking forward to Commission expense accounts when they finally lose office here. Clegg's argument about crime is particularly preposterous, as one might expect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1623.

    "have your passport checked by a lady wearing an Islamic headscarf"

    That's to protect you from any uncontrollable urges you may have to commit adultery with her. Seems to work.

    By the same token, you need to be protected from your urge to work more than 35 hours a week. Or to use light bulbs that allow you to read in bed.

    Who else is going to look after you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1622.

    Rupert Brooke-Masterton
    1567.Blistering Blast of Truth
    "..communism and socialism after WW2"
    The only reason Britain became a welfare state was because of establishment fear of communism. Whatever you may think about fraudulent benefit claiment do you want unemployed people to starve to death in the street?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1621.

    This needs to be a balanced and objective debate. Just by stating what is wrong with the EU without providing the benefits (working time directive, making bankers accountable etc...) on balance is carrying out a rather infantile exercise and it should not be entertained by anyone with a modicum of common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1620.

    "Europe is a sick old man"
    Far too much of this debate is based on tabloid and politician misinformation. Do folk need reminding we have the largest deficit in the EU? We also compare very poorly with other EU states(particularly in the west /north) on other socio-economic indicators such as inequality, deprivation, child poverty, education etc. If Europe is sick, then the UK is in intensive care

  • rate this

    Comment number 1619.

    Referenda are used by political parties to make bad policy decisions with public consent.
    If one was to give a group of children the choice between a diet of chips, jelly and ice cream, or a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, which one would they go for?
    Some decisions have to be made for the greater good without a public vote consenting what appears to be the desirable option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1618.

    The EU question is one of sovereignty. A country with no control over its borders and who lives here has lost all sovereignty. It's clear that Parliament and our elected representatives are powerless to take the decisions needed to get the country growing because of EU legislation. Who is in control of our future? Our elected MP's or EU Commissioners?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1617.

    1586. Jean Monet's other quotes support what i fully believe is a bulldozer like desire to turn Europe into a state, such as his happening now and it most certainly doesn't take into account how the people of Europe feel about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1616.

    1567.Blistering Blast of Truth
    "..communism and socialism after WW2. Neither has a place in modern society, and those who insist on pursuing it do more damage than good."

    Wise words Thank You at last we can agree.
    Just to be clear - What I mean by "Neither has a place in modern society" are far right and left wing ideologies, not specifically communism and socialism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1615.

    That man is a joke of competence he helped to destroy the real british economy and what is now left are bankrupt banks which generate nothing. Britain has nothing left that anyone outside it wants nothing to export to these other markets. Does anybody think the BRIC nations will take UK serious when they are no longer part of the EU? Hopefully people will not listen to such a clown above.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1614.

    How can people take Lawson seriously? His love affair with Europe in the late-1980's, particularly the Exchange Rate Mechanism, resulted in the worst ever conduct of both monetary and fiscal policy in decades. The result? The awful recession of the early-1990's. What Lawson now saying? That Mrs Thatcher was right to have more confidence in Alan Walters than her own Chancellor? He's a fake!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1613.

    @1608 good boy
    Only 25% voted UKIP last week, so it appears that 75% of the voters don't agree with you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1612.

    Lies and more lies. All this newly discovered Tory enthusiasm for an earlier referendum - and Lawson's sudden Damascene conversion to a preference for an outright EC exit is just so much deceitful waffle. It is merely aimed at appearing to shoot UKIP's fox. Neither the Tories nor Labour have the slightest intention of holding a referendum. They only way we're going to get one is via UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1611.

    1125. "I've just come back from holiday in Italy and as i sailed through italian customs with just a flash of my passport i realised what could potentially be at stake"

    ..and then you got back to the UK, your own country, and had to queue for an hour and a quarter only then to have your passport checked by a lady wearing an Islamic headscarf? Which happened to me last week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1610.

    millions died under capitalism as well, and too many people overlook that.
    No. They didn't.

    Isn't nearly as black and white as 'communism bad capitalism good'.
    Yes. It is.

    btw there was no border between the USSR and West Germany.
    You could not be more wrong if you tried. Go to Berlin.


Page 1 of 82


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.