Lawson says the unsayable


The significance of Nigel Lawson's intervention is not just that he has broken something of a Tory taboo by calling for Britain to quit; it's also that he is a former chancellor arguing essentially on economic grounds.

The EU, he claims, is hurting one of our most important industries - financial services - and, secure "within the warm embrace of the European single market", giving British businesses an excuse not to develop trade with the developing economies.

Awkward you might think for the prime minister, but today he was putting on a brave face, claiming that Lord Lawson had in fact helped highlight his pledge of an EU referendum if he is re-elected.

His backbenchers want him to promise a Commons vote on the issue before the next election, but there will be no such promise in the Queen's Speech tomorrow.

Like Labour's Harold Wilson, the man in charge the last time Britain had a referendum, David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe.

Lord Lawson said that would be as pointless in future as it had been then.

What was once unsayable by any senior Conservative has now been said. Which means the issue once described by the foreign secretary as a ticking bomb is ticking rather louder.

Mr Cameron once warned his party to stop obsessing about Europe. The call by a former Tory heavyweight for Britain to leave the EU has made that a forlorn hope.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    340 million euros per annum, that's how much Norway pays to the EU for access (2011). By GDP for us would be 2 billion Euros.
    And how long will Frankfurt and Paris tolerate the offshore cowboys in the City?
    Germany outperforms us exporting to China, they manage in the EU.
    To be "guided" by Lawson should be like putting the bandleader in charge of the Titanic's deckchairs. Monstrously irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Can we use same rules used by pro-europeans in past (especially Ireland) but t'other way round?

    Can we ask if people want to leave + if they say yes then leave.

    If they say no, can we ask them again - + again - + yet again - until we get answer we want?

    @8 Nobody EVER votes for a Government - just MPs. But we keep getting the same parties. Is that more "democratic" than Coalition of 2 parties?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    #7 go read the history of the truimph TR7 (car) b4 you start al lthe problems are thatcher tory ones, laobour had more than their part on the 60/70 industrial chaos that took from 79-97 to sort out

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    6. Is the EU as undemocratic as a Coalition that nobody voted for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    It is a sad day if an ex-chancellor, sacked by his soon thereafter sacked PM, wielded any real influence on this debate. Even sadder if his view on economics wielded any influence either with his legacy of double digit inflation and interest rates and a nice homegrown recession. Tory heavyweight is the new lightweight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Its now proven that the whole thing is totally undemocratic. People vote and are sent away to vote again!
    How is this different to gangsterism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    If the country thinks it has made the wrong decision in General Election it can change its mind in 5 years. A decision to leave the EU will be for ever. I am not happy with the way the EU is developing, but believe that some strong link with Europe is to our benefit. I want Cameron to try and get as close to what I believe many want. And then put it to a vote. Rushing into it now is not sensible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Like Harold Wilson did in the past. Cameron will watch the polls and surveys and then carefully word the referendum question to give the Government the best chance of getting the result they want. It will not be a simple yes/no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    It's not just the economic argument - I am also concerned about the social-political side of it as well.

    I don't particularly want to be trapped in a engineered construct that's really rather undemocratic and forces 400m+ people into a union that very few of them want. It's far too inefficient and corrupt, and frankly undeeded. Much of the EU's 'good' can be achieved without an EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    No - he's just stalling.

    He (and the others) promised a referendum and - nothing.

    Now (in power) he promises a referendum - and this time (having failed to deliver once) it's worse.

    Now the earliest we'll get to find out if he'll keep his word is:
    a) after a Con victory
    b) after renegoiation
    c) he finds some courage and conviction.

    We dont want renegoiation - we want a say!


    As promised!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Is Camerson actaulyl waiting and hoping that the EU will implode first so then there has not got to be areferendum ?


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