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 111.

    Sofiane109 You mean dont be democratic,dont allow us to think,we will decide for you.Exactly what this is all about.I personally will go with a democratic decision.I am democratic.

  • Comment number 110.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    people's choice is a hard choice they vote with their heart not with their brain,,,, it's important to consult the people,,,, but to give them the decision is failing on your duty as a leader.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    The tories have a policy on europe that they will struggle to hold together under the challenge from UKIP. Lib Dems would want to stay in EU even if it morphed into a soviet style state. And new labour - keeping very very quiet - as in so many other areas of policy. The question of moribunds policy on the EU at the next election is surely more intriguing than the standard tory nemesis article ?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    If the offer of a referendum is serious and genuine, then let us decide now, no delays no promises, just simple democracy. How anyone can argue against giving us the choice is either undemocratic or nervous of the outcome.

    We are the people, we deserve the choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I'm sorry. I don't believe you 'dave'

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Quite simple,Cameron and the Tories lied big style.A promise of a referendum in 2017 on the proviso that he and the tories are re elected.Problem neither Labour or the LDs will allow a referendum on an in /out choice.Are we living in a democracy or a dictatorship.Blair,Brown and Cameron are a disgrace to the British people.I voted Tory last time Labour in previous elections,UKIP NEXT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    What's best for our country?
    -For us to remain in the EU
    -For David Cameron & George Osborne to resign
    -Ed Milliband and Ed Balls should also step aside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    We don't produce very much that emerging economies would want to buy. Our economy is geared to trade services with our European counterparts. They would price us out of Europe with sanctions, then undercut us in rest of the world with their broader manufacturing base and greater bargaining power. We could not adapt fast enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    It's really quite funny watching the Tories perform their party piece. And I suspect it has been much rehearsed by master strategisits George and Dave.
    You put the UK in, the UK out.
    In, out, in, out.
    You shake it all about.
    You do the EUkey Cokey and you turn around
    That's what it's all about.

    Great fun possibly but makes no sense at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.


    It's obvious you don't realise what a sure thing is, many have lost their shirt on such.
    Is the belief the SNP will win the YES vote and Scotland will then join the EU, not withstanding the measure of debt accrued by UK governments, "a rant"?
    It's your rant that's been removed!!!!
    Discussion? What's the point with your mind set, and as such, age doesn't come into it, simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Hardly spurious. The economic grounds are valid-the UK is perennially in debt trade-wise to the EU, coupled with stranglehold regulation crippling economic/trade opportunities that could be developed with the rest of the world.Yes,there's more out there than Europe.Ditch the regulation,ditch the EU and trade-minus the subservience.The UK is a mature enough nation to stand on its own feet,surely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    "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."

    Yes, Nick, but the economic argument is entirely spurious. That is not to say the same about the social and political grounds for withdrawal though they possibly are too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    93. engineer-neil
    And you seriously think that balls would have retained the AAA

    The difference was Gideon was the idiot that told us to judge him on the AAA rating. Well we have & he's failed. But what do you expect from a man who's spent most of his 'real' working life folding towels?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I voted UKIP last week, at the last general election I was going to vote but in the end I didn't as there was no UKIP candidate. Prior to that I voted cameron in on his failed promises. It is supposed to be a democracy here.... but if we are not given a vote then I for one will never forget this and continue to vote UKIP end of story

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    2/3'rds of the Electorate DIDN'T vote, so I wouldn't 'summise' on ANTHING that they'll do. Combat your corner, and play fair. The Electorate haven't seen this type of 'Fairness' in Politics before. The 'information age' means that anyone with a GCSE in Normal life can see. Stow your Rhetoric, and let's debate on facts and IMPACT on LOCAL communites. Oh, the EU would fail. Let's try another avenue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    @93. engineer-neil

    No I don't, but the present incumbents are a lot worse, as for looking across the channel, I have, they are all skint as well. The Tories made a promise to hold a referendum, they did'nt, they give tax breaks to millionaires whilst means testing the disabled. They call their opponents clowns and get blown out of the water. Time for them to go, Soon be May 2015!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    That's Cameron's response to the UKIP votes, is it? No substantive action taken whatsoever, but he gave a speech and used the phrase "proper choice" a lot. That's right, just spin and waffle at us and we'll go away. I'm starting to think the man is simply thick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @91 ukvoter " George is doing such a wonderful job with our economics,AAA for George"

    And you seriously think that balls would have retained the AAA by going on yet another wreckless spending spree with yet more borrowed money to fund more fake 'growth'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Dear Moderator,

    I am tonight somewhat less scathing in my opinion of the BBC. You allowed my criticism of the BBC's reporting of UKIP, which was welcome.

    I have analysed the BBC reporting of UKIP and I strongly believe that there has been a bias in the reporting against them.

    The BBC should investigate this and act before the public direct their wrath at the organisation.

    Best regards.


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