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 151.

    Mr Lawson made the point that was missing from the Queens Speech. The EU as a trading association is great but not as a bureaucratic Republic. The following link is an example of how the UK is being led by the nose into absurd regulations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    103 Redline "Our economy is geared to trade services with our European counterparts. They would price us out of Europe with sanctions"

    What twaddle! The WTO does not allow its members to impose 'sanctions' on each other and since the UK is by far the EU's biggest single customer, any attempt on their part to disrupt that trade would hurt them more than it hurt us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.


    It was available to me as a 15 year old schoolboy in a small town school in North Wales - so it can't have been that difficult to get hold of.
    Undemocratic? There's an elected Parliament! Though I'd agree that making the parliament senior to the Council of Ministers and the Commission would be more democratic. Too much democracy for most Eurosceptics? - hissy fits at the mention of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Former Tory heavyweights are as relevant today as


    (Insert as appropriate)

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    133 "In 1975 you voted be a signatory to that treaty The text is accessible on the inter net, even a quick reading makes it clear that political union was the aim"

    The text of the Treaty was not easily available to every one in 1975 as there was no internet
    And even if we had known that full political union was the aim, we would never have suspected that undemocratic political union was the aim

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Lawsons loyalties lie with the Oil producers (examine the history of the GWPF "educational charity" and its backers for evidence). I believe the motivation is to support Oil trade from outside the EU (there's hardly any in the EU anyway) and limit the influence of the EU on oil prices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    144.Idont Believeit

    Still can't defend Brown?

    Brown admits deregulation was a mistake. You say the Tories would have done the same. Pathetic.

    Now you say Brown wasn't even in charge, just a bystander. Hopeless.

    Changing the analogy, arguing with you I'm like a boxer, so far ahead on points I could spend the last 6 rounds reading a book and still win

    Ding ding. KO! end of fight

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Andy 143
    Still up to your old tricks (a carefully selected quote which leaves out the relevant point). Don't know about you but I wouldn't follow the advice of a drunk who offers more drink as a solution. I'd rather follow the advice of a guy who admitted he got it wrong and should drink less. Brown was driving the car? Of course not. He was the policeman on duty trying to sort out the mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    "Idont Believeit
    if the drunk at the side of the road had advised the drunk at the wheel to drink even more"

    Then the driver would STILL be guilty

    I notice you made no attempt to defend what Brown DID do, still whittering on about maybes and might have beens.

    I'm not criticising Brown from the Tory benches but from a non-political, he ballsed it up standpoint.

    Any counter-argument?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Isn't it about time that the Tories stopped playing around with their heads? How can anyone vote for a political party that is stuck with groundhog policies. Might I suggest that Europe may not be the issue: we may just have a lot of poseurs unable to make an intellectual case, any intellectual case whatsoever.

    A man who crucified the country on ERM now 20 years later changes his mind. Absurd!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Andy 139
    Ah but if the drunk at the side of the road had advised the drunk at the wheel to drink even more... I don't think we should take them seriously. As we have found out to our cost. The obsession with the City and financial services was bad for sure which is why Lawson's intervention on their behalf is so puzzling. Unless of course it's a put up job to sustain the in-out Eukey Cokey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    The economic rationale for exiting the EU is weak to non-existent but this doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.

    The emotional drivers (to be free of Brussels, to keep out foreigners, to protect a particular idea of Britishness) are far more important to the anti case than the assessment of financial impact.

    I disagree utterly but if a majority feel this way then, ok, let's go Floating Bulldog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    "Idont Believeit
    .... the two-faced and hypocritical stance of the Tories on Bank regulation"

    A drunk, stood on the side of the road and saying he wouldn't have caused the crash that a drunk driver just did could be accused of hypocrisy.

    But he couldn't be accused of causing the crash.

    It's pathetic to hide behind what others MIGHT have done. Can you defend what Brown DID do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Before the lunatics take over the asylum maybe it is time to acknowledge we need a proper debate on the EU. Zealots from either side have entrenched views, the europhiles being patronising & smug the eurosceptics being slightly barking. As a mild eurosceptric I still think we are better in the EU but we need to make and win that argument - it cannot be just swept under the carpet

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    We are tied to the EU for in so many ways for jobs and exports and imports
    If we leave the EU we would lose the automatic right to trade with the EU on a level playing field would go
    We would after trade as a none EU country and face EU tariffs which would make our exports to the EU more expensive therefore puts jobs in the UK at risk

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I am inclined to think that one of our underlying problems is the fact that we still have an aristocracy. The result is that the height of ambition is to become a member, so much business (outside the financial sector) is run by people who take their eyes off the job of maintaining the health and vibrancy of that business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Thanks for the link that confirms the two-faced and hypocritical stance of the Tories on Bank regulation. With hindsight Brown honestly admitted he got it wrong on this whilst the Tories, rather cheekily, first blamed Labour for not being light touch enough pre crash and then (post crash) for being too light touch. Thank heavens that Gordon stood firm against their lighter touch nonsense

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    In what way is it 'unsayable' to want to leave the EU?

    On the other hand the key issue that was exciting UKIP voters, the issue that has angered ordinary people since the 1960s, the view that 86% of people agree with ... that cannot be said.

    If I say it here, this post will be censored.

    If you say it public you may be arrested.

    If you say it at work you may be sacked.

    Functioning democracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Sorry for bursting your bubble, but 1972 we signed the Treaty of Rome. And in 1975 you voted to for the UK to continue to be a signatory to that treaty. The text is accessible on the internet. Even a quick reading of the preamble to the Treaty will make it clear that political union was always the aim. I read it then. I voted to remain - on that basis in 1975 - and will do so again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    We have to meet the obligations required by every international bloc or state we trade with, in or out of the eu, so that's not an issue.
    We all can see the mutual benefits.
    The only issue is the political one, the move to political unity for purposes which seemed very noble and necessary on mainland Europe in the late 1940s, but today and on the present scale just seem Orwellian.


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