LORD Lawson, Margaret Thatcher’s longest serving chancellor, has said it is time for Britain to quit the European Union.
Writing in a column in the Times, Lord Lawson said that the economic gains from Britain leaving the European Union “would substantially outweigh the costs”.
After an association with Brussels of 40 years, he said: “The case for exit is clear.”
He also said that leaving would also be a timely wake-up call to business leaders. Too many were content to be in “the warm embrace of the European single market” when the great export opportunities lay in the developing world, particularly Europe.
“The heart of the matter is that the relevant economic context nowadays is not Europe but globalisation,” he said. “I strongly suspect that there would be a positive economic advantage to the UK in leaving the single market.”
Lord Lawson’s views are expected to act as a rallying call to the Tory party which is still recovering from the unexpected success of the United Kingdom Independence Party in the local elections last week.
Prime Minister David Cameron is pursuing a strategy of hoping to persuade voters to stay in the EU on new terms he plans to negotiate and put to a referendum in 2017. Admitting that he had changed his opinion, Lord Lawson, acknowledged that Brussels would never allow Britain significantly improved terms and that a federal European superstate “is certainly not for us.”
“That is why, while I voted ‘in’ in 1975, I shall be voting ‘out’ in 2017.”
Mr Cameron wants to persuade business leaders to rally behind a campaign to remain in the EU on looser terms in the run-up to his promised referendum. However, Lord Lawson derides Mr Cameron’s European strategy, saying that the outcome is guaranteed to be “inconsequential.”
A central tenet of the Prime Minister’s case is that the UK must stay within the European single market or the country’s economy would suffer by losing hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Lord Lawson conceded that there would be “some economic cost”, but insisted that the advantages of the single market were “modest”.
Last September Ukip leader Nigel Farage wrote to Lord Lawson inviting him to join his party after he challenged the Prime Minister on Europe and the Eurozone crisis.