Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson calls for UK to leave European Union

The move piles further pressure on David Cameron over the EU issue

The former Chancellor, Lord Lawson of Blaby, as called for Britain to leave the European Union.

In a dramatic intervention into the Tory turmoil over Europe, he argues that the gains from a British departure "would substantially outweigh the costs". Lord Lawson, writing in The Times, says the EU has become a "bureaucratic monstrosity" from which the UK should break free. He says: "The case for exit is clear."

The Tory peer, who served as Baroness Thatcher's Chancellor for more than six years, doubts David Cameron's ability to repatriate some powers from Brussels to London ahead of a promised referendum on membership in 2017. He says a European superstate "is certainly not for us" and adds: "That is why, while I voted 'in' in 1975, I shall be voting 'out' in 2017."

In a move that piles further pressure on David Cameron over the issue, the former chancellor warned the Prime Minister's proposed renegotiation would only secure "inconsequential" concessions from Brussels, adding there was now a “clear” case for withdrawal.

His intervention is sure to further embolden eurosceptic MPs demanding a tougher line to halt the rise of Nigel Farage's rampant anti-EU UK Independence Party.

Mr Cameron is already under pressure to hold a “mandate referendum” as early as next spring to seek public approval of his strategy of putting a renegotiated settlement to an in/out vote by 2017.

In the wake of Ukip's surge in last week's county council elections, there is also pressure to put the strategy to a vote in the Commons in defiance of his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

Lord Lawson, who was Margaret Thatcher's longest-serving chancellor and remains a highly-respected figure within the party, said that it was “by no means assured” that Mr Cameron would win the 2015 general election.

But he said he believed public demand was such that a referendum would have to happen under Labour in any case.

Dismissing the chances of either party securing significant reforms, he said Brussels would fear a “general unravelling” as other countries sought to match the return of powers.

“But all this is largely beside the point,” he wrote. “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.

“So the case for exit is clear.”

While there would be “some economic cost” from leaving the EU single market, he went on, “in my judgment the economic gains would substantially outweigh the costs.”

That would not only be in keeping the UK's £8 billion net contribution, but also being removed from excessive bureaucracy, not least the “frenzy of regulatory activism” affecting the banking sector.

“The foolish and damaging financial transactions tax, imposed against strong UK opposition, is only one example. In part this is motivated by a jealous desire to cut London down to size, in part by well-intentioned ignorance,” he said.

“The Bank of England is becoming increasingly frustrated by the mandatory nonsense emanating from Brussels.

“Escaping from this and reinforcing the escape by co-operation with the only other genuine world financial centre, the United States, would be a major economic plus.

“Those who claim that to leave the EU would damage the City are the very same as those who in the past confidently predicted, with a classic failure of understanding, that the City would be gravely damaged if the UK failed to adopt the Euro as its currency.”

Quitting the single market would only have “marginal” disadvantages, he suggested, and could even have “a positive economic advantage to the UK” by forcing British firms to look further afield.

Too much UK business and industry felt “secure in the warm embrace of the European single market and is failing to recognise that today's great export opportunities lie in the developing world”, the peer wrote.

“Just as entry into the Common Market half a century ago provided a much needed change of focus, so might leaving the EU, an institution that has achieved its historic purpose and is now past its sell-by date, provide a much-needed change of focus today.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The PM has always been clear: we need a Europe that is more open, more competitive, and more flexible; a Europe that wakes up to the modern world of competition. In short, Europe has to reform.

“But our continued membership must have the consent of the British people, which is why the PM has set out a clear timetable on this issue.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said leaving the European Union would jeopardise jobs and make Britain less safe.

"I think if we were to leave the European Union we would jeopardise up to three million jobs in this country," he told ITV's Daybreak.

He added: "We would make ourselves less safe - we work in the European Union to go after criminals who cross borders, it would be more difficult to deal with environmental challenges which cross borders.

"We would not be taken as seriously by the Americans, for instance, who like the fact that we stand tall in our own European back yard .

"I know the Conservatives are struggling to work out how to deal with Ukip and they keep now changing their minds - one moment they want to be in theEuropean Union, now senior Conservatives like Nigel Lawson say they want to go out.

"I think we need to reform the European Union to make it more transparent, more efficient, more democratic where we can but not turn our backs on it because doing so would make us less safe and less prosperous."

"Just having a referendum in response to nothing is a slightly odd thing to do," Mr Clegg told Daybreak.

"Let's have a referendum when the next time the rules in the European Union change... when new powers have to be given up from the UK to the European Union, then I think we absolutely must have a referendum.

"In fact I believe that so much that we legislated on it as a Government just back in 2011 to give people a guarantee that there will be a referendum when the rules of the European Union change next time."

Mr Clegg said EU membership was part of an "anguished" debate among Tories.

"Of course it's part of an anguished debate within the Conservative Party; they have had it before and they are no doubt going to have it again," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Britain would face "huge negative consequences" if it withdrew from the EU, according to Richard Corbett, special adviser to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

The former Labour MEP told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "People are simply waiting to see what it is Britain might put on the table.

"There's a lot of talk of renegotiation but nobody has actually said exactly what they would want to change, apart from ideas floating around but there's nothing actually being put on the table by the British Government."

He went on: "If confronted with a factual discussion on the European Union and also with the huge negative consequences of withdrawal, I think there is a good chance that a referendum will vote to stay in."

Mr Cameron remains "confident" that his strategy "will deliver results", a Downing Street spokesman said.

"The PM has always been clear - we need a Europe that is more open, more competitive, and more flexible; a Europe that wakes up to the modern world of competition. In short, Europe has to reform," he said.

"But our continued membership must have the consent of the British people, which is why the PM has set out a clear timetable on this issue."

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

All Primary NQT's

£100 - £120 per day + per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Description Calling a...

Supply Teachers Needed in Thetford

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star