LONDON – Britain should leave the European Union, former finance minister Nigel Lawson argued Tuesday, fuelling the debate about a referendum on British membership.
Writing in The Times newspaper, Lawson said Britain would get a big economic boost if it left the EU and insisted the "the case for exit" was now clear.
Lawson is the most senior member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party to call for Britain to pull out of the EU. The Thatcher-era heavyweight said the economic gains from a British exit "would substantially outweigh the costs" and argued that the EU had become a "bureaucratic monstrosity."He warned that the idea of "a federal European superstate" was "profoundly misguided" and "certainly not for us." Lawson also claimed that an exit would save Britain's valuable financial sector from a "frenzy of regulatory activism." Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership after the next general election in 2015, but is being urged to bring it forward by members of his own party.
The pressure to do so has increased following big gains made by the eurosceptic and anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party in local elections last week.UKIP hopes to translate growing public support into seats in parliament at the expense of the three main political parties.Cameron wants to renegotiate Britain's membership of the EU before putting it to a vote, but Lawson said he was likely to secure only "inconsequential" concessions.The prime minister said he welcomed the attention Lawson's intervention brought to his policy."I think it's been a good day for the pledge that I have made that if re-elected, I will hold an in-out referendum so that everybody can have not just a voice about Britain's future in Europe but also can have a vote."I want to give people a choice not between the status quo and leaving the EU; I want to give people a proper choice between Britain remaining in a reformed EU or leaving that EU."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrat junior partners in the governing coalition, claimed leaving the bloc would put three million jobs in danger.Clegg said told ITV television he wanted to see reform of the EU to make it more transparent and more efficient "but not turn our backs on it because doing so would make us less safe and less prosperous." Lawson served in prime minister Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government as chancellor of the exchequer between 1983 and 1989, overseeing radical changes in Britain's economy through privatisations and deregulation.--AFP.