UK Politics

Tear up Lisbon Treaty, urges ex-chancellor Lord Lawson

Lord Lawson
Image caption Lord Lawson was chancellor under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s

David Cameron should use the eurozone crisis as an opportunity to tear up the Lisbon Treaty, former Chancellor Lord Lawson has said.

Writing in the Times, the Tory peer accuses the architects of the euro of "grotesque irresponsibility" for embarking on a "misbegotten and predictably disastrous venture".

And he urges the prime minister to tell them "enough is enough".

Downing Street said closer eurozone integration was in Britain's interest.

Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have argued that closer fiscal co-operation among the countries that use the euro will help restore the stability of the single currency.

But they have also pledged to use the eurozone crisis to loosen Britain's ties with the EU, raising the prospect of a "two-speed" Europe.

Lib Dem 'stranglehold'

A growing number of Conservative MPs fear Britain's economy could be damaged by closer eurozone integration.

Leading Eurosceptic Bill Cash, who was among MPs and academics debating the case for and against European reform at a day-long conference in Westminster, argues in a pamphlet integration will not be enough to save the currency - and creating "two Europes" without renegotiating treaties is a recipe for "chaos".

He is creating an all-party Commons group to debate the creation of a much larger European Free Trade Association - which currently includes non-EU states Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein - which could replace the EU.

Mr Cash said a so-called "Efta-plus" would serve UK interests far better, but added: "Because the Liberal Democrats have a stranglehold over the coalition agreement, we really have a major political problem on our hands.

"[But] unfortunately there's also a sense of acquiescence - which I'd go as far as to call appeasement - from the Conservative leadership on the issue of Europe.

"Promises from our manifesto have been broken and they've created a situation which is just incompatible with British national interests."

Mr Cash has delivered his pamphlet to David Cameron, urging the PM to call a UK-wide referendum on the EU with only two options - to leave altogether or to renegotiate our position.

"The status quo is completely off the table because it doesn't work," he said. "It's up to the British people to save themselves, but they have to be given the opportunity."

Lib Dems have traditionally been the most pro-European of the major UK political parties and the coalition agreement drawn up after the 2010 general election states "we will ensure that the British government is a positive participant in the European Union".

'Golden opportunity'

Former Labour Europe minister Denis MacShane said it was "naive" to think that Britain could leave the EU but still maintain good trading relations.

"I still think it's better to be at the table setting the rules rather than isolating ourselves," he told the BBC.

"Europe is where we make our money. If Europe goes down the tube, we go down the tube."

But Eurosceptics see the ongoing eurozone crisis as an opportunity to halt further European integration.

In his Times article, Lord Lawson, who was chancellor between 1983 and 1989, said: "It was clear from the start that the eurozone project would end in tears unless it was accompanied by full political union."

And he advises David Cameron that the time "has clearly come to say enough is enough," adding "the present mess is bad enough. We cannot afford to allow any continuation of the circumstances that led to the grotesque irresponsibility that produced it."

The notion that "more Europe" must always be promoted has to be explicitly abandoned, he says.

"This requires not merely a declaration to that effect, but its embodiment in a full-blown constitution that sets out the entrenched and unalterable competences and responsibilities of the member states of the Union - the very reverse of what is contained in the anti-constitutional Lisbon treaty.

"The present British government, as it surveys the wreckage of the eurozone, has a golden opportunity to promote this."

The prime minister's official spokesman said the government's position was set out by Chancellor George Osborne in an article last month.

In it, he said: "I think that Britain, which previously was sceptical about that integration taking place, now needs to accept that it is in our economic interest that it happens."

The PM's spokesman added: "Our position on Europe is that we will always act in Britain's national interest.

"The priority at the moment is that Europe starts to grow and that will be the focus of our discussions with European colleagues."

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