UK Politics

Lawson: Brexit a chance to finish Margaret Thatcher's work

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Media captionLord Lawson: Brexit a chance to finish what Thatcher started

The UK vote to leave the EU is a "historic opportunity" to finish the job Margaret Thatcher started, ex-Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson has said.

The peer said the next prime minister had the chance to make the UK the "most dynamic and freest country" in Europe.

He hailed the referendum result as "a tribute to the courage of the British people", most of whom, he said, were not "cowed" by "Project Fear".

David Cameron is stepping down as prime minister after losing the referendum.

He campaigned strongly for the UK to stay in the EU, but the country voted by 52% to 48% in favour of leaving the EU.

A Conservative Party leadership election is under way to find his successor, with five candidates in the running.

'Out-welling of poison'

During the first of a two-day House of Lords debate on Brexit, Lord Lawson - who served in former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government between 1979 and 1989 - told peers: "The next government and the next prime minister will have a historic opportunity.

"The opportunity to make the United Kingdom the most dynamic and freest country in the whole of Europe, to finish, in a word, the job which Margaret Thatcher started, and to become a beacon to our European friends currently embroiled in a failed and doomed experiment."

Also speaking in the debate, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the EU referendum campaign had been "robust" on both sides, but he said arguments had, at times, "veered over the line" into the "unacceptable".

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Media captionJustin Welby: Out-welling of poison and hatred since Brexit

Comments on both sides had led to "cracks in the thin crust of the politeness and tolerance of our society through which, since the referendum, we have seen an out-welling of poison and hatred that I cannot remember in this country for very many years", he said.

The archbishop said it was "essential" for politicians and society as a whole to challenge the attacks, xenophobia and racism "that seemed to have been felt to be acceptable".

He warned against "pulling up the drawbridge" and called for a healing of the rifts in society by tackling inequality.

"It is inequality that raises the levels of anger, resentment and bitterness," he said.

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