Lord Lawson: heavyweight joins the fight for Brexit

The Brexit campaign received a boost after former chancellor Lord Lawson waded into the debate, says Matthew Partridge.


Lord Lawson: it's time to leave the EU's "integrationist project"

The campaign for Brexit Britain leaving the European Union (EU) is gaining momentum. Not only do several polls now suggest that a majority of British voters would vote in a referendum to leave the EU, but respected former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson has stepped in to "lead a cross-party exit movement", says Michael Wilkinson in The Daily Telegraph. It's "another reminder that the out' campaign is already much busier and more focused than its in' opponents", says Martin Kettle in The Guardian. Lawson, "a politician from another era", may not sway wavering voters.

But his involvement offers "a more Tory-safe haven for eurosceptics" than the Ukip-backed campaign. And while Labour is ostensibly in favour of the EU, "it found almost no time" at its Brighton conference "to promote that message".

The growing popularity of the "leave" camp puts David Cameron in a tough position, says the Financial Times. "His EU partners have made clear he will not secure a transformative deal on membership." So "he needs to start making the economic case to the British people for the UK to stay in the bloc". At the very least "his government should stop insisting that pro-European business leaders hold back until the prime minister has come back with a piece of paper from Brussels... the longer they wait, the more ground the Yes' campaign will have to make up later on".

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Cameron should make more effort,argues an editorial in The Sunday Times. He may want to remain in the EU, but "there is little sign" of him building the alliances needed "for successful renegotiation and reform". Our natural allies in eastern Europe and Scandinavia are starting to think his interest lies only in striking deals with Germany's Angela Merkel, who is "herself uncertain" about what to do. Cameron "has a fight on his hands... if he wants to win... he will have to fight harder". On that front, says The Observer, Cameron's decision to opt-out from the EU refugee scheme is "hardly a recipe for encouraging EU leaders to grant further exemptions".

I would be "delighted" if the prime minister manages to secure major changes, writes Lord Lawson in The Times. However, failure or minor change "is far more likely". Those hoping to gain sufficient concessions are making "a fundamental misreading of the nature of the EU project". Europe, says Lawson, "is just not set up to reform itself or to accommodate demands for power to be returned to its member countries and their people". This is because "it is an integrationist project that never stops... its response to every crisis is to demand even more".

And even if the "stay" vote wins on the day, it may not be enough to decide the issue and keep the Tory party united.It will take "an emphatic 2:1 popular vote in favour of the EU of the sort achieved by Harold Wilson in 1975 to nullify the Outers", says Philip Johnston inThe Daily Telegraph. Any closer, and"the schism that the referendum is supposed to heal will continue". The only factor in his favour is that "Cameron has shown time and again that he possesses the quality that Napoleon most liked in his generals: luck".by Matthew Partridge

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri