Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Lord Lawson invited to join UKIP after he challenges David Cameron on EU

Former chancellor at odds with prime minister as he calls for Britain to throw out further European integration altogether

With impeccable timing, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage today wrote to the former chancellor Lord Lawson to invite him to join his party.

Farage fired off a letter after Lawson called on David Cameron to use any future EU treaty negotiations, in the wake of the crisis in the Eurozone, to call for an end to greater European integration.

In an article in the Times, Lawson wrote:

To be precise, the notion that “more Europe” must always be promoted, that there is no acceptable end to the process of integration short of a full-blown United States of Europe, and that the watchword must always be that of “ever closer union” has to be explicitly abandoned.

And 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.

This is what Farage says:

Nigel Lawson has come to the conclusion that the very approach of the EU is against Britain’s interests, and is calling for the concept of ‘Ever Closer Union’ to be struck from the Treaty.

He calls for a new Constitution that makes explicit the limits of EU power. He is also wise enough to know that his proposals have not a cat in hells chance of being accepted by the other 26 countries of the European Union.

What Lord Lawson leaves unspoken is what happens when inevitably the EU rejects his idea. If the changes he calls for are not made, then Britain must reserve the right to leave the moribund European Union and strike out as a free-trading good neighbour of the European Union.

As a loyal Tory, Lawson will probably be horrified at the prospect of joining UKIP. But Farage is clever to invite Lawson to join his party because David Cameron and George Osborne will not accept the ideas outlined by the former chancellor in today’s Times.

Lawson will struggle because the prime minister and chancellor have abandoned one of the central tenets of Tory thinking over Europe over the last 20 years. This view held that Britain must fight hard to avoid the creation of what is called a “two speed Europe” – an inner group, led by Germany and France, and a more detached group led by Britain. This approach explains why John Major always left open the possibility of British membership of the euro after negotiating a British opt-out from the single currency in the 1991 Maastricht treaty.

Cameron and Osborne are making clear they would have no qualms if the 17 members of the Eurozone decide to introduce greater fiscal co-operation to underpin the single currency. This is what the chancellor wrote in the FT last month:

The eurozone…needs to demonstrate commitment to greater fiscal integration and governance arrangements that avoid moral hazard and entrench fiscal responsibility.

Some pro-Europeans regard the Cameron and Osborne’s decision to embrace a “two speed Europe” as a reckless gamble that will severely diminish British influence in the EU.

Cameron and Osborne have a ready response. They say:

• Britain, which would not be part of the new eurozone arrangements, has a vital national interest in ensuring the survival of the euro, the currency of Britain’s largest trading partners. Poor implementation of the growth and stability pact, which was meant to prevent the sort of borrowing that has inflicted such harm on Greece and Ireland, is to blame for the current crisis. Stricter rules should, goes the thinking, help prevent a repeat of the mess.

• New rules for the eurozone would present a golden opportunity for Britain. The necessary treaty changes would have to be approved by all 27 members of the EU. The prime minister told the Tory 1922 committee before the summer recess that he would use the treaty negotiations to repatriate powers in three key areas – legal rights, criminal justice and social and employment legislation. But there would be a coalition bust-up on this. Nick Clegg rejected the Cameron proposal when he said that the euro crisis was no time to demand a “pound of flesh”.

In his assault on the euro, Lawson failed to mention his support for the warm up for the single currency – the European exchange rate mechanism. The former chancellor resigned from the cabinet in 1989 after Margaret Thatcher refused to distance herself from her late economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters, after he described the ERM as “half baked”. As I blogged last month, Lawson explained to William Keegan in 2007 why he supported the ERM but not the single currency. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds