THERE is “no downside” to Britain leaving the “undemocratic” European Union, according to former Chancellor Lord Lawson.
The leading Conservative told academics that British industry could thrive after an EU exit – and insisted that the UK had “nothing to fear but fear itself”.
His rallying cry came as Toyota announced it would continue production of cars at its Derbyshire plant even if Britons rejected continued EU membership at the ballot box.
Pro-EU campaigners Britain Stronger in Europe claim leaving what Lord Lawson described as “a United States of Europe” would put UK jobs at risk.
But it has emerged British firms have exported more to non-EU countries than EU countries over the past 15 months.
The leader of the Tory campaign to leave the EU said: “The EU is economically damaging and profoundly undemocratic.”
Lord Lawson, whose stewardship of the economy under Thatcher cut unemployment by half, said a vote to quit Brussels would return vital powers to Britain – as well as saving £10bn a year.
Criticising EU institutions such as its main decision-making body – the unelected Council of Ministers – the peer said a majority of Britons would vote no if they were being asked to join the EU’s “huge bureaucratic circus”.
There have been 72 occasions where Britain has voted against a measure put to the Council – only for it to become law anyway.
Lord Lawson said the idea that the EU had secured peace in Europe was “nonsense”, and dismissed claims that staying in would safeguard national security.
He said: ”We would be just as able to deal with terrorism outside. In many ways more so.
“Our membership of Nato is nothing to do with our membership of the EU.”
His comments are the strongest statement of intent yet from Tory Eurosceptics – a group which includes a number of senior Cabinet ministers.
Tory grandees including work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers are said to be unhappy that they have been gagged from speaking out in favour of Brexit while the Prime Minister’s negotiations are still ongoing.
By contrast, pro-EU ministers have been vocally making their case.
Foreign secretary Philip Hammond said yesterday that Britain would have no guaranteed access to lucrative European trade deals if it left the EU.
He said: “Britain benefits from the free trade agreements that have been negotiated by the European Union with third countries.
“We could not guarantee that renegotiating such agreements with the UK would be a priority for all of those third countries if we were outside the EU.”
The minister also announced that MPs will decide the date of the poll in a Commons vote.
It is expected to take place in July or September.