Published on 9 May 2013

Healey: case for leaving Europe stronger than staying

The former Labour chancellor of the exchequer Denis Healey has joined the fast-growing group of former political heavyweights who have declared against Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Lord Healey told me from his home in Sussex tonight:

“I wouldn’t object strongly to leaving the EU. The advantages of being members of the union are not obvious. The disadvantages are very obvious. I can see the case for leaving – the case for leaving is stronger than for staying in.”

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Lord Healey, who was chancellor at the time of the last referendum of Europe in 1975, added: “The trouble about Europe is what I call the Olive Line, the line below which people grow olives. North of the Olive Line people pay their taxes and spend public money very cautiously. South of it they fail to pay their taxes at all, but spend a lot of public money.”

But Lord Healey, who will be 96 in August, added that he did not feeling strongly enough about the matter to do an on-camera broadcast interview.

In the last few days the former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson announced he would vote no in the event of of a yes-no referendum, while another former chancellor, Norman Lamont, today said that he, too, would vote no. But Lamont added that, unlike Lawson, he still felt it was still worth making one more effort to try for a fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s membership.

It means that chancellors covering 14 of the 40 years of Britain’s membership of the EU – Denis Healey (Labour, 1974-79), Nigel Lawson (Conservative, 1983-89) and Norman Lamont (Conservative 1990-93) – have now said they think Britian would be better off leaving the European Union.

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11 reader comments

  1. Ian Young says:

    Three chancellors not noted for confidently riding the harsh winds of global economic forces. I’ll opt for staying in the world’s biggest trade bloc if you don’t mind.

  2. james cooper says:

    the question isn’t who wants out, or who wants in,, but why. Common sense and money say out. Saving £50millions+ per day,selling more abroad we buy more from E.U than they buy from us..So add that to curbing very heavy costs on immigration, getting back our own laws by leaving ECHR this must be better than giving so much away.The other why question is who is pulling our prime ministers string , Not just Cameron, but all those before him,. Just what did Heath sign up to that cannot be torn up? the noose is tightening the E.U will not want us u.k to leave 2017 will be to late it has to be now. to get that option vote UKIP its common sense.

  3. John Bailey says:

    I have told my local Conservative MP (Bob Stewart) that I no longer trust Mr Cameron. To offer to hold a referendum sometime after the next General Election if they win the next Election is pie in the sky. He, and Labour and Lib/Dem leaders have all reneged on previous promises to hold a referendum. The Conservatives will not win the next election anyway. They did not win the last election, so why will they win the next? Just a ploy to get us to vote Conservative.

    The thinking seems to be, that the Conservatives are the only party offering a referendum, albeit subject to conditions, and if we vote for UKIP it will be our fault that Mr Cameron is no longer in power.

    Renegotiation is a lost cause. Why would the other 27 countries agree to change anything that we and they have all agreed upon? Germany probably does not like the idea of losing a net contributor to the EU funds, so might urge the other EU members to agree some minor changes which Cameron will inevitably talk up as something major.

    We want a referendum NOW. Just wait and see how well UKIP do in the EU elections next year, and then see what further “promises” the leaders are forced to make.

    Former Chancellors, both Labour and Conservative, have said we will be better off out. Michael Portillo amazed many of us by saying the same thing. My advice is to vote, when the time comes, for what you really believe in. A Britain that makes its own laws, uses sterling as its currency, and trades with the world, is what I shall be voting for.

  4. Anne says:

    I will go along with the others that no longer believe we will have a REFERENDUM of an “IN”or “OUT” of the EU, and to leave it any longer than after 2015 will be far too late to even TRY to get out of the EU. As we know without doubt we have three major Political parties that want to remain in the eU -Forever, it is time to use the GENERAL ELECTION AS THE REFERENDUM WE HAVE BEEN DENEID since 1975, and vote for any other Political party or Organisation that also wantrs out of the EU. The only exceptions of sitting MP’s to vote for are the very well known back benchers that also want OUT OF THE EU FOREVER.

  5. David says:

    The European Court of Human Rights is to protect individuals usually against the power of the state – any state. The ECHR is not the same as the EU. So, saying that we need to get out of Europe to keep the pound blah blah blah and not be subject to the ECHR rulings is incorrect. There’s a lot of disinformation out there.

  6. Andrew Dundas says:

    It was PM Harold Wilson who conceded our right to a referendum (1975), much to the Tories annoyance. Armed with that threat, Wilson won the principle that “contributor” countries should get a rebate and not just Social & Regional investment in our poorest regions.
    Then, as now, opinion polls showed overwhelming boredom & scepticism with the “Common Market”. As the vote came nearer, opinion swung strongly in favour of staying with our neighbours.
    Cameron wants to replay Wilson’s campaign, and use that promise as his election slogan in 2015. His MPs will shoot that fox by attracting Labour support for his referendum that’s now firmly in play.

  7. Revd Robert West says:

    Yes, we should leave the European Union: it has compromised our sovereignty and brought into and over our system of law and government a democratic deficit. Enoch Powell and Tony Benn pointed this out to us way back in the 1970s. We should have listened then and we should certainly do so now. Moreover, attempts at monetary and economic union have proved very disadvantagous, to put it mildly.

  8. Philip says:

    The pie in the sky is what those who wish to leave the EU are voting for. There is a rose-tinted view of England’s place in the world utside the EU which people like Murdoch have ourveyed over the years. The result will be that we’ll become even more the USA’s pet doggy, trotting along obediently at the heels of a country that can’t even legislaye to improve background checks on epople who own assault weapons.
    And I say England – bacecause I reckon there’s a fair chance that leaving the EU could also hasten the break-up oof the UK, with Scotland & probably Wales too deciding they’d rather apply to rejoin rather than the alternative.
    And just to comment on the previous contributor’s final words – the UK does make its own laws, does have sterling & does trade with the world. It’s just we do so as part of a major trading bloc which gives us free tariff entry to their market – something we’re unlikely to get if we pull out.

  9. morgan says:

    How many people can name an MEP? How many know how long commissioners are appointed for? How many voters know what these peole do?

    In one area of the UK 11% of the registereed electorate voted during the EU elections. This is not democracy it is a grotesque distortion.

    Time to withdraw Switzerland and Norway boith prosperous, low unemploymemt strong social cohesion and both ouwith the EU

    1. Paul Latham says:

      Is it not our duty as voters to know who are MEPs are within our Region?

      Several MEPs would appear to be almost hidden away and inaccessible, compared with Westminster parliamentary constituency MPs.

      What is more, how many know what the precise responsibilities are for an MEP vs A Westmister MP?

  10. Paul Latham says:

    What I fail to understand is why so many politicians wish for Britain to remain within the EU when the direction being taken now is so different from what was agreed by referendum back in 1975. A free trade EEC vs An EU federal state.

    Do these same people think that we shall fall apart as a national without the EU?

    Business does nor rely upon politics to do commercial transactions within the EU, however much our elected representatives would wish it did.

    What of the the ‘doom-mongers’? You only have to read through one or two of the comments posted on this website, to realise that many think that without the EU we would be at the ‘beck and call’ of the US. Why?

    Britain seems to have turned it’s back on the other nations around the globe. We were once a great trading nation, that has established itself over the centuries because of overseas trade and positive influence.

    We ought to be listening to the sound advice of at least three of our previous Chancellors and be doing our own thing, out of the grasp of the EU bureaucrats.

Comments are closed.