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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