There is ‘no compelling economic argument’ for staying within the European Union, said Norman Blackwell (Baron Blackwell or Lord Blackwell), chairman of Lloyds Banking group, while addressing the House of Lords, unless significant changes occur in the UK’s relationship with the trading bloc.
Lord Blackwell emphasized that he was talking in a personal capacity rather than as chairman of the UK’s fourth oldest bank. He appears to be in favour Brexit.
Lord Blackwell told the House on Tuesday, during a debate on the government’s referendum bill:
“I do not agree that remaining in the European Union without a significant change in the current treaty arrangements is ultimately sustainable from a political and constitutional perspective. Nor do I believe that there is a compelling economic argument to override those considerations.”
Lord Blackwell’s comments are seen as a massive boost for the Brexit camp.
Brexit backers pleased with Blackwell’s comments
His comments were received with glee by those campaigning for a Brexit, i.e. for Britain to leave the European Union in a referendum Prime Minister David Cameron promised the nation by the end of 2017.
Mr. Cameron says he will negotiate new terms for Britain’s membership. As soon as a new deal has been completed, he is committed to putting the question to the nation on whether to remain inside or leave the EU.
As the debate starts to gain momentum, both the ‘in’ and ‘out’ camps have been desperately seeking support from business leaders in an effort to convince the electorate that they are right.
The ‘In Campaign’
Last week, it was announced that Lord Rose (Stuart Rose), former Marks & Spencer boss and current Chairman of online supermarket Ocado, is to lead the ‘In Campaign’, which aims to persuade Brits to vote to stay within the EU.
A YouGov poll in September found that for the first time since November 2014, more people favour Brexit than staying in the EU.
The In Campaign consists of politicians and individuals from the country’s main political parties.
According to Lord Rose, a Tory peer, Britain is “stronger in Europe”. He believes that leaving the EU would not only be reckless, but also dangerous.
UK public opinion divided
According to several opinion polls, Britain is more or less equally divided, with a very slightly larger number of people saying the country should stay in the EU. However, the trend is gradually moving towards the Brexit camp. A couple of recent polls put the Brexit camp ahead (see image below and video at the bottom of this page).
The EU Greek debt crisis and a surge in immigrants has made a growing number of people wonder whether the country might be better off outside the 28-nation bloc.
Regarding concerns that the uncertainty over whether the UK should stay or leave may inflict economic damage, Lord Blackwell, who was a senior adviser to Tory Prime Minister John Major, said:
“While uncertainty may mean that some business investment is held back in the short term, there are many reasons why the UK is likely to remain an attractive global location whatever the outcome, and ignoring the democratic process may be even more costly.”
He added that Mr. Cameron’s renegotiation process should be:
“About whether we can get agreement across Europe to a new settlement that suits everyone: a new kind of treaty relationship between the UK and the Eurozone members that makes it sustainable for us to become and remain a member of a wider but looser European Union club, alongside but apart from the Eurozone core.”
‘Vote Leave’ – the campaign for Brexit
Last week, ‘Vote Leave’ was launched. It is the new cross-party Brexit campaign. It is backed financially by several millionaires who have historically helped fund the election campaigns of both the Labour and Tory parties, as well as UKIP.
Vote Leave is backed by Business for Britain, the Labour Leave Campaign, and Conservatives for Britain.
Co-Chairman of Conservatives for Britain, Steve Baker MP, said:
“Conservatives for Britain supports the Prime Minister’s attempt to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with the EU. But we also support the creation of a professional cross-party campaign that can fight the referendum if the EU does not give the PM fundamental change. Such a campaign cannot be built in a few weeks. Work must start now.”
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, tipped as the next Conservative Party leader, believes there should be two referendums. If the country votes to leave, a second referendum could be used as a weapon to gain more concessions from Brussels. A Cameron aide, however, says the Prime Minister has ruled this out. There will be just one referendum.
Mr. Cameron warned from Iceland that leaving the EU and adopting a Norway-style deal with the trading bloc would not lead to the ‘land of milk and honey’.
Video – Most Brits would vote to leave EU