The former chancellor Lord Lawson will lead a campaign group to lobby for the UK's exit from the European Union ahead of a proposed referendum. The peer said he has accepted the position of president of the Conservatives for Britain group.
Writing in The Times, he said those who believe the UK is better off out of an unreformed EU need to start building their campaign now. He said it seems increasingly likely the government will secure only "wafer thin" reforms of the EU.
The government, among others, is seeking more power for national parliaments over EU decisions, restricting the rights of EU migrants to claim some benefits in the UK and an opt out from an ever-closer union,
Lord Lawson, who was chancellor between 1983 and 1989 as Nigel Lawson said he has accepted the position because he believed it was "far more likely" the government would be unable to secure the reforms it hoped for. He said if the argument for a Brexit is not made now, then "less moderate, xenophobic voices" will dominate the debate and the campaign will fail.
"A number of my colleagues in the Conservative party are waiting to see what the prime minister negotiates before deciding which way they will vote or whether they will campaign for in or out. We cannot afford to wait that long. ... we will fail as soon as the government, the major political parties, the CBI [Confederation of British Industry] and trade unions declare they are backing the 'in' campaign," he wrote.
He notes that the UK has been stuck with an "outdated" EU that was resistant to changes needed in a globalised world and whose purpose was "entirely political." He said while he applauded Prime Minister David Cameron's attempts to secure reforms, he said the EU was "simply not set up to allow individual countries to try to wind back the ratchet."
He said it was time for Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne to draw red lines in the UK's renegotiation, listing some of them as the ability of the UK to negotiate its own trade with fast-growing economies, control immigration from other EU countries, the end of EU law reigning supreme over national law, and the ability to reject the commitment of "ever closer union" with the EU.
"If we were able to secure those reforms I would be delighted. But if we are not, I will certainly vote to leave. Sadly, the latter is far more likely," he added. Cameron, Osborne and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond are currently engaged in diplomatic talks with member states and the EU to secure reforms ahead of the referendum in the UK. The referendum is scheduled to be held by 2017.
Opposition party Ukip has launched its own campaign 'Leave.EU for Brexit. The party's leader, Nigel Farage has said the campaign will "get outside the confines of Westminster" and "reach real people." Labour for Britain and Business for Britain are also expected to play a role in the campaign for Brexit, the Independent writes.