Lord Lawson said economic gains "would substantially outweigh the costs" and predicted Prime Minister David Cameron's attempts to renegotiate relations would be "inconsequential". Leaving the EU would free the UK from red tape, he wrote in The Times.
Mr Cameron said his planned referendum would deliver "not just a voice... but a vote on our future in Europe". The prime minister is facing increased calls to bring forward a promised referendum on the UK's EU membership following the success of the UK Independence Party in last week's local elections in England. He says he will hold a vote early in the next Parliament, should the Conservatives win the next general election, but only after renegotiating the terms of the UK's relationship with the EU.
However, Lord Lawson said any such renegotiations would be "inconsequential" as "any powers ceded by the Member States to the EU are ceded irrevocably". The peer - who was Margaret Thatcher's chancellor for six years - voted to stay in the European Common Market, the EU's predecessor, in 1975, but said: "I shall be voting 'out' in 2017". He said he "strongly" suspected there would be a "positive economic advantage to the UK in leaving the single market".
Far from hitting business hard, it would instead be a wake-up call for those who had been too content in "the warm embrace of the European single market", adding: "Over the past decade, UK exports to the EU have risen in cash terms by some 40 per cent. Over the same period, exports to the EU from those outside it have risen by 75 per cent."
Withdrawing from the EU would also save the City of London from a "frenzy of regulatory activism", such as the financial transactions tax that Brussels is seeking to impose.
© BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation
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