Nigel Lawson bombshell gives Tory Eurosceptics renewed hope

Times man wins no friends at Number Ten after giving Lawson the platform to say it's time to leave Europe


NIGEL LAWSON has chucked a bomb into the Tory debate about a referendum on EU membership - but the finger is being pointed at Tim Montgomerie as the agent provocateur who lit the fuse. Montgomerie was until recently the editor of the grassroots Tory website ConservativeHome which has been a thorn in Cameron's side for years. Montgomerie is now the comment editor of The Times who secured the coup by getting Lord Lawson to write his explosive piece for the paper this morning. Montgomerie's scoop prompted the Daily Telegraph's deputy editor, Ben Brogan into tweeting (with a hint of sarcasm directed at Cameron): "Well done to @TimMontgomerie for his Lawson "get mEU outta here" coup. Dave will be so pleased!" Montgomerie was asked on Radio 4's Today programme whether Lawson had volunteered the piece, or whether it had been commissioned by the Times man. Montgomerie said it had "emerged from discussions" with Lawson, but the message was clear – Montgomerie was only too pleased to give Maggie Thatcher's chancellor the chance to call for Britain to pull out of the EU. Lawson wrote: "The heart of the matter is that the very nature of the European Union, and of this country's relationship with it, has fundamentally changed after the coming into being of the European monetary union and the creation of the eurozone, of which - quite rightly - we are not a part. "That is why, while I voted 'in' in 1975, I shall be voting 'out' in 2017," he concluded. As a figure who still commands respect – despite being a climate change denier - Lawson has galvanised the anti-EU Tories. The BBC rightly predicted it will embolden them to step up their demands for Cameron to agree to an in-out referendum before the general election. UKIP leader Nigel Farage could have hardly have been happier. He said that having such a senior figure as Lord Lawson saying Britain should leave the EU "legitimises" his party's position. It has also pulled the rug from under Cameron's general election strategy on the EU – he was planning to go to the electorate promising to fight for fundamental changes in Britain's relationship with the EU. Crucially, Lawson said that any changes won by Dave would be "inconsequential". As the leading Tory Eurosceptic Sir Gerald Howarth told the Today programme: "It is going to be a big challenge for the Prime Minister. If the changes he can secure are ‘inconsequential' as Lord Lawson says that will leave is with one option, which is to leave." Also on the Today programme, Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader, warned against pulling out of the EU, saying it would leave Britain less safe by destroying cross-border cooperation against crime and threaten up to 3 million jobs. On that point, Clegg can be counted as speaking for Cameron. Cameron was hoping to fend off the Eurosceptics with a draft bill offering a referendum – but only after the next election. Lawson's – and Montgomerie's – hand-grenade has ensured that if that's all he can offer in tomorrow's Queen's Speech then Cameron will be treated with contempt by the Eurosceptics.

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is the pseudonym for a London-based political consultant who writes exclusively for The