Prime Minister David Cameron “so far hasn’t got anywhere at all with his negotiations” on Britain’s membership of the European Union, former Conservative chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson told City A.M.
Having last week accepted the position of president of Conservatives for Britain, Lawson added: “If he got those reforms then I would decide we should stay in the EU. But I don’t think he has a cat’s chance in hell of getting those reforms, sadly.”
Lawson’s comments follow remarks by the Prime Minister on Sunday that he was “confident we will get what we need”.
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Last week, however, Lawson took the position of leading the pro-Out group Conservatives for Britain, writing that “integration leads to further integration” with regard to the European Union.
While Lawson does not believe Cameron will be able to get the reforms, he told City A.M. on the side-lines of the Institute of Directors annual conference that the Prime Minister may believe he can get treaty change as he has “an optimistic nature”.
It is well known that Cameron would like to stay in a reformed EU, but polls last week showed that more Conservative MPs were “firmly out” than “firmly in”, with the vast majority undecided, waiting to see what comes out of Cameron’s renegotiation attempts.
But commenting on prospects of a Conservative party fracture over EU membership, Lawson said there was no risk the party could split on this issue: “The Conservative party is capable of having a perfectly civilised debate with people on different sides.”
As for ministers, Lawson said he thinks it would be “sensible” if Cameron accepted that “cabinet ministers who take different views were able to take part in the campaign on either side, depending on what they see fit”.
“I think that would be the sensible thing to do, that’s what happened during the last referendum in 1975 and I think in the circumstances that’s a good precedent," he said.