My take on the EU is that a renegotiation push is unlikely to result in many powers being returned to Britain, and that leaving the Union would bring short-term economic pain but medium-term gain. This is why I would vote to leave the EU were a referendum to take place now – thus taking the same view as Michael Gove – and expect to in the event of David Cameron being Prime Minister after 2015 and the promised EU referendum taking place (since, as I say, he is unlikely to gain what would in effect be a opt-out from the EU's political structure).
This view is put in an infinitely more distinguished and authoritative form by Nigel Lawson in today's Times (£). Unfortunately, the piece is locked up behind the paper's paywall, so you can't read it online. But the thrust of the former Chancellor's argument is clear enough. The EU changed "after the coming into being of the European monetary union and the creation
of the eurozone"; it is now the political and economic union that its creators envisaged; renegotiation won't amount to very much, and so, since political union wouldn't suit Britain, we should leave.
Lawson's view on the economics of such a decision will be closely read. He writes of departing that "there would indeed be some economic cost, partly
transitional and partly as a result of the loss of the modest advantages of
being within the single market." However, this would be outweighed by the advantage of quitting this "bureaucratic monstrosity", and for the City to escape from the EU's current "frenzy of regulatory activism" would be a major economic plus – especially if it is reinforced by co-operation with the United States.
I believe that Lawson has thus become the first former Chancellor to say that Britain should leave the E.U. I apologise to Lord Lamont, who has certainly called for fundamental EU reform, if I'm mistaken, but I can't find evidence of him going quite that far. Lawson's campaigning on climate change has ensured that he is still a player in centre-right politics and, as one of the main architects of the Thatcher reforms, his views will have an impact within the Conservative Party. The only puzzle is: given the logic of his position, why has he waited for so long to proclaim it?