Brexit must not be forgotten, and this is why we at the Daily Squib are not side lining it but instead putting it at the forefront, despite it being somewhat forgotten in parliament. We have already interviewed The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe and now are proud to present our interview with The Right Honourable Lord Lamont of Lerwick, who justly held off the treachery in the Commons and the House of Lords when the 2016 EU Referendum was almost overturned by an anti-democratic cabal of parliamentarian remainers. Thankfully, with Lord Lamont’s help, the necessary bills were passed and Brexit, as well as British democracy, prevailed.
Lord Norman Lamont of Lerwick certainly had many skirmishes with the EU machine during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the John Major government, and was one of the principal engineers of Brexit as a workable concept. His ideas and thoughts about possibly leaving the EU were unthinkable in the first half of the 1990s, but he pursued the idea into 2016 when it resurfaced as the EU Referendum.
Part of a series featuring prominent Brexiteers, we present the Daily Squib exclusive Brexit interview with The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick.
LORD LAMONT BREXIT INTERVIEW
– What personal and political experiences from your time as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Member of Parliament influenced your stance on Brexit, including your 1995 book on the EU, “Sovereign Britain,” where you envisioned Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union?
I was very much influenced by my time as Chancellor, particularly in my face-to-face dealings with EU finance ministers. It became clear to me that the talk of a Political Union in Europe was not merely rhetoric, as I had sometimes hoped, but a genuine objective in which they strongly believe, even to this day. I was also influenced by my negotiations over the Maastricht Treaty where I negotiated Britain’s opt-out, I could see that the single currency would lead to more and more integration from the centre.
However, in addition, I became more and more sceptical of the alleged advantages to Britain of the Single Market. The Single Market of course is a good idea, but you don’t need to be a Member of the EU to benefit from it. Sometimes, countries like the US and Japan have been better at exploiting it than Britain. I also noticed how Switzerland was more integrated economically with the EU than Britain, but was not a Member.
– How do you perceive Brexit’s significance in reshaping Britain’s economic and political landscape, drawing parallels with the challenges faced during your tenure in the government, especially given your long-standing opposition to European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the European single currency?
The significance of Brexit is that we have avoided Political Union and a United States of Europe. We have the freedom to shape our own destiny. It’s up to us whether we succeed or make a mess of it. The single currency still faces plenty of problems, and it remains to be seen how it operates in the long term.
We now have the freedom to pursue our own economic and fiscal policy as we see fit, free from European interference. My view is these should be policies to encourage enterprise, low taxes and a smaller but effective State.
The IEA’s recent pamphlet has shown persuasively Brexit, contrary to much propaganda, has had no harmful effect on our Trade.
– What lessons or insights from negotiating the Maastricht Treaty, especially concerning Britain’s opt-out from the single currency, do you believe are relevant to Brexit and future relationship with the EU?
The opt-out from the single currency was effective, contrary to what some sceptics forecast. Britain also had other opt-outs, but there comes a point when there’s little point in remaining a Member and having lots of opt-outs. As a non-Euro Member, we were inevitably not part of a lot of important decisions surrounding the single currency, which none-the-less could impact on us. Being in the EU and outside the single currency, to me, made little sense.
– Reflecting on your experiences during Black Wednesday and the subsequent exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), how do you think these events shaped the discourse around Brexit and Britain’s relationship with the EU?
I think our exit from the ERM, made public opinion in Britain much more opposed to the single currency and more open to general scepticism about the EU. Not all these perceptions were correct, but they existed.
– What are the immediate post-Brexit economic challenges facing Britain, and how can the country leverage its newfound independence for economic growth and stability. Will there ever be the so-called ‘Singapore-on-Thames’?
As I said earlier, it’s entirely up to us how well we govern ourselves. Independence and freedom ought to be an advantage, but there’s nothing automatic about it. You have to make the right decisions. I doubt that there can be a so-called Singapore on the Thames. It’s almost impossible for a country like ours to get public expenditure as a proportion of GDP down to the levels in Asia, while we maintain a comprehensive welfare state and health service. That doesn’t mean that we can’t lower taxes from their current high level, of course we can, and we need to do so.
– Looking back at the numerous Conservative governments’ management of Brexit, do you feel they maximised the opportunities available post-Brexit to benefit Britain’s economy and global standing, or do you perceive missed opportunities or squandered potential?
We still have every opportunity.
– As someone who has been a vocal critic of the EU and a supporter of Brexit, what advice would you offer to policymakers navigating the complexities of the post-Brexit era?
We are outside the EU, but that doesn’t mean, as a non-Member, we can’t have close and friendly relations with our neighbours. It will take a little time as the dust settles. We face common threats and Britain has a huge amount to offer the Continent as an independent third party with excellent armed forces. There is no need to align our laws and regulations with Europe unless we think it is to our advantage and if it is, that should be on a voluntary reversible basis. We should cooperate in an unstructured ad hoc way on security issues like Ukraine or Georgia. Britain has already led the way in Ukraine and gained respect as a result.
We should seek to cooperate with friendly countries, but that won’t be exclusively Europe. I support the tilt to Asia, but it’s important to remember we are a European country, and our presence will be most impactful in our near neighbourhood.
– If Labour were to win the upcoming General Election, do you think their policies of closer union to the EU would make the original hard-fought concepts of Brexit disappear into the mire?
I think Brexit is irreversible. Starmer has ruled out the Customs Union and the Single Market, and without those he can’t really make a lot of difference to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Labour, if they win the Election, may seek to align regulation with that of Europe, but that would be reversible by a later Government.
Whatever ambitions elite opinion or big business may harbour, I am confident the rock of public opinion, if faced with a decision, would be to reject Membership, just as it has done repeatedly in Switzerland and Norway.