Jonathan Jones

From the archives: Nigel Lawson on the Euro

13 years ago, The Spectator carried an interview with Nigel Lawson in which he gave his views on the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union – views that seem especially prophetic today.

‘It’s going to be very nasty’, Christopher Fildes, The Spectator 2 May 1998

The Nigel Lawson Diet now seems to suit its inventor. Gone are the days when I had to defend him as chancellor against his girthist critics. Then he fell out with Margaret Thatcher – at first, over Europe. He wanted to put the pound into the exchange rate mechanism: she would not hear of it.

Now I catch up with him at the House of Lords, in one of its fine rooms that the Lord Chancellor has not yet collared, looking out across the river. Europe is still on our minds. In a few days’ time, in Brussels, the heads of 11 European governments will sign each other up for the single currency, to be born on New Year’s Day. A new kind of Europe will be born with it. Does he wish we were there? No, he does not.

‘I’m very glad we’re not going in next year,’ he says. ‘I’d need a great deal of persuasion that it would be right for us to sign up at any time. This is an entirely political venture – misguided, in my opinion – which will cause more economic problems than it will solve and will in the process create political problems. We’re well out of it, and if we’re sensible we can prosper better outside it.’

What is this? An about-turn on the white cliffs of Dover? Not so – it is Europe, to his mind, that is taking the wrong turning: ‘I’ve always been a strong supporter of closer European cooperation, though the European Union needs to expand beyond its present frontier.

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