Margaret Thatcher would have been “deeply concerned” by the concessions handed to the EU by Theresa May who has “lost her nerve” on Brexit, the former chancellor Lord Lawson has said.
Delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture, Lord Lawson condemned the Government for “wasting precious time” on trying to achieve an unnecessary trade deal.
Speaking at the Carlton Club on Monday he said: “We find ourselves today quite unnecessarily as a supplicant, in a humiliating state of cringe, begging for what is both unnecessary and unattainable.
“The time has come to call an end to this demeaning process. We must get up off our knees. Enough is enough.”
The peer, who has previously written about Brexit being a chance to “finish the job” that Lady Thatcher started, said the former prime minister would have been “deeply concerned at the current state of the so-called negotiations.”
Lord Lawson suggested the UK should leave the EU without a deal and revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
He said: “The WTO system is perfectly acceptable. It is the basis on which we happily trade with most of the rest of the world, and on which most of the rest of the world trades successfully with the rest of the EU.”
On Friday, Mrs May agreed a number of concessions to the EU to ensure Brexit talks could move on to Britain’s future trade agreement.
Friday’s deal pledged “full alignment” between the UK and the EU if no alternative trade deal is reached; a guarantee that there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic; and a commitment that the UK will pay the EU between £35-£39 million (40-45 billion euro) when it leaves.
Lord Lawson described the deal as “just about acceptable”, but emphasised that the UK’s regulatory autonomy must be freed if it is to achieve the national sovereignty and economic benefits that Brexit can deliver.
“[Mrs May] appears to have lost her nerve, and – no doubt encouraged by the bureaucracy, who are horrified by the idea of Brexit – has allowed herself to be maneuvered into imagining that no trade deal would be a disaster. This is manifest nonsense. It is also the cause of most of her current difficulties.
“The provisional agreement that Mrs May secured last Friday is just about acceptable so far as it goes. But let us be quite clear. The UK’s regulatory autonomy, post-Brexit, must be unfettered. It is an essential attribute of national sovereignty, which is what Brexit is all about.
“Some have already pointed out that its surrender would prevent the conclusion of future trade deals between the UK and the faster-growing markets of the rest of the world. Even more important, it would negate our ability to reduce the burden of EU red tape on the masses of Britain’s small businesses, most of whom do little or no overseas trade.”