The chairman of Lloyds Banking Group has said it is “unsustainable” for Britain to remain inside the European Union unless there is “significant change” in the current membership terms.
Lord Blackwell told the House of Lords there was no “compelling economic argument” that outweighed the political costs of the EU.
“The current position of the UK, bound by the same treaties and institutions, may become increasingly unsustainable,” he told peers.
“I don’t agree that remaining in the European Union without a significant change in the current treaty arrangements is ultimately sustainable from a political and constitutional perspective, nor do I believe that there is a compelling economic argument to override those considerations,” Lord Blackwell added.
He stressed he was talking in a personal capacity, rather than on behalf of any of his business interests.
Nonetheless, his insistence that Britain would remain “attractive” to global firms regardless of its membership of the EU will be welcomed by the Leave campaign.
“Unless we seek to negotiate a new relationship and do so with full understanding on both sides that a significant change is needed, we are unlikely to get an outcome that secures a sustainable position for the UK within the European Union in the longer term.
“And as for uncertainty, that, I’m afraid, is the price of living in a democracy. While uncertainty may mean that some business investment is held back in the short term, there are many reasons why the UK is likely to remain an attractive global location, whatever the outcome and ignoring the democratic process may be even more costly.”
His comments came during the Second Reading of the EU Referendum Bill in the House of Lords.
Earlier in the debate, Lord Lawson, who is leading the Conservative arm of the Vote Leave campaign, branded pro-EU groups “little Europeans”.
“Let us not be afraid; above all let us not be little Europeans; let our horizon be global,” the Tory former Chancellor said.
“The time has come to rediscover our national self-confidence, to abandon a political project we don’t share, and embrace a global future.”
VOTES AT 16
Labour and the Liberal Democrats intend to use the upper chamber to try to push through changes to the franchise to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum, which will take place by the end of 2017.
Opening today’s debate in the Lords, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay insisted the Government “remains firmly convinced” that the voting age should stay at 18.
“We do not believe that this bill…should be the vehicle for doing this [changing the electoral franchise],” she said.
But Labour frontbencher Baroness Morgan said it was “highly unfair” for 16 and 17-year-olds to be denied the chance to vote.
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