The chairman of Lloyds Banking Group — which includes Halifax Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows — has caused a stir by arguing there was no “compelling economic argument” for Britain to stay in the European Union without a “significant change” in its relationship with the EU.
Norman Blackwell, a former adviser to Conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major, made his comments in a personal capacity in the House of Lords, according to Reuters.
Nonetheless, Blackwell’s comments have raised eyebrows given his position as chairman of a major banking and financial services group.
The UK’s Conservative prime minister David Cameron has said he is attempting to “renegotiate” the terms of Britain’s EU membership and has said that after those attempts he will put the question of whether the UK should stay in the EU or leave to the voters of the UK in a referendum expected by the end of 2017.
“I do not 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,” Blackwell told the Lords, according to Reuters.
“Nor do I believe that there is a compelling economic argument to override those considerations,” he said in comments published in Hansard.
Blackwell disagreed with concerns that the uncertainty over whether the UK would stay in the EU or not could cause economic damage to the UK.
“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,” he said.
Blackwell added: “Rather it should be about whether we can get agreement across Europe to a new settlement that suits everyone: a new kind of treaty relationship between the UK and the eurozone members that makes it sustainable for us to become and remain a member of a wider but looser European Union club, alongside but apart from the eurozone core.”