Couching his arguments almost exclusively in economic terms, Lord Trimble – who supports a British withdrawal from the EU – was keen to stress that he is not anti-European.
He said: “I’m not saying I don’t like people from Europe; I’m not prejudiced against them.”
The former Upper Bann MP said that he had originally been in support of the European project, having voted to remain in the Common Market in the last referendum on the UK’s position on the then European Common Market in 1975.
Recalling that era, he said: “The argument was being put forward on economic terms – and bear in mind that in 1975 to an extent Britain was the sick man of Europe in some respects and we did not know that Thatcher was going to appear in the next decade and greatly improve the economic performance of the United Kingdom.
“So, as things stood in ‘75, it seemed like that was the better option. But as time has gone on, it has become clearer that it’s not the good option.”
Lord Trimble said that if he had ever had any doubts about the issue, his eight years on the EU Select Committees in the House of Lords – which scrutinise the EU’s operations – had convinced him of the need to cut ties with Brussels.
“Just looking more closely at the operation, one began to realise that ... [quoting an unnamed Labour minister who he said told a Lords’ committee] it’s based on ignorance and prejudice,” he said.
He cited a study which found that economic growth in the UK reduced after the decision to enter the Common Market, and reduced further when the UK went into the Single Market.
He said: “The Single Market [created in the early 1990s] isn’t a free market – it’s a heavily regulated market, and the regulation causes costs and those costs fall not just on goods that are in fact exported to the Single Market, but on all our goods.
“Europe’s EU regulation applies to all goods, and that puts us at a disadvantage in selling to the world outside Europe.
“The world outside Europe includes the vast majority of the countries in the world who have no difficulty dealing with our own exports themselves and most of them have no difficulty selling to to Common Market...”
He added: “The basic point, that all this boils down to, is that even on economic grounds – which are the grounds on which the project was originally sold to us – it isn’t working.
“And of course, as you know, the project is more than about just economic cooperation; it is about building a state. And for that purpose, the leaders of Europe are prepared to do damage to their own economies, which they are doing.
“Oh, it’s time to go. We’ve given this experiment more than a fair trial.”
• Lord Trimble was one of the initial patrons of the Vote Leave group headed up by TaxPayers’ Alliance founder and former chief executive Matthew Elliott – one of several campaigns in favour of leaving the EU.
When asked if would be happy to campaign alongside his one-time bitter foes in the DUP – who like him are arguing for an ‘Out’ vote – the peer said: “If the DUP want to join the Vote Leave campaign, I’m sure they’ll be welcomed.
“But that’s for them to do. I’m working within the context of that campaign.”