David Cameron: I won’t be forgiven for Brexit, but we may need to vote again

A second Brexit referendum cannot be ruled out, former prime minister David Cameron has said in his first major interview since leaving office.

David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister after the Brexit referendum.
David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister after the Brexit referendum.

Mr Cameron admitted some people would “never forgive him” for calling the 2016 EU referendum, but said a second vote may be necessary “because we’re stuck”.

The former prime minister has given his first interview to the Times newspaper ahead of the publication of his memoire, For The Record, this week.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

“Some people will never forgive me for holding a referendum. Others for holding it and losing it,” he says in the interview. “There are, of course, all those people who wanted a referendum and wanted to leave who are glad that a promise was made and a promise was kept.”

Mr Cameron says he has “had some robust exchanges” when asked if members of the public shout at him in the street. He also reveals that on the morning after the EU referendum, he called European leaders and US president Barack Obama to say “sorry” for the result. The vote left him “hugely depressed”, Mr Cameron admits. “I think about this every day. Every single day I think about it, the referendum and the fact that we lost and the consequences and the things that could have been done differently, and I worry desperately about what is going to happen next.”

He adds: “I was miserable about giving up the job I loved and working for the country I loved. I was miserable.”

Mr Cameron says a no-deal Brexit would be a “bad outcome” for the country, adding: “I very much hope it doesn’t happen. I don’t think it should be pursued.”

The 752-page memoire, originally slated for publication last year, will hit the shelves a week before the start of Boris Johnson’s first party conference as Prime Minister.

In the interview, Mr Cameron denies calling the 2016 vote in response to Ukip’s victory in European elections two years earlier, claiming there was a “genuine problem between Britain and the EU with the eurozone crisis and the development of the euro that needed fixing”.

“There was also – I don’t deny it for a second – a huge political pressure to have a referendum, partly because we’d had treaty after treaty and promise after promise, and this issue was not going to go away,” he says.

Mr Cameron accuses Mr Johnson and Michael Gove, the leaders of the official Leave campaign, of behaving “appallingly” and effectively “trashing” the government during the EU referendum.

“Boris had never argued for leaving the EU, right?” Mr Cameron says. “Michael was a very strong Eurosceptic, but someone whom I’d known as this liberal, compassionate, rational Conservative ended up making arguments about Turkey [joining] and [the UK] being swamped and what have you. They were trashing the government of which they were a part, effectively.”

He adds the two Leave campaign leaders, as well as other Brexiteer Tory MPs, like Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt, “left the truth at home” during the campaign.

“I suppose some people would say all is fair in love and war and political campaigns,” Mr Cameron says. “I thought there were places Conservatives wouldn’t go against each other. And they did.”

On Mr Johnson, the former prime minister says he was “easy to work with” but admitted there had been “issues” between the pair. “I want him

to succeed. I worked with him well, as I say in the book,” he said.

“I also say that he was a capable mayor. He was easy to work with. I thought he was very talented. I wanted him in my government. We’ve had issues. Even before Brexit, there were sometimes tensions and disagreements but, on the whole, we’ve got on well. And I want him to succeed. Look, he’s got a very clear strategy and plan. It’s, you know, not the approach that I would have taken, but I want him to succeed.”

The former prime minister also told the Times he did not support the removal of the whip from Tory MPs – nor the suspension of Parliament.

He said: “Of course, as a new prime minister, I wished Boris well. I wanted him to get a deal from the EU that would have passed in the House of Commons. If that was to happen, I would have been elated. But clearly, while he started out down that road, the strategy has morphed into something quite different. Taking the whip from Conservative MPs and sharp practices using prorogation of Parliament have rebounded. I didn’t support either of those things. Neither do I think a no-deal Brexit is a good idea.”

Mr Cameron denies reports he wrote the book in a £25,000 shepherd’s hut in his Oxfordshire garden, saying that it was written while travelling and at his desk at home.