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Cameron was warned about the referendum by EU leaders: “get real” over “this stupid referendum”

Tuesday, January 22nd 2019 - 09:51 UTC
Full article 5 comments
Mr Tusk tells the three-part BBC show that he warned the then prime minister there was no “appetite for revolution in Europe” and he “could lose everything” Mr Tusk tells the three-part BBC show that he warned the then prime minister there was no “appetite for revolution in Europe” and he “could lose everything”
Mr Cameron, who did not take part in the program, felt “there was no risk of a referendum” happening. Mr Cameron, who did not take part in the program, felt “there was no risk of a referendum” happening.

The European Council President Donald Tusk told David Cameron to “get real” over his “stupid referendum” before the 2016 Brexit vote, a BBC documentary reveals. Mr Tusk tells the three-part show that he warned the then prime minister there was no “appetite for revolution in Europe” and he “could lose everything”.

He claims that Mr Cameron, who did not take part in the program, felt “there was no risk of a referendum” happening. But Craig Oliver, Mr Cameron's former communications director, denies this.

“David Cameron spent the whole of the 2015 election campaign making clear he would not lead any form of government that didn't have a referendum,” he said on TGwitter.

In BBC Two's “Inside Europe: Ten years of Turmoil” which starts next Monday, Mr Tusk said Mr Cameron thought a referendum would not happen because of the coalition government with the Lib Dems.

“[He told me] he felt really safe, because he thought at the same time that there's no risk of a referendum, because his coalition partner, the Liberals, would block this idea of a referendum,” Mr Tusk said.

“But then, surprisingly, he won and there was no coalition partner. So paradoxically David Cameron became the real victim of his own victory.” Mr Tusk said he was “really amazed and even shocked” to learn from Mr Cameron that he decided to hold the referendum because of his own party.

Mr Cameron decided to resign as prime minister when the Leave campaign won the referendum. The program's producers said he did not take part in the program because he has signed an exclusive deal for his memoirs.

Mr Tusk warned Mr Cameron that other European prime ministers would not be inclined to help him in the referendum, and says: “For the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes. He finally realised what a challenge he was facing.”

And after hearing Mr Cameron's decision to quit, Mr Tusk says he told him: “Yes David, it would be very difficult even to imagine that a prime minister who was the leader of Remain's campaign would be just two days later a prime minister negotiating Brexit. ”It was like his day of reckoning was coming, reckoning for his biggest mistake in his life.“

In the first episode of the three-part series features interviews with former chancellor George Osborne, ex-foreign secretary William Hague, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

Nick Clegg, the UK's then EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers and Mr Oliver are also included. In the program, Mr Sarkozy reveals how he warned Mr Cameron about his attempt at strong-arm tactics with EU leaders over concessions on migrant rules and integration, telling him: ”If you try to break our arm, you'll get nothing.“

And Mr Hollande says that during a visit to Chequers in 2015 he tried to talk the Tory leader out of holding the referendum. ”Nothing obliged him to hold the referendum when he did,“ he tells the documentary. This would not be the first time that a commitment made at an election had not been kept afterwards, but he wanted to show he could negotiate successfully with Europeans.”

Theresa May, who is criticized in the program by Mr Osborne - who she sacked as chancellor, also declined to take part in the program. Describing a meeting held by Mr Cameron to get ministers' views on whether to back a referendum, Mr Osborne said: “Theresa May didn't say very much, which was par for the course in those meetings.”

Categories: Economy, Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • RedBaron

    I could never understand why
    1) Cameron didn't make the referendum “Advisory only” (non-binding)?
    2) he didn't put a higher threshold than 50% ?
    3) weren't all UK passport holders allowed to vote, especially those that lived in other EU countries and who stood/ stand to lose the most by getting out of the EU?

    The referendum was poorly conceived and even more poorly fought, without access to accurate information or predictions of what would happen to jobs and companies, as well as standards and institutions.

    Jan 23rd, 2019 - 12:19 pm +1
  • The Voice

    What Odd Job, Lightbulb and the Drunken Mayor of Trumpton have to do with anything I cannot guess.

    We are Leaving...

    Jan 23rd, 2019 - 02:18 pm 0
  • DemonTree

    @Red Baron
    It WAS advisory only. Cameron only held it to shut up factions of his own party, he had too much faith in the common sense of UK voters and thought Remain would easily win.

    And yes the campaigns were terrible. The amount of misinformation I have heard beggars belief.

    Jan 23rd, 2019 - 05:28 pm 0
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