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Brussels must grasp nettle of immigration, says Cameron

By Andrew Woodcock

Published 29/06/2016

British PM David Cameron is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday
British PM David Cameron is greeted by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday
Demonstrators gather for an anti-Brexit protest in Trafalgar Square
Jean-Claude Juncker shares a joke with Ukip leader Nigel Farage

David Cameron has told EU leaders he lost last week's Brexit referendum because so many voters felt there was no control over immigration from Europe.

And he warned that intransigence over freedom of movement could scupper any chance of a UK-EU trade deal with the new prime minister who takes over from him in September.

Mr Cameron was speaking after German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the UK must accept free movement if it wants to retain access to the single market after withdrawal, as some non-members like Norway do.

Over dinner with fellow leaders in Brussels at his final European Council summit as Prime Minister, Mr Cameron set out his assessment of the reasons behind Thursday's shock 52%-48% referendum vote for Brexit.

A Government source said: "He believes that one of the key issues in the referendum campaign, and therefore why a lot of people voted to leave, is this sense that there was no control on the scale of immigration and freedom of movement. That was one of the factors."

Mr Cameron's message to EU leaders was that if they want a close economic relationship with the UK after Brexit, they cannot "shy away" from the migration issue.

Earlier, Nigel Farage told fellow MEPs "you're not laughing now" as he was barracked and booed at an emergency meeting of the European Parliament to discuss Brexit.

Offering a tongue-in-cheek "thank you for the warm welcome", he told them: "When I came here 17 years ago and said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union you all laughed at me.

"Well, I have to say, you're not laughing now are you?"

Elsewhere, hundreds of people attended a pro-EU rally in Trafalgar Square to protest against last week's historic result despite the event being officially called off.

Demonstrators chanted "Down with Boris" and "F*** Farage" in protest at two of the leading figures in the Brexit movement, senior Tory Boris Johnson and Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

The rally had officially been abandoned after 50,000 people declared an interest in attending - but many turned out regardless before moving down Whitehall to continue their protest outside the Houses of Parliament.

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