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Cameron ‘haunted’ by EU referendum decision

The former prime minister has revealed his regrets about the current state of the nation.

David Cameron (Hannah McKay/PA)
David Cameron (Hannah McKay/PA)

By Harriet Line, Alexander Britton and George Ryan, PA

Former prime minister David Cameron has said the regret he feels over the decision to hold a referendum on the UK leaving the EU still haunts him.

In an interview with journalist Tom Bradby on ITV ahead of the publication of his memoirs, Mr Cameron said he is “deeply sorry” about all that has happened since the referendum.

As part of The Cameron Interview on ITV, the ex-Tory leader was asked if the decision to call the referendum haunted him.

He replied: “Yeah, of course. You know, this is a huge decision for our country and I think we’ve taken the wrong path. As I’ve said, it can be made to work.

“If you’re asking me, do I have regrets? Yes. Am I sorry about the state the country’s got into? Yes.

“Do I feel I have some responsibility for that? Yes. It was my referendum, my campaign, my decision to try to renegotiate.

“And I accept all of those things and people, including those watching this programme, will have to decide how much blame to put on me.”

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about all the decisions I made and all that has followed David Cameron

Asked if he would apologise to the country for his actions, Mr Cameron said: “I’m deeply sorry about all that’s happened.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about all the decisions I made and all that has followed.

“But when I go back to that decision, that Britain’s position needed to be sorted and we needed a renegotiation and a referendum, I believed then that was the right approach.”

Asked if he had any regrets, Mr Cameron said: “I have huge regrets. I regret that we lost the campaign. I regret I let expectations about the negotiation run far too high.

“I regret some of the individual decisions we made in the campaign. I think perhaps there’s a case to say the timing could have been different.”

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David Cameron apologised to Barack Obama after the EU referendum result (Peter Macdiarmid/PA)

The memoirs also reveal the former prime minister rang European leaders and then US president Barack Obama to apologise for his ultimately failed strategy to keep the UK in the EU.

Mr Cameron wrote he was “sad to leave office but even more sad that Britain would be leaving the EU” in his memoir, which is being serialised in The Times ahead of its publication on Thursday.

Another revelation in the book, titled For The Record, was that current PM Boris Johnson asked whether Michael Gove was “a bit cracked” after the Brexiteer betrayed him during the 2016 Tory leadership race.

Writing about the morning after the Brexit referendum, in which 52% of people voted to leave the 28-member bloc, Mr Cameron said he was aware of the “enormity of what happened” and it would “stay with me for the rest of my life”.

“There were phone calls with the other first and deputy first ministers,” he said.

“I spoke to European leaders and to Obama. To each I said the same thing: ‘I had a strategy to keep Britain in the EU. I executed the strategy. It didn’t work. I’m sorry.'”

He added: “As it awaited its next occupants, Downing Street became an eerie place.

“Power was fading like a dimming light bulb.

“Pre-arranged commitments in my diary kept me busy but I was beginning to feel like the political equivalent of The Walking Dead.”

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The ex-PM’s memoirs will be released this week (Harper Collins/PA)

The Conservative former prime minister has also recalled the fraught battle to replace him in Number 10 in his memoir.

Mr Gove initially supported Mr Johnson’s campaign but then dramatically withdrew his backing and announced he would stand himself – leading the now-PM to quit the contest.

As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mr Gove is now responsible for no-deal Brexit preparations in Mr Johnson’s Government, and the revelation could put pressure on his relationship with the PM.

The 2016 leadership battle was eventually won by Theresa May and Mr Cameron revealed in the book how he secretly encouraged Gavin Williamson to help her campaign, according to The Times.

In extracts from the book published over the weekend, Mr Cameron took aim at Mr Gove, describing him as a “foam-flecked Faragist”.

He said Mr Johnson wanted to become the “darling” of the Tory party and “didn’t want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile – Michael Gove in particular – to win that crown”.

Mr Cameron said the Prime Minister “didn’t believe” in Brexit and only backed the Leave campaign to further his career.

“The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career,” he wrote.

PA

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