David Cameron told Donald Tusk EU referendum would not happen because Tories would not get a majority

Posted On: 
21st January 2019

David Cameron told a top EU chief there was “no risk” of the Brexit referendum taking place because the Conservatives would not win a majority in the 2015 election, it has been revealed.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron lost the 2016 EU referendum
PA Images

European Council president Donald Tusk said he told the former Prime Minister that he was "stupid" to give British voters a say on whether to leave the bloc.

Mr Cameron said he had been left with no choice because the Tories were under huge political pressure from Ukip.

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But he told Mr Tusk that the Liberal Democrats would block the Conservatives' election manifesto pledge to have the referendum in any coalition negotiations, so it would not happen.

In the end, the Conservatives won an unexpected majority in 2015, forcing Mr Cameron to go ahead with the poll, which Leave won 52% to 48%.

Mr Tusk made the stunning revelation in a new BBC documentary 'Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil'.

He said: "I asked David Cameron, ‘Why did you decide on this referendum, this – it’s so dangerous, so even stupid, you know,’ and, he told me - and I was really amazed and even shocked - that the only reason was his own party.

"[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. 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 also told Mr Cameron - during his attempts to renegotiate the UK's membership of the EU ahead of the Brexit vote - that his demands for concessions would fall on deaf ears around the bloc.

He said: "I told him bluntly come on David, get real. I know that all Prime Ministers are promising to help you, but believe me the truth is that no one has an appetite for revolution in Europe only because of your stupid referendum.

"If you try to force us, to hurry us, you will lose everything.  And for the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes. He finally realised what a challenge he was facing."

Mr Tusk also said that when he took the call from Mr Cameron announcing his plans to resign in the wake of the 2016 result, “it was like his day of reckoning was coming, reckoning for his biggest mistake in his life”.

However Craig Oliver, Mr Cameron's former aide, claimed Mr Tusk's version of events was "completely wrong".



Just last week the former PM insisted he had no regrets in calling the EU referendum, but expressed his dismay at the “difficulties and the problems we've been having trying to implement the result”.

A spokesperson for Mr Cameron failed to comment by the time of publication.