David Cameron says he is 'truly sorry' over the divisions caused by EU referendum - but does not regret it

Posted On: 
14th September 2019

David Cameron has said he is "truly sorry" at the divisions caused by the EU referendum - but insisted he has no regrets about calling it.

David Cameron and wife Samantha outside Number 10 the morning after the referendum.
Credit: 
PA Images

The former Prime Minister said trying to settle the UK's relationship with the European Union by putting it to a public vote "was the right approach to take".

But writing in his memoirs, he admitted that he had underestimated "the strength of feeling that would be unleashed both during the referendum and afterwards".

David Cameron: Boris Johnson told me Leave campaign would be ‘crushed’

Boris Johnson called David Cameron a 'girly swot', leaked note reveals

David Cameron blasts anti-EU Tory MPs who 'keep voting against Brexit'

In an interview to publicise the book, also revealed that Boris Johnson told him the Brexit campaign would be "crushed" during the referendum campaign, which Leave won by 52% to 48%.

And he told how the result had left him "hugely depressed", adding: "I worry about it a lot. Every single day I think about . . . the things that could have been done differently, and I worry about what is going to happen next."

The ex-Tory leader announced in 2013 that he would seek to renegotiate the UK's membership of the EU before putting the matter to a referendum, which was held in 2016.

"From the timing of the vote to the expectations I allowed to build about the renegotiation, there are many things I would do differently," Mr Cameron writes.

"I did not fully anticipate the strength of feeling that would be unleashed both during the referendum and afterwards, and I am truly sorry to have seen the country I love so much suffer uncertainty and division in the years since then.

"But on the central question of whether it was right to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and give people the chance to have their say on it, my view remains that this was the right approach to take.

"I believe that, particularly with the eurozone crisis, the organisation was changing before our very eyes, and our already precarious place in it was becoming harder to sustain. Renegotiating our position was my attempt to address that, and putting the outcome to a public vote was not just fair and not just overdue, but necessary and, I believe, ultimately inevitable."

He adds: "There are those who will never forgive me for holding it, or for failing to deliver the outcome - Britain staying in a reformed EU - that I sought. I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed. The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed."

Elsewhere in the book, which is called 'For The Record', Mr Cameron lifts the lid on his relationship with Michael Gove, his former close friend who played a key role in the Leave campaign.

He says he "flipped his lid" when Mr Gove changed his mind about accepting the role of government chief whip, and says he blames his former adviser Dominic Cummings - now Boris Johnson's top aide in Downing Street - for the change of heart.

Mr Cameron also reveals how he used to get "off his head" on cannabis while a student at Oxford.

And in his Times interview, he takes aim at Mr Johnson's handling of the Brexit process since becoming PM, criticising his decision to prorogue Parliament and sack 21 anti-no deal Tory rebels.

Speaking in Rotherham on Friday, Mr Johnson said: "I want people to be clear, absolutely nothing that David Cameron says in his memoirs in the course of the next few days will diminish the affection and respect in which I hold him."