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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# Brexit
Donald Tusk says he told David Cameron that promising an EU referendum was 'stupid'
In a BBC documentary, Tusk said that “paradoxically, David Cameron became the real victim of his own victory”.

EU COUNCIL PRESIDENT Donald Tusk is said to have told David Cameron that promising an EU referendum was a bad idea, saying that it was “stupid” and telling him to “get real”.

Cameron, who was a Tory Prime Minister in government with the Liberal Democrats since 2010, had been trying to negotiate with the EU for a better deal for the UK ahead of the referendum on EU membership.

There had been increased talk of an EU referendum as politicians like Nigel Farage drew attention to it, and his party, Ukip, began gaining traction at grassroot-level. 

In a new BBC documentary Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil, Tusk says he probed Cameron on why he was holding an EU referendum.

“I told him bluntly, ‘Come on David, get real’,” Tusk says.

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 realized what a challenge he was facing.”

Tusk claims that Cameron denied that he thought the referendum would be called.

“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.”

Tusk says that Cameron “felt really safe”.

…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 in the May 2015 election, Cameron’s Conservatives won an unexpected outright majority, based on their manifesto which included a referendum on EU membership.

Tusk says that “paradoxically, David Cameron became the real victim of his own victory”.

Craig Oliver, Cameron’s former head of communications, responded to say that the coalition as “an excuse to bail is a myth”.

David Cameron spent the whole of the 2015 election campaign making it clear he would not lead any form of government that didn’t have a referendum. Look at almost any interview he did. The coalition as “excuse to bail” is a myth.

Cameron resigned from office following the referendum result; he was succeeded by Theresa May following a leadership battle. He’s currently writing his memoirs on his time in office.

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