The Brexit vote is history, and so is David Cameron’s reign as Britain’s prime minister whose gamble to allow an EU referendum backfired spectacularly. And today, in what Bloomberg earlier dubbed his “last summer” Cameron had the unpleasant task of telling his Eurocrat peers during what is hist last Brussels summit why he failed. Only he didn’t and instead, as the FT writes, Cameron flipped the tables and told European leaders he lost the EU referendum because they failed to address public concerns over immigration, as tensions rose ahead of looming Brexit negotiations.
The British prime minister said at his final summit in Brussels on Tuesday that fears of mass immigration were “a driving factor” behind the vote and free movement would have to be addressed in Brexit talks. While he did not call her out by name, Cameron was effectively blaming Angela Merkel, whose overly accepting immigration policy in 2015 unleashed a historic refugee wave which ultimately ended up being the deciding factor behind the referendum outcome.
As the FT writes, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and other leaders “blocked British demands before the referendum for an “emergency brake” on migrant numbers and the idea remains anathema to many member states. Cameron, who announced his resignation after last week’s referendum, said that he wanted Britain and the EU to retain “as close an economic relationship as possible”. But, at an emotional dinner, he warned that the UK could not continue to accept large numbers of EU migrants, even if that meant losing access to the single market.”
His remarks underscored the hard task facing both sides in reaching a new accord. Addressing the German Bundestag before the Brussels summit, Ms Merkel warned the UK that there would be no “cherry picking” in its Brexit negotiations. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker underscored this when he said that he wants the article 50 “letter to be sent as soon as possible.” Giving the UK instructions on how to proceed, Juncker said during a press conference that “if someone from the Remain camp will become British prime minister, this has to be done in two weeks after his appointment. If the next British PM is coming from the Leave campaign, it should be done the day after his appointment.”
Juncker urged the UK “swiftly” to clarify its position regarding its plans to break from the EU, warning that the bloc could not be “embroiled in lasting uncertainty”. He also hit back at criticism of him in some parts of the British press, claiming he was not a “faceless bureaucrat” and “would like to be respected”. (more…)