LONDON (AP) — The British prime minister who called the 2016 Brexit referendum and then saw the public vote to leave the European Union, creating the nation’s prolonged political crisis, says he is sorry for the divisions it has caused.
David Cameron said in an interview published Saturday that he thinks about the consequences of the Brexit referendum “every single day” and worries “desperately” about what will happen next.
“I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed,” he said. “The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed.”
It is the closest the 52-year-old Cameron has come to a public apology for setting in motion events that led to the abrupt end of his premiership the next month and brought Britain into an unending political crisis. He admitted that many people blame him for the Brexit divisions that have deepened since the referendum and will never forgive him, but he defended his decision to call the vote.
Cameron, who served as prime minister from 2010 to 2016, spoke to The Times newspaper to promote his soon-to-be-published memoir.
He had supported remaining in the EU and resigned the morning after the 2016 referendum, staying out of electoral politics and largely out of the public eye since then.
His successor — Theresa May — wrestled with all the issues that leaving the EU entails and was not able to win parliamentary backing for a divorce plan that she agreed upon with EU leaders. She resigned, bringing fellow Conservative Boris Johnson to power in July.
Johnson, who faces an Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the EU, has said he plans to leave on that day “do or die.” He has been instructed by Parliament to seek a Brexit extension, which he says he will not do despite concerns that leaving without a deal would cause severe economic problems and possible food and medicine shortages. He is meeting with European leaders on Monday to search for some compromise.
In the interview, Cameron attacked former allies Johnson and Michael Gove, who helped spearhead the “Leave” campaign.
Cameron says they “left the truth at home” during the campaign, citing among other things the false claim that Britain could save 350 million pounds per week that was being sent to the EU and give it to the country’s beloved National Health Service.
He said the Brexit referendum turned into a Conservative Party “psychodrama” and that he had been “hugely depressed” about leaving his post as prime minister.
Cameron’s negative comments about Johnson came after it was revealed in court that Johnson referred to Cameron as a “girly swot” in written notes.
Cameron also turned to Twitter on Saturday to draw more attention to his book and the excerpts being published in The Times, tweeting “for 3 years I have kept relatively quiet about politics. But I think it’s right former PMs write their memoirs, to explain what they did and why.”
His book, “For the Record,” is out Thursday.