David Cameron Says Boris Johnson Was Wrong To Suspend Parliament To Ram Through No-Deal Brexit

Former PM says Johnson should give Tory rebels a way back into the party.

David Cameron has said Boris Johnson was wrong to suspend parliament in his bid to get a no-deal Brexit.

The former PM says Johnson’s move to shut down the Commons and Lords was “rather sharp practice”.

In an interview with ITV News’ Tom Bradby, he also urged his successor to readmit to the Tory party those MPs who had the whip withdrawn over their votes against the government.

Cameron revealed Johnson texted him early in 2016 to predict that the Vote Leave campaign would lose, claiming ”’Brexit will be crushed like a toad”.

And he admitted for the first time that he felt a responsibility for the chaos of the EU referendum, because he had decided to call one in the first place.

Speaking of Johnson’s controversial decision to prorogue parliament, Cameron said: “I don’t think to me it was illegal. [But] it looked to me from the outside a rather sharp practice of trying to restrict the debate and looked rather counter-productive.”

The former premier made clear that the rebels, 21 of whom defied Johnson in Commons votes this month, should be allowed back in a bid to heal the Conservative rift over Europe.

“I disagree with taking the whip away from 21 incredibly hard-working, loyal Conservatives,” he said.

Cameron said the move was a “bad” move. “If it isn’t reversed it will be a disastrous decision,” he added.

A string of former cabinet ministers including ex-chancellor Philip Hammond, ex-justice secretary David Gauke and others had the party whip withdrawn after they voted with Labour to seize control of the Commons timetable.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd quit in protest at the disciplinary action as even Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames was among those ejected from the parliamentary party.

Former minister Sam Gyimah this weekend became the latest Tory MP to defect to the Liberal Democrats in protest at the Tories’ backing for a no-deal exit on October 31.

Prime Minister David Cameron watches as Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks during a campaign event at Grey Court School in Richmond, London.
Prime Minister David Cameron watches as Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks during a campaign event at Grey Court School in Richmond, London.
PA Archive/PA Images

Other MPs are on ‘defection watch’, including former attorney general Dominic Grieve, and many backbenchers fear the PM’s hardline stance has put at risk his plans to get a Brexit deal passed through the Commons.

The former PM also revealed for the first time the text he received from Johnson on the day he decided to back the Vote Leave campaign.

“Minutes before he went out to explain why he was going to be on the side of Brexit, he sent me a text saying, ‘Brexit will be crushed like a toad under the harrow.’...

“But I can only conclude that—he’d never argued for it before; he thought it was going to lose and that’s why he made the choice.

“My conclusion is; he thought that the Brexit vote would be lost but he didn’t want to give up the chance of being on the romantic, patriotic nationalistic side of Brexit.”

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson on the day after the EU referendum result
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson on the day after the EU referendum result
PA Archive/PA Images

Cameron - who said at the weekend he felt the referendum was ‘inevitable’ - even hinted that if he had the choice to make again, he may not opt for a referendum.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about all the decisions I made and all that has followed.

“But when I go back to that decision, that Britain’s position needed to be sorted and we needed a renegotiation and a referendum; I believed then that was the right approach.”

Asked in the interview if the Brexit vote was still ‘haunting’ him, Cameron replied: “Yeah, of course. You know, this is a huge decision for our country, and I think we’ve taken the wrong path; as I’ve said, it can be made to work…”

“If you’re asking me; do I have regrets? Yes. Am I sorry about the state the country’s got into? Yes. Do I feel I have some responsibility for that? Yes. It was my referendum; my campaign; my decision to try and renegotiate.

“And I accept all of those things and people, including those watching this programme, will have to decide how much blame to put on me.”

Cameron denied that he opted for a referendum in 2016 in a bid to resolve internal Tory party issues.

“Of course, there were big issues in the Conservative Party, as there were divisions in the country. I mean, every political party at some stage between 2005 and 2015 supported a referendum at a general election. The Liberal Democrats did, the Labor Party did, the Green Party did, we did…

“I believed it was inevitable that trying to settle [EU Reform] with a re-negotiation and a referendum had become inevitable.”

In response to the claims, Johnson told ITV News: “Nothing that David Cameron says in his memoirs will diminish the respect and affect in which I hold him. He has a legacy to be proud of.”

The Cameron Interview is broadcast on ITV on Monday 16 September at 8pm.


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