Cameron defends decision to call Brexit referendum

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron attends a Service of Commemoration and Drumhead Service on Horse Guards Parade in central London.
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron attends a Service of Commemoration and Drumhead Service on Horse Guards Parade in central London. PHOTO: AFP

KIEV • Former British prime minister David Cameron defended his decision to call the referendum on whether Britain should stay or leave the European Union, as London formally launched the process to quit the bloc.

"I thought it right to hold the referendum because this issue had been poisoning British politics for years. The referendum had been promised and not held," he said during a visit to Ukraine on Wednesday.

He added: "I made a promise to hold a referendum, I think it was the right thing to do."

On June 23 last year, 17.4 million Britons voted to end their country's 43-year-old membership in the EU.

"We held the referendum and, of course, the result is not the result that I sought," said the Conservative former premier who led the campaign to stay in the bloc and announced his resignation a day after the vote.

"But it was a decisive result and that's why today, Theresa May quite rightly is taking the next step to ensuring the people's will is followed through."

On Wednesday, Mr Cameron's successor, Mrs May, launched the process to leave the EU, formally notifying the bloc via a letter to EU president Donald Tusk.

"I hope we will be out of the European Union, but we will take part in security cooperation and other forms of cooperation to recognise that while we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe, we are not giving up on European values,"Mr Cameron said.

"Britain was always (a) rather reluctant and uncertain member of the EU," he added.

"We were in the EU for reasons of utility rather than emotion. We were there for the trade, we were there for the cooperation, and I thought it right to stay because I wanted more trade and more cooperation.

"But nonetheless the other side... won a vote and we need to go ahead with Brexit."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Cameron defends decision to call Brexit referendum'. Print Edition | Subscribe