David Cameron defends calling for Brexit referendum

  • By Harris Alexander

The former British PM gives a speech on Trump, Brexit and why he does not regret calling the referendum

This week saw Cameron give his first major speech since resigning as Prime Minister in June 2016.

Speaking at DePauw University in Indiana, USA, Cameron also spoke of similarities between the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. Using this platform in the US Cameron urged Trump to respect the “Incredibly precious American values of freedom, tolerance and outward-looking polities.” 

In a wide ranging address Cameron also used his platform to politically attack Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a fear mongering display of outright propaganda Cameron urged people to “not be seduced by so-called strongmen leaders”. 


Cameron’s speech was not out of his good natures, the appearance was heavily funded by the personal pockets of former students of the university; Sharon and Timothy Ubben, who since 1986 have also paid for speeches from: Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto and Mikhail Gorbachev.


Cameron stressed that despite the rise in far right politics he did not think that other European countries would follow Britain’s lead and leave the EU, although he expressed deep fears for the future of the union and Euro.

“It’s kind of you to have this ex Prime Minister here tonight” he told the crowd inside the university sports hall, 40 miles from Indianapolis. 

“Because of course, the last time the British had a Prime Minister my age was about 202 years ago – and that ended up with the British invading North America and burning down the White House.”

The audience laughed as he continued:

“Watching your politics recently, I wondered whether you might do it yourself.”


Speaking about Brexit

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Cameron insisted that he had no regrets in holding the referendum, despite acknowledging that it would be remembered, unfairly in his opinion, as his lasting and tragic legacy for the country.

Cameron, 50, told students and alumni present that he had felt that British politics was becoming “poisoned” by not having had a referendum regarding the EU in 40 years despite the fact that the EU had changed significantly since it’s formation.

“I believed and still believe that the fact we hadn’t had a referendum on this issue for 40 years in spite of the fact that the European Union was changing and changing was beginning to poison British politics.

It was certainly poisoning politics in my own party. I think, more importantly, people were feeling they had been promised a referendum. But people were beginning to get very frustrated about this issue. In the end, we had to decide.

As we try and build the globalisation that works for all our countries and all our people, as we do that, we have to listen to what people want. People do want a say on these issues.”

Cameron remarked that in his opinion the leave vote was motivated by “cultural reasons.” 

“In some of our countries the pace of change has been too fast for people to keep up with. People are concerned that the country they are living in is not the country that they were born into. They see that change as happening too fast.”

Since the summer’s referendum the UK has seen record levels of racially motivated violent attacks, mainly against Muslim women. Racial and religious discrimination in terms of not offering jobs to non-white applicants has also dramatically risen.

Cameron described himself as: Pro Globalisation, Pro Immigration and Pro Market Economics.


 Speaking about Donald Trump

During the US election campaigns, Cameron, then Prime Minister, criticised Trump’s rhetoric as being “divisive and wrong”.

Cameron acknowledged that Trump’s supporters and the Brexit voters shared similar concerns. Concerns about being left behind in an increasingly globalised world and not feeling the benefits of economic successes.

“But I don’t think it is enough to explain the result”.

Cameron described himself as having a very strong relationship with President Barak Obama, noting how in his opinion, they worked well as a team, despite being from different political sides.

“In any international gathering, or any subject that came up, even though I was a Conservative and Barak Obama was a Democrat, we basically has so much shared language and knowledge and approach about how we would tackle these problems that we would communicate very quickly, see each other’s arguments very quickly and see how to work together.”

Cameron stressed that the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and USA was more about the individuals involved than it was about military, security and intelligence links or shared cultural values.

He did however continue to say that between Trump and May he did not expect this relationship to change.


Whilst Cameron did not directly address Trump with specific recommendations it would very easily be construed that his words were clearly meant for Trump.

Cameron backed Trump’s call for border enforcement saying that having a defined policy on immigration is key:

“We may not need a wall, but we do need borders that work and are seen to work. We need that in Europe, just as you need that in the United States.”

Cameron also urged the US to not seek quick fixes and to remember it’s principles and values in difficult times.


Talking about Syria

Cameron described one of his best moments as Prime Minister as being when they killed the British citizen fighting for Da’ish al Dawla in Syria commonly known as “Jihadi John”.

Cameron reiterated his support for war and invasion, claiming that forced regime change and the assassination of foreign leaders was still required, despite the fact that most of Britain’s wars have in recent years been held as illegal occupations and regime changes.


Talking about his current life Cameron expressed clear sadness at not longer being in front line politics and remarked that he spends his time with his family and is currently writing a book about his time in politics, something he had hoped to do much later on in life.


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H.Alexander@theinternational.org.uk

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