David Cameron insists he DOESN’T regret calling EU referendum despite ‘concerns’ over the Brexit chaos rocking Britain
- David Cameron was confronted by journalists at the end of a day of Brexit chaos
- He said he did not regret calling the vote because he had made voters a promise
- He quit as PM day after vote leaving the UK bitterly divided as it started the talks
- Mrs May is on a frantic EU tour as she tries to salvage her deal after pulling vote
David Cameron last night insisted he does not regret calling the EU referendum – despite admitting his is ‘very concerned’ about the Brexit chaos.
The former PM said he was right to call the crunch vote because he ‘made a promise’ to voters that he would hold one.
But, quizzed by reporters as he got in his car, he refused to answer questions on whether he should apologise to the British people for the political mess.
He spoke out at the end of an astonishing day of chaos in Westminster which saw Theresa May delay the crunch vote on her deal admitting it would have been overwhelmingly defeated in the Commons.
Her decision was branded a ‘humiliation’ by her own MPs and Tory Brexit rebels renewed their plot to try to oust her as leader.
Mrs May this morning embarked on a frantic trip across Europe where she will be holding meetings with a string of leaders as she desperately tries to squeeze more concessions out of Brussels to try to peel off Tory rebels.
David Cameron (pictured last night) insisted he does not regret calling the EU referendum – despite admitting his is ‘very concerned’ about the Brexit chaos
The Prime Minister is having breakfast in the Netherlands with counterpart Mark Rutte (pictured together this morning) this morning before going on to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin
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Confronted about the chaos, Mr Cameron said: ‘Of course I don’t regret calling a referendum.
‘I made a promise during the election to call a referendum and I called the referendum.
What is the Irish border backstop and why do Tory MPs hate it?
The entire Brexit deal has been stalled over the so-called Irish border backstop in the divorce package. This is what it means:
What is the backstop?
The backstop was invented to meet promises to keep open the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland even if there is no comprehensive UK-EU trade deal.
The divorce deal says it will kick in automatically at the end of the Brexit transition if that deal is not in place.
If effectively keeps the UK in a customs union with the EU and Northern Ireland in both the customs union and single market.
This means many EU laws will keep being imposed on the UK and there can be no new trade deals. It also means regulatory checks on some goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Why have Ireland and the EU demanded it?
Because Britain demanded to leave the EU customs union and single market, the EU said it needed guarantees people and goods circulating inside met EU rules.
This is covered by the Brexit transition, which effectively maintains current rules, and can in theory be done in the comprehensive EU-UK trade deal.
But the EU said there had to be a backstop to cover what happens in any gap between transition and final deal.
Why do critics hate it?
Because Britain cannot decide when to leave the backstop.
Getting out – even if there is a trade deal – can only happen if both sides agree people and goods can freely cross the border.
Brexiteers fear the EU will unreasonably demand the backstop continues so EU law continues to apply in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland MPs also hate the regulatory border in the Irish Sea, insisting it unreasonably carves up the United Kingdom.
What concessions did Britain get in negotiating it?
During the negotiations, Britain persuaded Brussels the backstop should apply to the whole UK and not just Northern Ireland. Importantly, this prevents a customs border down the Irish Sea – even if some goods still need to be checked.
The Government said this means Britain gets many of the benefits of EU membership after transition without all of the commitments – meaning Brussels will be eager to end the backstop.
It also got promises the EU will act in ‘good faith’ during the future trade talks and use its ‘best endeavours’ to finalise a deal – promises it says can be enforced in court.
What did the legal advice say about it?
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said even with the EU promises, if a trade deal cannot be reached the backstop could last forever.
This would leave Britain stuck in a Brexit limbo, living under EU rules it had no say in writing and no way to unilaterally end it.
‘Obviously I am very concerned about what is happening today, but I do support the Prime Minister in her efforts to have a close partnership with the European Union that is the right thing to do and she has my support.’
Mr Cameron has faced a storm of criticism for calling the referendum and then resigning from No10 the morning after Remain lost the crunch vote.
Since his shock departure, Britain has been left deeply divided by the referendum and its result, while the negotiations on the deal have been plunged into turmoil.
Yesterday, Mrs May was humiliatingly forced to scrap a Commons vote on the Brexit deal to avoid catastrophic defeat.
And today she is on a frantic a last-ditch mission to salvage her Brexit deal today amid a fresh Tory bid to oust her.
The Prime Minister is meeting Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte for breakfast in the Hague, before heading for crucial talks with Angela Merkel in Berlin.
She will then head for Brussels for discussions with Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker as they desperately try to find a way through the mounting crisis.
But senior Tories fear she will get ‘jack sh**’ out of the whirlwind tour, after the EU dismissed the idea of renegotiating the legal text of the package or the controversial Irish border backstop.
Mr Juncker warned this morning that ‘there is no room for renegotiation, but further clarifications are possible’.
And Mrs May has left the country at a time when the threats to her position are at the highest level yet – with more Conservative MPs sending no-confidence letters, and Remainers plotting to force a second referendum.
Former minister Steve Baker urged his colleagues this morning to recognise that they face the ‘certainty of failure’ under Mrs May, urging them: ‘You must be brave.’
He added: ‘I really think it is her duty now to go.’
The number of MPs who confirmed to have written letters of no confidence has now risen to 28, after Crispin Blunt added himself to the list.
Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded Labour gets behind calls for another referendum, saying it is the ‘only way’ to resolve the impasse in Parliament.
In shambolic scenes yesterday, news of the U-turn on the Brexit vote came just 24 minutes after a Downing Street spokeswoman told journalists it was definitely going ahead. No new date has been given.
Cabinet ministers including Michael Gove, who had been giving interviews hours earlier insisting the showdown was ‘100 per cent’ happening, were infuriated at having been left hanging.
In a three-hour session with MPs, the Prime Minister denied she had ‘bottled it’ but accepted she had been facing a big defeat.
Ominously, Mr Tusk, who is the EU council president, said he was not interested in reopening the agreement struck with Mrs May just last month.
The PM is under huge pressure from all sides to get a major change to the hated irish backstop.
Under the current deal, Britain will enter the backstop if it cannot negotiate a free trade deal with the EU which keeps the Irish border soft.
Under this plan, the whole of the UK will remain tied to the EU customs union rules while Northern Ireland will have extra single market checks carried out.
But MPs have reacted with fury to the proposal, mainly because it does not allow the UK to pull out of it without getting the EU’s permisison.
They say this could effectively leaves Britain locked in the union forever – handing the keys to Brussels.
Mrs May faces little prospect of getting her deal passed by a massively hostile Parliament unless this backstop is fundamentally changed.
But EU leaders have already warned that the Withdrawal Agreement – the legal text which contains the backstop – is not up for renegotiation.
Sammy Wilson – the DUP’s Brexit spokesman – warned Mrs May’s mindset will ‘guarantee she comes back with nothing which is going to alleviate fears’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she could only get reassurances over the Irish border backstop which ‘don’t mean anything when they are put against a legally-binding international agreement’.
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