Cameron points finger at Corbyn over failure of Remain campaign

Have your say

DAVID Cameron has warned of “choppy waters” ahead for the UK economy following last week’s vote to leave the European Union.

And the Prime Minister delivered a scathing condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn’s half-hearted campaigning in the referendum as he told the Labour leader he should “reflect on” his own part in the failure of the Remain campaign to persuade voters to stay.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions

Mr Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons that the warnings of market instability and damage to the UK made by the Remain camp during the referendum campaign were now coming to pass.

While Britain was in a strong position to deal with economic difficulties, it would be wrong to “belittle” the scale of the challenges ahead, he said.

Mr Cameron was answering questions in the Commons as leaders of the 27 other EU countries continued their summit in Brussels, in a highly symbolic portent of things to come.

After bidding an emotional farewell to EU summitry after his last trip to the Belgian capital as PM on Tuesday evening, Mr Cameron was not invited to join the second day of the meeting, where other government heads discussed how they will deal with the fallout from last week’s Brexit vote in the UK.

Referendum coverage in full

Mr Cameron told MPs that the consequences of the Brexit vote would be “difficult” for the UK.

“There are going to be some very choppy waters ahead,” he said. “I don’t resile from any of the warnings I made during the referendum campaign, but we have got to work through this.

“The warnings were that if we voted to leave the EU, there would be difficulties in terms of our own economy and growth rates and instability in the markets ... We are now seeing those things. There is no doubt in my mind these are going to be difficult economic times.”

Mr Corbyn told the PM that Thursday’s vote was “a rejection of the status quo, a status quo that has failed”. The Labour leader told the PM that disillusionment over poverty and unemployment had fuelled the desire for withdrawal from the EU and urged him to scrap the so-called Bedroom Tax, ban zero-hours contracts and cancel Universal Credit cuts before his departure from 10 Downing Street in September.

But Mr Cameron retorted: “To try to pretend that last Thursday was a result of the state of the British economy is complete nonsense. We all have to reflect on our role in the referendum campaign.

“I know the Right Honourable Gentleman says he put his back into it. All I can say is I wouldn’t like to see him when he isn’t trying.”

Accusing Mr Corbyn of “looking for excuses” for the failure of the Remain campaign, the Prime Minister said that while his continued leadership of the Labour Party was good for the Conservatives, it was time for him to stand down.

The PM brushed off a demand from the Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, to assist Scotland in its efforts to remain a part of the EU.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in Brussels holding meetings with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament president Martin Schulz about Scotland’s future, after an overwhelming Remain vote north of the border.

But Mr Cameron said that “the membership of the UK is a UK membership and that’s where we should take our negotiating stance”.

It was in Scotland’s best interest, as well as the interest of the UK as a whole, to negotiate “the closest possible relationship” with the remaining EU following withdrawal, he said.

Mr Cameron told MPs in a statement that the mood among EU leaders gathering in Brussels on Tuesday for their first summit since the UK referendum was “one of sadness and regret”.

But he said there was also an agreement that “the decision of the British people should be respected”. And he said he had agreed with fellow leaders that “we are not turning our backs on Europe and they are not turning their backs on us”.

Mr Cameron said he told the meeting that a key factor behind the Leave vote was “great concern about the movement of people and the challenges of controlling immigration”.

And - in a pointed message apparently directed at Tory advocates of Brexit like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - he added: “Many European partners were clear that it is impossible to have all the benefits of membership without some of the costs of membership. That’s something the new prime minister and cabinet will have to think about very carefully.”

Mr Cameron insisted that there was “no great clamour” among EU leaders for the UK immediately to kick off the two-year process of formal negotiations on its future relations with the bloc. Instead, he said, there was an acknowledgement that “we need to take some time to get this right”.

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi told the meeting that private-sector forecasts for eurozone growth were being downgraded by 0.3% to 0.5% over the next three years, mainly because of the predicted slowdown in the UK economy, the PM told MPs.