BBC Europe doc sees candid Donald Tusk on David Cameron's "stupid referendum" and 'day of reckoning for the biggest mistake in his life'
"For the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes"
BBC2's upcoming political series Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil will see Donald Tusk criticise former prime minister David Cameron over his decision to hold a Brexit referendum.
During the three-part series, Tusk, president of the European Council, reveals that he told David Cameron to “get real” over his “stupid referendum”.
Cameron's attempts to renegotiate over immigration with the EU ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum are dismissed by Tusk, who alleges he told the prime minister that he could "lose everything".
- Viewers impressed by Fiona Bruce’s ‘fiery’ Question Time debut – and by audience member ‘yellow jacket lady’
- Benedict Cumberbatch: “It’s rare you get to do a drama that has such an immediate relevance to your life and your country”
- Two very different takes on Brexit: The Uncivil War
“I told him bluntly come on David, get real," Tusk says. "I know that all Prime Ministers are promising to help you, but believe me the truth is that no-one has an appetite for revolution in Europe only because of your stupid referendum. If you try to force us, to hurry us, you will lose everything.
"And for the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes. He finally realised what a challenge he was facing.”
On the Brexit referendum, Tusk also reveals that Cameron had initially assured him that there was "no risk of a referendum" as the Conservative's then-coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, would block the idea.
“I asked David Cameron, ‘Why did you decide on this referendum, this – it’s so dangerous, so even stupid, you know,’ and, he told me – and I was really amazed and even shocked– that the only reason was his own party," Tusk says.
"[Cameron told me] he felt really safe, because he thought at the same time that there’s no risk of a referendum, because, his coalition partner, the Liberals, would block this idea of a referendum."
After the Conservatives won an outright majority, however, "paradoxically David Cameron became the real victim of his own victory".
Speaking about the post-Brexit phone call in which Cameron informed Tusk of his resignation plans, Tusk says: "It was like his day of reckoning was coming, reckoning for his biggest mistake in his life."
More like this
Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil begins on BBC2 at 9pm on Monday 28th January