‘I shouldn’t have listened to him’: Jean-Claude Juncker says David Cameron stopped him persuading Britons not to leave the EU – as he slams ‘hurtful’ claims about heavy drinking
- Jean-Claude Juncker lashed out at David Cameron for silencing him on Brexit
- Former EU commission chief said he could have convinced UK public to remain
- Admitted vaccine shambles hurt bloc and slammed jibes about heavy drinking
Jean-Claude Juncker today lashed out at David Cameron saying the then-PM stopped him convincing Britons not to back Brexit in 2016.
The former EU commission president said he ‘made a mistake’ listening to David Cameron’s orders to stay quiet as he could have ‘defended’ the bloc.
Mr Juncker also admitted that the slow vaccine rollout had been damaging to the European project – and angrily denied ‘hurtful’ allegations about his heavy drinking.
It will be another unwelcome intervention for Mr Cameron, who has already been struggling to fend of criticism over his lobbying activities on behalf of Greensill Capital.
In an interview with the i newspaper, Mr Juncker said that as the battle stepped up for the 2016 referendum the former British premier told him not to conduct interviews with the British media.
Jean-Claude Juncker (right) said he ‘made a mistake’ listening to David Cameron’s (left) orders to stay quiet on Brexit as he could have ‘defended’ the bloc
‘I should not have listened to David Cameron,’ he said.
‘He told me not to interfere in the debate in the UK, not to come to London, not to do interviews with the British press.’
Mr Juncker added: ‘I made a mistake because I did not defend the EU’s point of view in the UK.
‘They asked me to shut up, so I shut up. That is something I criticise myself for. I should have spoken out rather than stay silent.’
The UK eventually left the European Union on January 31 2020, nearly four years after the referendum’s 52-48 per cent result.
The decision left the EU in shock, and Mr Cameron immediately resigned as PM.
A deal was finally brokered with Mr Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen after Boris Johnson took over from Theresa May and won an historic majority on a manifesto to ‘get Brexit done’.
A trade framework was then agreed before Christmas last year with the transition period ending on January 1.
Mr Juncker also criticised Ms von der Leyen and the EU over the handling of the vaccine rollout.
Although the bloc has been catching up, it is still far behind the UK.
Asked whether that had damaged the project, Mr Juncker said: ‘Yes, because the promises made at the beginning of the year, that it was ‘the hour of Europe’ – and it’s always the hour of Europe – and that everyone would be vaccinated before the deadline, well, those promises were not kept,’ he said.
A Brexit deal was finally brokered with Mr Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen after Boris Johnson (pictured) took over from Theresa May
‘But in an extraordinary situation like this, it is inevitable that some mistakes will be made. Even the UK, in its splendid isolation, has made some errors.’
Mr Juncker addressed jibes about his drinking head-on, insisting they were not true and he had a medical condition.
‘I still have the sciatica,’ he said. ‘I still limp. And yet they say the guy is drunk again.
I’ve never been drunk in my life.’
He added: ‘It hurt me. I can’t really give a press conference to say: ”I’m not an alcoholic.” That would have been incompatible with my basic dignity.’
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