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Former British PM Cameron 'truly sorry' for Brexit divisions

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The 52-year-old Cameron said that he thinks about the consequences of the Brexit referendum "every single day." -
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OLI SCARFF
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LONDON — Former British Prime Minister David Cameron says he is "truly sorry" for the chaos and division caused by Brexit, but still defends holding the vote that triggered Britain's messy divorce from the European Union.

After taking office in 2010, Cameron campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the E.U. after calling the June 2016 referendum. He resigned the morning after the country voted to leave.

"I am truly sorry to have seen the country I love so much suffer uncertainty and division in the years since then," Cameron said in an interview published Saturday.

Parliament is currently suspended as part of an effort by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to force through his hardline Brexit plans.

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But Johnson, who has been accused of lying to the Queen in order to secure the suspension, has lost control of the process after suffering a series of defeats at the hands of rebel lawmakers.

He faces an Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the E.U. and has been instructed by Parliament to seek an extension, which he says he will not do despite concerns that leaving without a deal would cause severe economic problems and possible food and medicine shortages.

A spokesperson for Johnson declined to comment on Cameron's interview Saturday.

Cameron, who is releasing a memoir on Sept. 19, told the British newspaper The Times that he finds it all "painful to watch."

"I worry desperately about what is going to happen next," he said.

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Still, Cameron insists he doesn't regret holding the referendum.

He maintains that a vote on Britain leaving the bloc was inevitable, citing political pressures, Europe's economic woes at the time and a migrant crisis.

"There are, of course, all those people who wanted a referendum and wanted to leave who are glad that a promise was made and a promise was kept," he said, adding, "I do understand some people are very angry because they didn't want to leave the E.U. Neither did I."

It's not the first time Cameron has brushed aside suggestions he should not have called the referendum that has left the country in political turmoil and facing an uncertain future.

But he has largely kept a low profile in the three years since he stepped aside.

"I deeply regret the outcome and accept that my approach failed," he said in the interview published Saturday. "The decisions I took contributed to that failure. I failed."

He said the referendum turned into a "psychodrama" of his ruling Conservative Party and that he had been "hugely depressed" about leaving his post as prime minister.

Cameron also criticized Johnson's role leading the campaign to leave the E.U., which included an erroneous claim that doing so would save Britain's health care system 350 million pounds per week.

Johnson acted "appallingly" and "left the truth at home" in the campaign, he said.

Johnson and Cameron have a shared history, but their friendship was strained after Johnson decided to back Britain leaving the E.U. and became the main face of the successful Brexit campaign.
Johnson and Cameron have a shared history, but their friendship was strained after Johnson decided to back Britain leaving the E.U. and became the main face of the successful Brexit campaign.Jan Kruger

Cameron added that he thought the decision to suspend Parliament, which prompted fierce protests, was a mistake.

He said leaving the E.U. without a deal would be a "bad outcome" and a second referendum on the issue was not be to ruled out.

His two successors — first Theresa May and now Johnson — have thus far been unable agree an exit plan with European leaders that can secure the backing of a majority in Parliament.

Despite the criticism, Cameron added that he wants Johnson to succeed.

The pair are old friends, having been classmates at Eton — Britain's most prestigious private school.