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Brexit’s most reluctant architect has walked away from the mess

David Cameron waves.
Reuters/Peter Nicholls/
Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister, David Cameron with his wife Samantha, waves in front of number 10 Downing Street, on his last day in office as…
  • Cassie Werber
By Cassie Werber

Cassie writes about the world of work.

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

David Cameron, the former British prime minister who stepped down in May 2016 after the country voted to leave the European Union, has quit politics.

He becomes the latest in a string of high-profile figures in the Brexit debate to decline any part in seeing it through to fruition.

David Cameron didn’t want the country to leave the EU, and when his campaign was defeated he immediately stepped down as leader of the country and of his Conservative Party. But he did call and oversee the referendum—planning to guide the country to a “remain” vote—and will be remembered as the prime minister who took Britain out of the EU. He pledged in 2013 to hold the referendum, saying he believed in “confronting this issue,” in an attempt to stave off the threat from the right-wing, pro-Brexit UKIP party (and reportedly made that fateful decision over pizza in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.) Today, he resigned as a member of parliament, or MP, meaning that he is, for now, leaving politics altogether.

“You will admit now, though, won’t you, you will be remembered mostly for taking this country out of the European Union?” the BBC asked Cameron. “Well, I’m sure I’ll be remembered for keeping that pledge” to hold a referendum, Cameron replied.

Cameron’s decision to leave politics at the age of 49 after only 15 years as an MP has sparked speculation that he’s planning to get a high-paying corporate job. He said he hadn’t yet decided what to do next.

Many of the people who were most vocal in demanding Brexit have also drifted away from the complex work of making it happen. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, who had campaigned on a single platform of leaving Europe for years, quit almost as soon as his aim was achieved. He said he wanted his life back. Boris Johnson, former mayor of London and a prominent member of the “leave” campaign, had been widely expected to replace Cameron as prime minister, but said he wouldn’t run (he’s since been made foreign secretary). Michael Gove, a former justice minister in the Conservative government and another “leave” campaigner, wanted to become the post-Brexit prime minister, but was defeated. Theresa May, the current prime minister, didn’t give him a place in her cabinet.

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