David Cameron never wanted to hold the EU referendum and hoped the Lib Dems would block it, Donald Tusk claimed today.
The EU council president has torn into the former PM for his ‘stupid’ policy in an interview for a new documentary.
Mr Tusk said that Mr Cameron was relying on having coalition partners after the 2015 election who would stop the crucial vote going ahead.
However, when the Tories unexpectedly emerged with a majority, he found himself having to renegotiate the membership package and go through it.
‘For the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes,’ Mr Tusk said.
The extraordinary insight into the historic events came as Mr Tusk spoke to a BBC documentary, Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil.
But it was swiftly dismissed by allies of Mr Cameron – who pointed out that before the 2015 election he ruled out leading a government that did not commit to hold a referendum.
David Cameron never wanted to hold the EU referendum and hoped the Lib Dems would block it, Donald Tusk claimed today
The series, due to be broadcast on January 28, features interviews with a broad swathe of political figures from all sides of Brexit, including former chancellor George Osborne, ex-foreign secretary William Hague, president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.
Mr Cameron, who quit as prime minister in 2016 after leading the failed remain campaign, was among the signficant players who did not take part.
The producers said today that he declined because he has signed an exclusive deal for his memoirs.
Mr Cameron has repeatedly insisted he does not regret calling the referendum, although he admitted recently that he is sorry for the difficulties Mrs May is facing in implementing the result.
In his interview, Mr Tusk said: ‘I asked David Cameron, ‘Why did you decide on this referendum, this – it’s so dangerous, so, even, stupid, you know’.
‘He told me – and I was really amazed and even shocked – that the only reason was his own party. [He 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.
‘But then, surprisingly, he won and there was no coalition partner. So paradoxically David Cameron became the real victim of his own victory.’
Mr Tusk said when Mr Cameron then kicked off his bid to renegotiate the membership terms, he told him to ‘get real’, warning that there was no ‘appetite for revolution in Europe only because of your stupid referendum’.
Mr Tusk said that Mr Cameron was relying on having coalition partners after the 2015 election who would stop the crucial vote going ahead
Mr Cameron had been governing with the Lib Dems led by Nick Clegg (pictured) up until the 2015 general election
The EU council president added: ‘For the first time I saw something close to fear in his eyes. He finally realised what a challenge he was facing.’
Mr Tusk added that after the referendum he agreed with Mr Cameron’s decision to step down as PM, adding: ‘It was like his day of reckoning was coming, reckoning for his biggest mistake in his life.’
The series also talked to other key figures of the years leading up to the Brexit vote, including Nick Clegg, the UK’s then EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers, and Mr Cameron’s director of communications Craig Oliver.
There are also appearances from Brexiteers including Douglas Carswell, who quit the Tories to become Ukip’s first MP in 2014, and his fellow Eurosceptic, the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.
They give accounts from all sides of the Brexit battle in the first episode of the series, We Quit. The further two episodes will look at the Greek financial meltdown and the Syrian migrant crisis.
Craig Oliver, Mr Cameron’s ex spin doctor, said: ‘This is completely wrong.
‘David Cameron spent the whole of the 2015 election campaign making clear he would not lead any form of Government that didn’t have a referendum.
‘Look at almost any interview he did. The coalition as “excuse to bail” is a myth.’