David Cameron has courted backlash from Brexit-backing Conservative party MPs after he suggested the UK should have closer ties with the EU.
The newly minted lord and Foreign Secretary appeared determined to work with the bloc in a new interview, where he determined it could become a “friend, a neighbour and partner”.
He called for closer cooperation following years of fraught relations with Brussels while framing the UK as a “leading European power” in the war against Ukraine.
But, while his comments will likely have been warmly received over the English Channel, leading Conservatives are less than pleased.
They have warned him not to “reignite” the debate around the Brexit vote after he led the Remain camp in 2016.
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Speaking to the BBC in his first interview following his return to the political fray, Mr Cameron said the UK should act as a “friend, a neighbour and the best possible partner”.
He said: “When you look at the engagement in Ukraine, that probably is the best example of how it’s worked.
“There’s no doubt that Britain is the leading European power in helping Ukraine. I heard that over and over again from the president downwards.
“But we’re doing that in partnership with our European colleagues. So I think we can make ‘friend, neighbour and partner’ work, and I’m determined to do so.”
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Three arch-Brexiteers have spoken out against the ex-PM’s comments in the wake of his interview.
Andrea Jenkyns, who was recently made a Dame by Boris Johnson and became the first MP to submit a letter of no-confidence in Rishi Sunak, complained about his “rhetoric”.
She said “rhetoric like this” would not earn the Conservatives a majority in the next election and called on the Government to “deliver policies which speak to these new Conservative voters from the 2019 election”.
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Michael Fabricant, another MP given a knighthood by Mr Johnson, said the comments reflect poorly on Lord Cameron.
He said they “reinforced” concerns from voters who believe he hasn’t moved on from the results of the 2016 referendum.
And Richard Drax, the long-serving MP for South Dorset, said the UK is “doing very well” following its exit from the EU, and added: “I hope that Lord Cameron’s comments are not in any way reigniting the Brexit debate, because that would be entirely wrong.”
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