In the latest episode of the Talking Politics podcast, David Runciman and Helen Thompson take a step back to unpick the tortuous history of how we got to the Brexit referendum in the first place. Does the justification that David Cameron offers in his memoirs stack up? What was he trying to achieve? And why did we end up with an in/out vote when the political risks were so great? A conversation linked to Runciman’s review of Cameron’s book in the 40th anniversary issue of the LRB.

‘The mistake that ensues from having to conduct the negotiations in the way Cameron did – and getting relatively little out of it – is that he just gives a perfect demonstration of British weakness, British political weakness, in the European Union. So, the actual act of renegotiation, the outcome, is actually fuel for the Leave campaign because it says: “here is a problem with Britain’s membership of the European Union in microcosm.”

The thing for which he is personally culpable, in some sense really profoundly, is that he knew there was a real possibility that Leave would win. And indeed in some sense he knew it because he half-believed it necessary himself. There is a Leaver struggling to get out of David Cameron.’ – Helen Thompson

Related pieces in the LRB:

David Runciman on Cameron’s memoirs (October 2019)

Susan Watkins on the European impasse (August 2013)

Richard Mayne: Seven Euro-Heresies (March 1992)