If you voted for Brexit, your optimism might be wavering right now. I can propose just the remedy: David Cameron’s memoir. It is, unintentionally, the most convincing case for Brexit that you will ever read.
For The Record was written as political tragedy, a 700-page apology to the nation for the former prime minister’s role in what he regards as a calamity.
But it’s also a candid account of how he pursued an idea – that the EU can be reformed – and tested it to (his) destruction. We see him making allies, drafting strategies, threatening and begging – but his story ends in failure. He expected diplomacy, but encountered a bureaucratic Death Star whose hunger for power is matched only by its intransigence. From the former Remainer-in-Chief, it’s quite a story.
Cameron started out a Eurosceptic, but one who thought that the irritations of the EU were a price worth paying for the general aims of solidarity and free trade. In opposition, he mocked politicians who “bang on about Europe” but in No 10 he soon found out why they did.
Once inside its inner circle, he was exposed to the horrors. The directives, the stitch-ups, the knives always out for the City of London. He found Silvio Berlusconi advising a table of EU leaders to take a mistress in Brussels, because it was the only way to survive the late-night summits. The purpose of these meetings, he discovered, was to grind everyone into submission. Including, eventually, him.
He found the EU to be “peacenik” on security, unable to respond to threats on its doorstep. He vetoed one of the eurozone bailout packages that threatened to suck in Britain, only to see the rules changed so the UK veto would not count. When the UK tried to go its own way, it “wasn’t simply a disagreement with the others, it was a heresy against the scripture”. He thought Angela Merkel nice, but unreliable. He refers to the “half-life of a Merkel promise”: the time taken between her making one and breaking it. In general, he found “Germany’s unfailing ability to get what it wants in the end.”