- Urges successor to keep Britain close to EU
DAVID Cameron yesterday said being British Prime Minister has been the “greatest honour of my life”.
In his final words, Mr Cameron listed job creation, cutting the deficit and gay marriage among the key achievements of his premiership, saying the economy is “immeasurably stronger” than when he took office six years ago.
“It has not been an easy journey and of course we have not got every decision right, but I do believe that our country is “much stronger,” he said. Flanked by his family, he thanked his three children and his wife Samantha, who he described as the “love of my life,” who has “kept me vaguely sane.”
He concluded: “It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve our country as Prime Minister over these last six years, and to serve as leader of my party for almost eleven years. “And as we leave for the last time, my only wish is continued success for this great country that I love so very much.”
Accompanied by his wife and three children he then got in a car to Buckingham Palace where he offered his resignation to the Queen. Meanwhile, Cameron has urged his successor Theresa May to keep Britain close to the European Union, even as she embarks on the monumental task of ending four decades of membership.
Cameron is stepping down after Britons rejected his entreaties and voted to leave the EU in a referendum last month, severely undermining European efforts to forge greater unity and creating economic uncertainty across the 28-nation bloc.
“My advice to my successor, who is a brilliant negotiator, is that we should try to be as close to the European Union as we can be for the benefits of trade, cooperation and of security,” he told parliament in his last appearance before resigning. “The Channel will not get any wider once we leave the European Union, and that is the relationship we should seek.”
May, 59, must try to limit the damage to British trade and investment as she renegotiates the country’s ties with its 27 EU partners. She must also attempt to unite a divided ruling Conservative party and a fractured nation in which many, on the evidence of the vote, feel angry with the political elite and left behind by the forces of globalization.
Despite the serious backdrop, there was an atmosphere of hilarity in parliament as Cameron traded humorous jabs with beleaguered opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Other than one meeting this afternoon with Her Majesty the Queen, the diary for the rest of my day is remarkably light,” Cameron said to laughter in a packed House of Commons.
The 49-year-old presented his resignation to the queen at Buckingham Palace at around 1600 GMT. Then May paid her own visit to the monarch to be formally entrusted with the job, before entering 10 Downing Street to become Britain’s second woman prime minister after Margaret Thatcher.
Cameron said the government was working hard to ensure that an estimated 3 million EU citizens can stay in Britain, but this would depend on reciprocal rights for Britons in Europe.
He took the opportunity to trumpet his government’s achievements in generating one of the fastest growth rates among western economies, chopping the budget deficit, creating 2.5 million jobs and legalizing gay marriage.
Yet his legacy will be overshadowed by his failed referendum gamble, which he had hoped would keep Britain at the heart of a reformed EU.