George Osborne has admitted government mistakes led to Brexit, saying they were wrong to “play into the debate that everything that Brussels did was a challenge and a battle and was wrong”.
Talking to the BBC’s Newsnight the former Chancellor said he has a series of “regrets” about his time in office, saying Remain supporters had explained the benefits of EU membership “too late”.
He said the Tories had got things wrong on immigration policy which “opened up the door in the referendum”, adding that the debate over immigration had proved “pretty lethal” to the result of the June 2016 referendum.
Osborne, who now edits the London Evening Standard, said the government had been promising targets on immigration “that we couldn’t deliver and that then led to a debate about how you might deliver those targets… we definitely contributed to that argument, didn’t make enough of the value of immigration”.
Ha added that his other regrets included not focusing on fixing the banking system more quickly after the financial crash, saying: “Overall, faced with the gigantic financial crash and a set of difficult decisions in a hung parliament I think David Cameron, myself, Nick Clegg and others worked hard in what we felt to be the national interest to put things right in as fair a way as possible.
“Ultimately the country grew, jobs were created and we avoided the calamitous situation that a lot of European countries found themselves in this period.”
Osborne stopped short at admitting that his austerity policies had encouraged people to vote for Brexit, but was quick to criticise the current administration for losing ground to the Labour party.
He said that the Conservatives lost their majority in 2017 by trying to “out-Ukip Ukip” and were not going to win the next election “by trying to out-Corbyn Corbyn”.
“Trying to bang the nationalist drum doesn’t actually work for modern conservativism and trying to outspend our political opponents isn’t going to help the Conservatives either,” he said.