Former home secretary Amber Rudd has claimed that some Brexiteers, after “a drink or two”, will admit that the decision to leave the EU has been a “disaster”.
Ms Rudd, who stood down as an MP in 2019 amid internal Tory Party clashes over the handling of Brexit, also said she could not be in politics any longer because “you have to be able to say Brexit is a success to be a spokesperson for the Conservative Party”.
In an interview with the Desperately Seeking Wisdom podcast, hosted by former Downing Street communications chief Sir Craig Oliver, Ms Rudd reflected on her career in politics and her decision to quit Parliament.
She told the podcast that some former backers of Brexit now believe it has been a “disaster”.
She said that in a “quiet moment – perhaps they’ve had a drink or two – they will admit it’s been a disaster”.
“‘But of course it wasn’t the Brexit I wanted’. So they still feel legitimate to campaign and vote for Brexit. ‘But this Brexit is not the one I wanted’.”
“This Brexit is not the one I wanted”
The former senior Conservative, who was also work and pensions secretary until she dramatically quit Boris Johnson’s cabinet in 2019, said she feels “abandoned by the party as far as those of us who can see the truth about Brexit is concerned”.
“One of the reasons I’m not in politics, and a lot of my former colleagues aren’t in politics anymore, is because we can’t get up and say Brexit is a success. You have to be able to say Brexit is a success to be a spokesperson for the Conservative Party.”
The MP, who campaigned to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, also reflected on her jibe at Mr Johnson in one of the TV debates leading up to the vote when she told viewers: “He’s the life and soul of the party, but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening.”
She also revealed that the remark, which she had planned to deploy during the debate, led to the then-foreign secretary to offer her a lift home one day.
“When I did deliver it, I could hear a sharp intake of breath from the audience, who obviously thought I’d gone too far.
“But I think it landed for good reason. It was of course a metaphor for Boris not being the person I wanted to lead us into a referendum that was going to lead us out of the EU.
“I really don’t think it did hurt Boris because, if it had, he perhaps wouldn’t have put me in his cabinet. We wouldn’t have had a good working relationship when he was foreign secretary and I was home secretary. Or maybe he covered it up.
“But there was a time when we met, the two of us. I was home secretary, he was foreign secretary, we had our meeting. There were a lot of cars outside, because we were both protected people. And we came out and he said ‘Come on, Amber, I’m going to give you a lift home’.
“I have not changed my mind”
“And I said ‘No, I’m sorry, I have not changed my mind, Boris’.
“And all the protection officers were just in a row, howling with laughter – he’d obviously told them he was going say this. ‘Come on, get into my car’, hamming it up. It’s very funny.”
Ms Rudd, who resigned as home secretary as the Windrush scandal unfolded in 2018, called it “an egregious sin that the UK Government had committed against quite a big cohort of people”.
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