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George Osborne ‘regrets’ mistakes that led to Brexit vote

Media captionGeorge Osborne: We did get things wrong

Former Chancellor George Osborne has admitted having a series of “regrets” about his time in office – saying government “mistakes” led to Brexit.

He said the Tories had got things “wrong” on immigration policy which “opened up the door in the referendum”.

He told the BBC’s Newsnight that Remain supporters had explained the benefits of EU membership “too late”.

But Mr Osborne, who served between 2010 and 2016 under David Cameron, said he had worked in the national interest.

Interviewed on Evan Davis’s last Newsnight as presenter, Mr Osborne said: “We were wrong to play into the debate that everything that Brussels did was a challenge and a battle and was wrong.”

He added the debate over immigration had proved “pretty lethal” to the result of the June 2016 referendum.

Mr Osborne 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”.

‘Done such harm’

Mr Osborne, who is now the editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper, said his other regrets included not focusing on fixing the banking system more quickly after the financial crash.

“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,” he said.

“Ultimately the country grew, jobs were created and we avoided the calamitous situation that a lot of European countries found themselves in this period.”

Mr Osborne denied his austerity policies had encouraged people to vote for Brexit.

But he came under attack on the programme from Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, who told him he had “done such harm and damage to this country”.

Media captionNewsnight: The pair were part of a discussion on Evan Davis’s last programme as presenter

Mr Osborne was also asked if he had any regrets over comments, attributed to him, that he would not rest until Prime Minister Theresa May was “chopped up in bags in my freezer”.

“I certainly have said things in private which you know, I probably shouldn’t have, and actually, apologised for it,” he said.

“But I worked very hard all my life to make the Conservative Party electable, and it’s painful to me to see it losing support in large areas of the country where it shouldn’t be losing that support, particularly against, actually, a Labour opposition which I don’t think is in a fit state at the moment.”

But Mr Osborne warned Theresa May not to attempt to copy the policies of Jeremy Corbyn’s 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 told Newsnight.

George Osborne ‘regrets’ mistakes that led to Brexit vote}

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