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Italian PM says David Cameron was wrong to hold EU referendum

Jake Cordell
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Prime Minister David Cameron Welcomes Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi To Downing Street
Matteo Renzi and David Cameron, in happier times (Source: Getty)

The Italian Prime Minister has blamed David Cameron for losing the EU referendum this morning, but called on the EU and the UK to remain "best friends" after Britain formally leaves the bloc.

Matteo Renzi also told the BBC he expects exit negotiations between the two sides to be a "very difficult process" which must be started sooner rather than later in order to minimise uncertainty.

"My first reaction was shock," the reform-minded Renzi stated. "The decision of the British people is a bad decision in my mind. The mood [across Europe] is a sad mood.

"But now the situation is that we can - and we have to - build the best alliance between the UK and the EU for the future, because we will be the best friends for the next years."

Read more: 12 charts on the first three months of Brexit

However, Renzi said the UK should not expect special treatment and would not be able to secure preferential access to the Single Market on conditions which were better than those offered to the other EU members.

The Italian Prime Minister, who faces his own crunch referendum on constitutional reform in December, which could define his political career, said David Cameron made a fundamental error of judgment in proposing to hold the referendum.

"When David Cameron decided to use a referendum to solve some internal problems of the Conservative Party, this was the problem. We cannot use foreign affairs to solve internal problems."

Renzi also insisted he "tried" to give the UK a better deal in the negotiations which took place ahead of the referendum, adding Brexit was top of the agenda for nearly every meeting between European leaders since the beginning of 2015.

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