With G7 on agenda, PM Cameron keeps away from media queries on Brexit

Travelling reporters are in Japan ostensibly to cover Prime Minister David Cameron’s talks with other G7 leaders. But they have other things on mind — mainly next month’s vote on whether Britain should ditch its membership of the European Union.
With the June 23 vote looming, British “hacks” who had paid thousands of pounds to watch Cameron’s every move in Japan and to try to quiz him and his team on “Brexit”, were frustrated to be swept off to a Japanese dance and music show miles from the summit venue.
Obsessed with one of the biggest events in modern British politics which was dominating the headlines at home, the disappointment of some in the press corps was palpable.
“We usually get decent access to both the prime minister and his team,” one senior political journalist at a national newspaper, who declined to be named, grumbled. “This time we’ve got neither, it’s a bit of a joke.”
The situation was compounded by the fact that Cameron’s media team, determined to concentrate on the official agenda of the Group of Seven talks, lacked his head of communications, who had been seconded to the “In” Europe campaign.
With his official spokesperson also not able to be with him due to a personal commitment, Cameron was accompanied by less experienced press aides so the timing of the summit was less than ideal for both the prime minister and the journalists.
Cameron, joined by close aides including Europe adviser Tom Scholar, sat in the front section of the plane for the private charter flight to Japan, separated by a curtain from the around 20 members of the national media accompanying him.
Towards the end of the 14-hour flight, Cameron came back to the press, setting out his aims for the summit before taking about 10 minutes of questions. In a sign of their jumpiness, Cameron’s team asked in advance what topics would be asked.
Blue jeans and small talk
Wearing a long-sleeved navy polo shirt, blue jeans and smart black shoes, and with his hands in his pockets, a seemingly relaxed Cameron greeted journalists and made small talk about whether people had managed to get much sleep.
As the media gathered round, Cameron complimented a reporter from the anti-EU Express newspaper. When someone asked if he was trying to get the paper to do a U-turn on Brexit, Cameron joked: “That is the sort of high ambition I have for this summit.”
Yet after the flight, during which four of the five non-G7 questions he was asked were EU-related and he was prompted by an aide to mention his concerns about making sure people registered to vote, Brexit hardly featured again until the end of the two-day summit.
Cameron’s media team seemed keen to avoid the subject and with the summit venue nearly an hour from the media centre, Cameron himself did not do his usual round of broadcast clips or interviews during the meeting.
Instead, they preferred to brief mainly on non-EU issues from tackling antimicrobial resistance to sending a warship to combat people- and arms-smuggling
off Libya.

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