My brawl over Brexit with Prime Minister, Theresa May

PUBLISHED: 11:47 07 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:31 08 December 2016

Theresa May

Theresa May

Archant

Louise Trethowan complained about Brexit to her local MP – Theresa May – and received an invitation to discuss the policy. But the subsequent encounter did not go quite as she expected

When I was granted my 15 minute meeting with my constituency MP – who also happens to be the Prime Minister – I doubt it raised any alarms at Tory HQ.

I am a middle-aged family woman and lifetime Conservative voter – I have no history of political activism or agitation. Although after our meeting, I suspect I may find myself on some kind of blacklist. What is for certain is that I will not be voting for Theresa May ever again.

Things all started when I sent an initial email to her constituency office, expressing my concerns about Brexit. I received a reply from her which said: “We’re going to bang the drum for Britain!”

Yes, it really did say that. I wrote back to say that I considered this a somewhat unsatisfactory response. It was then that she invited me to meet her at her constituency surgery for a quarter of an hour, face-to-face meeting, during her constituency surgery. This is where it all kicked off.

But first, let me tell you why I am so worried about Brexit.

I work in social care but I also own a small bistro on the south coast. The success of my business relies on people having a little bit of extra money to spend on a night out – I fear that Brexit will spark a recession. And it will be completely of our own doing.

I also think it is very sad that our children and the generations to follow them will not have the freedom to live and work inside the EU. I moved to Britain 18 years ago from Australia and it was so cosmopolitan and progressive. Now I fear it is becoming insular.

Mostly though it is the feeling of xenophobia that hangs over Brexit and I think people – especially the Prime Minister – need to do more to tackle that.

Before our meeting, I did my research and gathered as much evidence as I could. After all, I was to have 15 minutes with the most powerful woman in Britain. For me, it was an excellent opportunity to put all my fears – and the concerns of the 48% – to the woman who will lead us towards the Brexit cliff edge. I expected a strong debate. I thought I might get some answers, some clues as to what might happen next. I didn’t think she would be able to make me change my mind – as you can tell, I am pretty passionate on this subject. But I did expect her to try, and I did expect her to present some strong arguments that would counter my own.

I was shown into a room at her Maidenhead constituency office where she was already seated behind a small table. She did not smile or say “hello” - it felt like she was holding court. We did not even shake hands and the whole thing was a bit awkward.

I thanked her for seeing me and then asked if she had seen my email or whether she would like me to make my points again. She said she would like to hear what I had to say.

To make a point about how narrow the referendum question was I produced a copy of the ballot paper. “Where on here does it say we were voting to reduce the number of EU citizens in the UK?” I asked.

“Well it doesn’t,” she replied. “But the government has reports that the level of immigration is a concern.” I asked for proof which she couldn’t provide.

I swiftly moved on producing an info-graphic showing that EU workers added more to the economy than they cost. She didn’t like this and I could feel her start to get agitated. The mood changed quite quickly – there was an added aggression.

She emphasised, not just strongly but crossly, that “the British people have voted for Brexit and the government is committed to making it happen”. Then she started pointing at my face across the narrow desk.

I moved backwards slightly and to be honest, I was shocked. I had set out to tackle the Prime Minister but I hadn’t expected she would lose her temper and jab her finger at me.

Although taken aback I calmly asked her to stop pointing at my face because I considered it rude. I didn’t feel threatened. I was just astonished that she got so rattled, so quickly. She was very defensive.

She then told me “people point at me all the time,” which is hardly an excuse. I asked her again to stop and after that she put her hands beneath the desk – maybe to stop her from pointing again.

I was determined to carry on asking my questions and pressing her for answers so I showed her a pie chart with voting numbers showing that only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit, which was not the majority of British people. She didn’t really have an answer for that in my opinion. She simply began to spout agreed media soundbites which say very little.

At one point I said “you’re not listening to me” and she replied: “I am listening, but I am just not saying what you want to hear.” It wasn’t long before she was looking over my shoulder and hoping for the next person I think.

We did then speak about my personal concerns around the vote to leave the EU. I emphasised my concerns about the increased costs of food and wine for my bistro following the fall in the value of the pound. She started talking about exports, but I replied that I couldn’t export our steak and frites. I needed assurances from the Prime Minister, “we will ensure a strong economy” was all she could say.

She did offer me some more spin though: “We’re going to get the best deal.” I replied: “That’s a hope, not an action.”

I gave the analogy that the Brexit “best deal” rhetoric was like me saying I want the “best holiday” without knowing where I was going, how much it would cost, how I’d get there or where I’d stay. Guess what? She replied that the government would not give details of their negotiations.

I reminded her that Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, said there would be either “hard Brexit or no Brexit” and I was inclined to agree. Mrs May’s response: “I am sure I have more experience in negotiating in Europe than you do!” Mine: “I don’t think arrogance is helpful.”

By this point I knew we’d probably never be friends. I asked her that given Maidenhead had voted overwhelmingly for Remain, would she vote against Brexit should she lose in the Supreme Court case? She replied that she was a representative and not a “delegate” and was not obliged to be the voice of her constituents.

I told her the people of Maidenhead may find this interesting in the next election. She said anyone who didn’t understand this didn’t understand the role of an MP. I said I thought there were many who didn’t understand this.

Time was up. I finished by telling her there was a huge groundswell of opposition to Brexit. But I don’t think she’s listening.

The meeting did not leave me feeling any better about the process – in fact I am far more concerned now. If the Prime Minister is so easily angered how on earth is she going to be the best negotiator for Brexit? I fear she will lose her temper and start jabbing her finger at people.

She seemed petulant, defensive, tired and rattled.

One positive to come out of it all, though, has been the reaction to it. I first wrote a shorter account of my meeting on the Right2Remain website where it caused a bit of a storm. Since appearing there, it has been seen by more than 175,000 people, shared thousands of times and liked or retweeted thousands more.

Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor to Tony Blair, wrote on Twitter: “This is absolutely brilliant. If only our MPs could do as good a job as this at taking on the non Brexit strategy.” And, later: “There is a month of PMQs in here”.

Of course, there has been some criticism. Some say that MPs’ surgeries should be for constituency matters, not politics. But I would argue that there is no greater issue threatening our constituency – and every other. Mrs May’s former colleague, the ex-Tory MP Louise Mensch got involved, writing an online article in support of the Prime Minister and attacking me – or “Random Australian punter”, as I was called. Ms Mensch dissected every line of my piece and added her own rebukes.

But I think she missed the point. It is the Prime Minister whose views need dissecting, not mine. That is what my encounter was all about: finding out what she has to say about Brexit. I was able to put questions to her in a way that no journalist or opposition politicians have managed to do.

What is so frustrating is that she has so little to say in response.

This story orignally appeared on Reasons2Remain. Follow them on Facebook here.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest articles

Blow for Hard Brexit as Cabinet ‘unites’ behind transition deal

The Cabinet is “united” in backing a transitional Brexit deal which would mean continued access to migrant labour, Michael Gove has said.

What Euratom really stands for

The Euratom row lays bare the innate flaws of Brexit. But it also gives pro-Europeans their biggest chance yet to regain the initiative

How did Brexit Britain lose the spirit of the 2012 Olympics?

How did Brexit Britain lose the spirit of the 2012 Olympics?

Brexit could force UK to set up new healthcare scheme for tourists

Brussels is holding out on the government’s hopes of continuing membership of the European health insurance scheme post-Brexit.

Fox says UK does not need trade deal with Europe after Brexit

Brexiteer cabinet minister Liam Fox has reiterated the government’s widely ridiculed negotiating tactic of “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

UK and EU clash over ‘fundamental’ differences on citizens’ rights and divorce bill

The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator has demanded the government clarifies its position on citizens’ rights and stumps up a Brexit divorce bill.

Britain’s creative brilliance has taken decades to build... it could be destroyed in months

It is no accident that Britain’s creative sector has grown as borders have become more open. Now, decades of progress are in peril, says one of the world’s leading architects

We can learn from the British motor industry: Our economy needs capital and talent not slogans

The British economy can succeed. But it needs less wishful thinking and a more hard-headed assessment of the facts

Juventus is Europe’s most colourful football club

The club in Turin is a football club quite unlike any other - an institution which combines excellence and ugliness

How climate change is forcing native American culture to change

Just because Donald Trump doesn’t care about it, doesn’t mean climate change isn’t already having an impact in the US.

The Honours system is so corrupt it would be an embarrassment in Zimbabwe

The idea that the British establishment is predicated on civilised values of ‘fairness’, ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ is beginning to unravel.

Somali pirates are back - history shows how we can stop them

The fight against the menace of modern day piracy must start on the land, not the sea

Translating for the enemy: Tempting financial services out of post-Brexit UK

For some in Europe Brexit offers an opportunity to prize business away from London and the UK.

London hit by Brexit ‘wobble’ as fewer Europeans come to work in capital

London’s economy is “wobbling” due to the aftershock of the Britain’s decision to back Brexit, according to a new report.

Online ‘echo-chambers’ are an effect of hate, not a cause

Legacy publishers such as the Mail and the Sun are condemning the environment they create

Oh shit... we’re blowing Brexit

Things are now so grim in Brexit Britain - there is no hero riding to the rescue – but it’s not too late to rethink

Remember this moment from Orwell’s 1984 and don’t let the Tories rewrite history

Really Theresa May? Consensus? With the “saboteurs”, the “enemies of the people”?

BBC and Channel 4’s obsession with so-called ‘impartiality’ is stifling true debate

Forget the social media whirlwinds around media bias, impartiality is overrated

‘EU leaders are willing to consider freedom of movement changes to stop Brexit’

It’s becoming clear what the British people want from Brexit. But they are not being given the option, says former PM Tony Blair

Brexit pathology: Leave’s latest lie shows the trouble they are in

A new Big Lie is currently entering the Big Lie lexicon. It is that 51.9% having voted Leave last June 23 – National Self-Harm Day – the number has now risen to over 80%.

Watch us on YouTube

The rollercoaster ride of Theresa May's plummeting approval ratings

Views: 242

A year of failure and fiasco in May’s Number 10

Views: 200

Tory minister Steve Baker demands the EU is to be ‘torn down’

Views: 400

Podcast

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter