Monday 23 September 2019

Theresa May: 'I will leave Number 10 with a mixture of pride and disappointment'

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for her weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons in London (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for her weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons in London (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Harriet Line

Theresa May has said she will leave Number 10 with a mixture of pride and disappointment, as she admitted underestimating the "entrenched positions" in Parliament over Brexit.

The Prime Minister conceded she could have talked to more colleagues to get her withdrawal deal through the Commons, and said if the future relationship had been negotiated alongside there would not have been the same issue with the Irish backstop.

In an interview with the BBC ahead of her departure from Downing Street in less than two weeks, Mrs May was asked how she thought she would feel when she walks out of the door of Number 10 as PM for the last time.

She said: "I think it'll be a mixture of pride at having done the job. But also a degree of disappointment because there was more that I wanted to do.

"I think we have achieved a lot over the last three years but whenever you come to the end of a premiership I think everybody will always feel that there is more that they wanted to do."

Mrs May, who has been plagued by the nickname Maybot throughout her premiership, also told the broadcaster she does not recognise herself in some of the descriptions people give of her.

"Nobody likes to have descriptions of them that they don't think are right but that's what happens in politics. It doesn't only happen to prime ministers.

"Throughout a political life you have to be prepared for the fact that people will portray you in ways that you might not agree with."

She said she had underestimated the unwillingness of some people in Parliament to compromise to deliver Brexit.

"On the one hand some people who'd always campaigned for Brexit but didn't vote for the deal because they had a particular vision of Brexit and they were sticking firmly to that vision.

"On the other side people who said they didn't want to leave with no deal but weren't prepared to vote for a deal in order to make sure that what they wanted happened.

"So I think that I underestimated the unwillingness of parts some people in Parliament to compromise."

Mrs May insisted she had negotiated a "good deal", but said: "One could always look back and say 'if I'd sat down and talked to people more often'."

And she said one of the issues with the negotiations was the sequencing, which meant the divorce was talked about before the future relationship.

Mrs May said there was a "general feeling" - including for some in Europe - that had the whole package been negotiated at the same time "we wouldn't have the same issue over the backstop".

"We'd have been looking at exactly what the future was as well as what the divorce was, what the break up was."

She also expressed her regret at "running a campaign that wasn't really me" in the run up to the 2017 general election but said she did not regret calling the poll.

On leaks from within Government, Mrs May said collective responsibility "needs to return" once Britain has left the EU.

The Prime Minister, who will stand down on July 24, said she would leave Number 10 with "happy memories" and praised her husband Philip's support.

"I will leave with happy memories. It's not - I felt at home here as Prime Minister but it's not obviously the home that Philip and I built up together.

"It is as I've said very much a place of work but there are happy memories because it is an immense privilege to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it's a huge honour it has a huge responsibility but I'm immensely proud to have been able to do it for three years."

Asked what she would miss, Mrs May said: "I won't miss being on call all the time.

"I will miss the opportunity to meet people who have contributed to this country in so many different ways, and who are often unsung and unheard, and so I'll miss the opportunity to be able to go sometimes and just say 'thank you' to people for what they're doing for this country.

"And you know, I hope that whoever people are, whether they voted for the Conservative Party or for other parties, whether they were Leavers or Remainers, whatever they felt, I hope that will feel that in everything I've done, I've always done what I believe to be in the national interest."

PA Media

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