Theresa May has spoken of her frustration over not being able to see Brexit through and underestimating how “entrenched” the country’s MPs had become on the issue of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) in her final television interview as British Prime Minister.
May, who is currently serving as caretaker Prime Minister during the course of a leadership contest between UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, was forced to announce her resignation amid mounting rebellion within her own Cabinet over Brexit at the end of May.
“It had been incredibly frustrating that MPs on either side of the Leave-Remain divide had got so sort of entrenched that they just were not willing to make that compromise that would enable us to get the majority to get this through,” May said in a BBC interview in 10 Downing Street on Friday.
“I sacrificed my job in order to try to get a deal. I sat down and tried to get a compromise with [Opposition Leader] Jeremy Corbyn to try to get a deal that would get through Parliament,” she said.
Asked if she took responsibility for the failure to get a Brexit deal through, May said: “No. What people say to me is – on the one hand that I stuck too firmly to my red lines, and on the other hand people say I gave up too much, I compromised too much. Both of these cannot be true.
“But everybody in Parliament had a responsibility in how they voted on this issue.”
The outgoing PM, who will be exiting Downing Street to make way for Hunt or Johnson by July 23, said she felt a “mixture of pride and disappointment” and that despite having to go earlier than she wanted, she had been the “right person” for the job and was “immensely proud” of what she had accomplished.
“One could always look back and say, ‘If I’d sat down and talked to people more often’,” she said, in reference to any regrets.
The 62-year-old senior Conservative Party MP, who took charge as Prime Minister in the wake of David Cameron’s resignation after the vote in favour of Brexit in June 2016, admitted she had wrongly assumed MPs would be “eager to get Brexit over the line”.
“I actually think there’s quite a difference between Parliament and the public. I think the public have got a very simple view. A decision was taken – just get on with it – and they are not in that same polarised way that Parliament has been about this issue,” she said.
May did not reveal whether she backs Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson as her replacement, saying only that “they understand the responsibility that this job brings”.
While wishing her successor well, she said she would continue to argue that leaving the EU “with a good deal” remains vital, in a clear warning against a chaotic no-deal crash out.
And she called for a more discipline in government after years of leaks and political disagreements inside her Cabinet: “Good government depends on collective responsibility. It needs to return.”