Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron: Inside the meeting to save Brexit

When Theresa May cut short her holiday to visit Emmanuel Macron in the south of France, she took The Independent along for the ride

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Friday 03 August 2018 13:55
Brexit: Michel Barnier rules out Theresa May's Chequers customs plan

Brexit is in crisis. Theresa May has cut short her 22nd consecutive summer walking holiday in the Swiss Alps to visit President Emmanuel Macron at his summer residence, Fort de Brégançon, a grand chateau on its own private peninsula off the French Riviera.

Without President Macron’s personal help, Britain risks exiting the EU without a deal. So will Monsieur Macron come to Madame May’s rescue?

In unprecedented and unlikely scenes, The Independent was given full access to the meeting. We report the transcript here.*

Emmanuel Macron: Madame Prime Minister, Madame May, welcome et bienvenue. Ca va?

Theresa May: Merci Monsieur President. Ca va bien, et vous?

EM: Moi? Je suis tres bien. Je suis tres tres bien. Il fait du soleil, j’habite dans un château! Un château! And as I believe they sing en Angleterre, Football va chez moi! C’est va chez moi! C’est va chez moi! C’est va chez!

TM: Football goes to your house Monsieur President?

EM: No Mrs May. Not to my house, to my home! To France! Ze World Cup! Le Coupe du monde! Football’s coming home! It’s coming home! It’s coming!

TM: Would that not be, “Le football revient à la maison,” Monsieur President?

EM: Oui oui, tres bien. You are quite correct. But le football revient à la maison, it does not scan so well with the original lyrics of Monsieur Baddiel et Monsieur Skinner. You know the song, Three Lions On A Shirt! Jules Rimet Still Gleaming? Except you are ze three lions, and I am just one coq.

TM: It’s certainly been said Monsieur President. Anyway, between you and me, I don’t care so much for football. I like cricket.

EM: I don’t like cricket.

TM: You don’t like cricket?

EM: I love it!

TM: Monsieur Macron. First you said you don’t like cricket, and now you are saying you love it?

EM: Pardon, Madame May, je suis désolé. It was just, you know, a little joke. You know, like, the reggae song?

TM: I don’t like reggae.

EM: You love it!

TM: No Monsieur Macron, I’ve just told you-

EM: Oh, pardon. I thought you were doing a joke.

TM: Monsieur Macron. If you must know I like Elgar and Gregorian chanting. I set all this out in my Desert Island Discs speech in 2014 and my position has not changed.

EM: What are you talking about?

TM: I am sorry Monsieur Macron, I am not a great one for small talk. I had lunch with a journalist once and then he wrote that, “By the end even the cutlery was glancing at the door.” But that is not why I am here. We must discuss Brexit. The situation is so severe that I have cut short my walking holiday.

EM: You have cut short your holiday?

TM: Yes, I was on a walking holiday with my husband Philip. But don’t worry I won’t be calling an election!

EM: Why would you call an election just because you have been on a walking holiday?

TM: It’s, err, just a little joke of my own actually. Last time I went on a walking holiday you see, I called an election and lost my majority.

EM: I don’t get it.

TM: Oh. That’s a pity. That’s my only joke. Unless you have a cough sweet to hand?

EM: So, err….to Brexit. Brexit. Brexit, I think, it is a little like football. Ze English they chant and shout about it. They say it will be great. Ze Scottish, they really don’t want the English to have it. And then, in ze end, it doesn’t go to your house, it goes to mine. I win it, not you. This is why you are here. Brexit va chez moi! C’est va chez moi! C’est va chez moi!

TM: Monsieur President, we have a problem. And not just me, both of us.

EM: What was ze phrase? Take back control? And you ‘av taken back ze control and yet ere you are, in ze middle of your olidays, ze middle of mine, turning up in my chateau on ze French Riviera, desperate for ‘elp. If it were not so serieuse, it would be tres amusant.

TM: As you know, the problem is with the border in Northern Ireland.

EM: Oui, c’est vrais. “Take back control. Of our money, our laws and our borders,” this is what Mr Johnson says, and then, all of a sudden, ze one place where we ‘av to ‘av a border, you say we cannot have one.

TM: Well Mr Johnson is no longer in the government.

EM: You know, President Trump, he tells me, zis word, Johnson, it actually means penis. A Johnson is a penis, littéralement.

TM: Well, maybe in America but-

EM: Oh not just in America. Everywhere. In Germany, in Poland, in Kenya, in Libya, Iran, Afghanistan. Everywhere you go in the whole world they say Johnson is penis.

TM: Monsieur Macron, as you know there are just a few weeks of negotiating time left. If we cannot reach an agreement then both sides will lose out.

EM: Oui, oui c’est vrais. It is most strange. I don’t understand. Everything was supposed to be just fine. Ze Germans will sell you their cars. Ze Italians will sell you their prosecco, somebody ‘as to drink it I suppose. That was what Monsieur Davis said. Ah Monsieur Davis, le grand fromage. What happened to him? Does he still, as we say in France, pète plus haut que son cul?

TM: Monsieur Macron, unless you can persuade Monsieur Barnier to say yes to my plan, there will be no deal. That means queues at Dover, queues at Calais.

EM: Madame May, Madame May. What was it you said? You said, “Brexit means Brexit and we will make a success of it,” and now you turn up here because you ‘av not made a success of it, you ‘av made a mess of it. Me, I do not know what Brexit means. It is not va va voom. It is not je ne sais quoi. Mais, je suis désolé, I cannot ‘elp you make a success of it. Whatever Brexit means, I know this, I don’t like it.

TM: Ah I get it.

EM: Get what?

TM: You love it!

EM: Au revoir, Madame May.

TM: Cheerio.

EM: Non, au revoir.

*This is not a real transcript of the meeting. The Independent was not given any access at all

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