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The Cable

Come, Chaps, Let’s Imagine the Cheeky Chat Between Theresa May and the Queen

Amid reports that the Queen was frustrated by May's refusal to tell her what Brexit means, we imagine how their meeting really went.


Reports emerged on Friday that British Prime Minister Theresa May disappointed Queen Elizabeth II when the two met at Scotland’s Balmoral Castle in September. Why? Did she fail to curtsy? Did she mispronounce “ma’am”?

No. It would seem the cause of the Queen’s displeasure and frustration came from May’s refusal to say anything beyond “Brexit means Brexit” — that is, to tell the Queen how, exactly, she would negotiate her country’s departure from the European Union.

The original Times story emerged at roughly the same time as a report that May’s “iron grip” is isolating her from her colleagues. And so, rather to add to the pile on, let us imagine the exchange between the Queen and Prime Minister.

Queen Elizabeth II: Welcome, Madam Prime Minister. So nice to finally spend some time with you.

Theresa May: Is it, ma’am?

QEII: No, of course not, dear. What an impossible situation that David got us into. Still, we’re better off than that pig.

May: Well, Brexit does mean, at least in theory, the restoration of full sovereignty of the Queen — that’s you — in parliament.

QEII: And what else might Brexit mean?

May: Oh, I couldn’t say.


May: No, ma’am. Well. I should say that Brexit means Brexit.

QEII: Yes, yes. But what does that mean. Come, now. We’re in a Scottish castle, and I’ve been the queen since 1952. Surely, if there’s one you can tell how you intend to Brexit, it is I?

May: What could you possibly need to know beyond “Brexit means Brexit”?

QEII: Theresa. I have seen prime ministers come and go. My face is on the money. They have made a prestige Netflix series about me. Now, tell — how do you intend to negotiate the departure of Britain from the European Union?

May: Sips tea.

QEII: You’re stalling, Theresa.

May, forcefully putting down tea cup: Bloody right, I’m stalling! You think I have any idea how to negotiate Brexit? You think this is how I wanted to be prime minister, putting in place poorly thought out plans of my overly-confident predecessor? Fighting my own parliament in the courts? Listening to that awful German tell me what to do? No one knows what Brexit means! The people who voted for Brexit don’t know what it means! And I wasn’t one of them! (Hangs head, begins to cry)

QEII: Oh, my. What a very American outburst. Here. (Rings for a gin and tonic. May guzzles it eagerly.)

May: You won’t tell anyone will you?

QEII: My girl, I haven’t told anyone anything since Maggie’s days.

May: Not even Prince Harry?

QEII: He makes a mean viral video, that’s true. But no. Not even Harry.

May: So what will you say?

QEII: Nothing. I’ll just tell the officials most likely to talk to the Times how disappointed I was that you kept mum.

May, sniffling: Thank you, ma’am.

QEII: Of course. And happy Christmas.

May: But it’s September?

QEII: Not when word of this finally gets out, it won’t be.

May: Right, then.

Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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