Theresa May’s Brexit deal statement: what she said – and what she really meant

John Rentoul

What Theresa May said: ​The cabinet has just had a long, detailed and impassioned debate on the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration.

And what she really meant: You know those meetings that have already gone on too long and someone says, “Can I just ask a question?” and everyone screams in their heads? One of those.

What she said: These documents were the result of thousands of hours of hard negotiations by UK officials and many, many meetings which I and other ministers held with our EU counterparts.

What she meant: It wasn’t exactly blood, sweat, toil and tears but not far off, and I get no credit for it.

What she said: I firmly believe that the draft withdrawal agreement was the best that could be negotiated and it was for the cabinet to decide whether to move on in the talks.

What she meant: I know it is a really bad deal, but it was the best I could do in difficult circumstances. All very well clever-clogs Brexiteers sitting there saying they wouldn’t have done it like that, so I had to go round the table and force them to say out loud that it was the best possible deal thank you prime minister.

What she said: The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop, but the collective decision of the cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration.

What she meant: They think it’s a really, really bad deal.

What she said: This is a decisive step that enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead.

What she meant: I won.

What she said: These decisions were not taken lightly but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest.

What she meant: Some cabinet ministers’ contributions were heavy going, but it’s a small price to pay.

What she said: When you strip away the detail, the choice before us is clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our Union – or leave with no deal or no Brexit at all.

What she meant: Never mind details such as the UK being trapped in vassal-state status in perpetuity, the only thing that matters is being able to say we are out of the EU.

What she said: I know that there will be difficult days ahead.

What she meant: Sir Graham Brady has 47 letters calling for my head.

What she said: This is a decision which will come under intense scrutiny.

What she meant: People will complain about it a lot.

What she said: And that is entirely as it should be and entirely understandable.

What she meant: That is entirely unfair and unreasonable. They ought to realise how much work I have done on this and be grateful.

What she said: But the choice was this deal, which enables us to take back control and to build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one with more division and uncertainty and a failure to deliver on the referendum.

What she meant: My message to MPs: sunlit uplands or fiery furnace of all the circles of hell – it’s entirely up to you.

What she said: It is my job as prime minister to explain the decision the government has taken, and I stand ready to do that, beginning tomorrow with a statement in parliament.

What she meant: I shall go on about Brexit until people lose interest and talk about something else.

What she said: If I may end by just saying this. I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decisions that are in the national interest.

What she meant: And to remain in post as prime minister for as long as possible.

What she said: And I firmly believe, with my head and my heart, that this is a decision that is in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom.

What she meant: Everyone said I couldn’t do it, so take that, losers.