UPDATE: PM fails to show at Maidenhead Brexit public meeting with Femi Oluwole and Green MEP [Theresa May's office replies]
Theresa May chose not to answer questions from her constituents in Maidenhead on Thursday night [1 Novemeber] at a 'Brexit: Listening' meeting at St Piran's school.
The Maidenhead MP was invited to attend the meeting by Green MEP Keith Taylor who spoke alongside Femi Oluwole from the campaign group Our Future Our Choice. The event was the penultimate in week-long series of events hosted by the senior Green politician.
In the Prime Minister's absence, the lively public meeting discussed the issues surrounding Brexit and the impacts it will have on the town and the region. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead voted 53.9% to 46.1% to Remain on June 23, 2016.
Mr Taylor gave an update on his perspective as a member of the European Parliament on the stalled Brexit negotiations while Femi was on hand to talk about the need to heal the divisions caused by the referendum and ongoing debate.
Femi, who is campaigning for a Peoples' Vote, talked about the need to empathise and understand why people on both sides of the debate voted the way they did and find a common language to detoxify the discussion around the process.
During the meeting, Femi commented:
"We've forgotten that the reason this debate is so passionate is because both sides deeply care about the future of the country."
Mr Taylor had promised the event would be an 'open forum in which Leave and Remain voters-alike could discuss their concerns about the way the government is handling Brexit'. He said:
"The aim of the meeting, for me, was to listen. Too often politicians are quick to lecture rather than listen to the people they claim to represent. That is why I was keen to make sure the meeting was open and welcoming to everyone whether they voted Leave or Remain. I was very delighted with the turnout and by the thoughtful questions raised."
The residents packed into the St. Piran's school cafeteria raised questions about the representation of migration and EU citizens during the debate, sought clarifications on the legal and practical questions about the possibility of a Peoples' Vote, which both Femi and Mr Taylor support, flagged concerns about the lack of political leadership in both Britain and in the continuing pro-EU movement and expressed feelings of disempowerment.
Some residents also expressed frustration that they had never received 'any straight answers' from Theresa May either as their MP or as the Prime Minister. Keith Taylor offered to collect their questions and send them directly to PM and share publicly any response.
Keith's letter to Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
Before the event closed, a straw poll of attendees was taken on the question of support for a Peoples' Vote. The results were almost unanimous; all but one person raised their hand in support of a vote on the final terms of any Brexit deal.
After the event, Mr Taylor said:
"If there was one takeaway message from Maidenhead, it is that people are not happy with the way the government is handling the Brexit negotiations. It is for that reason that so many people in Maidenhead and across the country are backing a People's Vote on the final deal. I urge more politicians to take to the road and listen to their constituents concerns; Brexit will affect families in Britain for generations. The history books will not judge kindly the prioritisation of blind adherence to party political ideology over the concerns of the people of Britain."
"Ultimately, the EU referendum on the 23 of June 2016 was supposed to be the start of a democratic process, not the end of democracy. As David Davis would say, Britain ceases to be a democracy if it can't change its mind. Greens will continue to support a People's Vote with remaining in the EU an option on the ballot."