Emily Maitlis’ side-eye sums up how the entire country feels about Brexit

Posted by
Moya Crockett

It’s the look of a woman who can’t quite believe we’re still arguing about this. 

Shall we talk about Brexit, then? Or would you rather do literally anything else – cc your boss into an email in which you discuss his body odour, spend the day hanging out with Christopher Chope, stick pins in your eyes?

If you can’t bear discussing the B-word anymore, I don’t blame you. Because whichever way you voted in the 2016 referendum, it’s a fairly safe bet that you’re not thrilled with how things have unfolded since. Over the last few months, the UK’s attempt to extract itself from the European Union has descended into a farce of the most tedious and depressing kind, one that seems to have left absolutely everyone miserable.

At the time of writing, MPs had rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement for a second time, and were preparing to vote on whether we should leave the EU on 29 March without any agreement at all. Confusingly, that second vote won’t rule out the prospect of a no-deal Brexit later in 2019, if the UK manages to extend talks with the EU but fails to settle on a deal. Again, if you want to put your head under the pillow and scream for a bit, I won’t judge you.

Shortly after a majority of MPs rejected May’s revised withdrawal agreement, broadcaster Emily Maitlis summoned three politicians – Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, Labour’s Barry Gardiner and Ian Paisley Jr of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – to appear on BBC Two’s Newsnight. And she was, to put it mildly, not happy. 

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As the three men laid out their interpretation of the day’s events, Maitlis took each of them to task – telling Zahawi that his party had experienced “a total shambles and a humiliation”, challenging Gardiner on Labour’s Brexit vision, and asking Paisley why his party continued to prop up May’s government despite voting against her deal. And at one point, she pulled a face so relatable that it became an instant meme. 

Maitlis’ side-eye was prompted by her conversation with Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary. When she asked what “Brexit vision” would be in Labour’s manifesto if a general election was called next week, Gardiner replied that the party would “negotiate the deal that we have set out”. This, he had previously noted, would “honour the referendum result” while protecting “the jobs of people out there”.

“That’s going to be on the leaflet?” Maitlis asked.

“We will decide what our manifesto position is as we normally do,” Gardiner replied, prompting Maitlis to roll her eyes. He added that Labour is a “democratic party” that would not allow its manifesto to be “made up by one person on Newsnight”. 

Maitlis has received some criticism on social media for her treatment of Gardiner, with some Twitter users suggesting she was unfairly hard on him. But she gave short shrift to all three of the MPs on the panel, noting that many people feel disillusioned with how politicians of all stripes have handled Brexit. She told Zahawi, the Conservatives’ undersecretary for children and families, that the Prime Minister “might as well have done nothing” in the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote, and had presented a deal to parliament that “was never going to work”.

“I’m not being funny, Nadhim, but at what point do you say: ‘It’s a tough task and [May] has been gritty, but she has failed’ – twice?” she asked the Tory MP. “She has failed. That’s all she’s done for two years, and it hasn’t worked.”

The broadcaster also criticised Paisley, the DUP MP for North Antrim in Northern Ireland, for continuing to support May’s government while repeatedly rejecting the Brexit withdrawal agreements she has proposed.

“You’ve been propping up a government that you’ve voted against twice on the only thing the government has actually brought forward,” she said. “What’s the point?”

Oh, what’s the point. What’s the point, indeed.

Main image: Getty Images 


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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, politics and psychology. Carrying a bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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