Local government reporter Neil Vowles questions the Prime Minister.

What assurances can you offer an outward-facing city like Brighton and Hove which relies so strongly on positive links to the EU for tourism, language schools and workers in the hospitality sector that it will not suffer drastically in the disruptive transition as we exit the European Union?

First of all what I would say for Brighton and Hove that it is important that we get the best possible deal from Brexit and that will be a good deal for Brighton and Hove and good for people across the United Kingdom.

If we are going to do that we will need a strong hand in the negotiations and that’s why I say every vote counts on the forthcoming election on June 8 because every vote for me and my local team, my local Conservative candidates will strengthen my hand in those negotiations.

There are going to be 27 European member states on the other side of the table, they are united in their determination to get a deal that works for them. We need to show that unity of purpose here in the UK and come together to get the best possible deal for our national interests and for local interests such as people here in Brighton and Hove.

At the end of the day there is only one of two people who is going to be Prime Minister.

Only one of two people is going to be sitting there standing up for Britain, it’s either me or Jeremy Corbyn.

Do you have confidence in Simon Kirby as a constituency MP to make the best case for leaving the EU considering you did not feel he was up to the job of protecting the city’s financial services during Brexit negotiations?

I have absolute confidence in Simon.

I think he is a great local MP, he is a great campaigner.

I can assure you he makes sure that the voice of Brighton is heard.

I’ve been down to Brighton before with Simon and done things with him here in the locality.

He is also still a trusted Treasury minister. They did change some responsibilities but he’s still playing his role in the work that the Treasury is doing in terms of the Brexit negotiations.

He is a great campaigner locally, campaigning for the NHS locally and other facilities and for the voice of people locally.

What message do you have for this diverse and Remain supporting city and in particular what would you say to the supporters of pro-EU incumbent MPs Caroline Lucas and Peter Kyle ahead of polling day? Are they now backing candidates who are facing in the wrong direction as the country leaves the EU?

My message about the election on June 8 is that it is the most important election in my lifetime.

It is important because the Brexit negotiations are crucial for our future.

I believe, the reason I called the elections, is so that we can have five years of certainty. Five years of the right government, five years of a strong and stable government and strong and stable leadership to take us through Brexit and beyond.

What I say to everybody is that I will fight for every single vote and every vote for me and my local team and my local candidates in Brighton and Hove will be a vote to strengthen my hand in those Brexit negotiations.

It will be a vote to help us get the best possible deal for Brighton and Hove and the UK more generally.

I think it is important now, at a point that is so important for our country that we get that best deal, that we make a success of Brexit and also that we are able to enthusiastically embrace the opportunities that Brexit will provide and that we set behind us the language of Leave and Remain and actually show that unity of purpose as a country.

Would you prioritise, if you are returned to Downing Street on June 8, to resolve the Southern Rail dispute which has crippled the county’s economy over the past year? A lot of people feel the Government needs to step in now.

I recognise the significant disruption there has been for people’s lives as a result of what has been happening with the dispute with Southern Rail. There are two issues in relation to Southern Rail. One is ensuring that we can see an improvement in the service that is offered to people, in the resilience of the service.

That is why we have put more money into Network Rail and they are working to improve the infrastructure of the service which will improve the resilience and improve the service for people.

And then on top of that there is the issue of the strike. What I would say to the RMT is that I want to see both sides getting back around that table because

I think it is important for people to realise there is no benefit to this strike.

What happens in these strikes is that ordinary passengers, people who are trying to get into work, or trying to get school, trying to lead their lives as they normally do and who rely on getting the transport of the trains, their lives are disrupted.

We heard a lot of stories particularly around the time of the strikes, particularly around the turn of the year, from people who are finding it incredibly difficult in their workplace as a result of the disruption of the strikes.

So we need to ensure that the parties are talking.

Direct driver-operated trains have been operating safely on railways in this country for 30 years.

The independent regulator made it very clear this is safe operation.

Nobody is going to see a reduction in their pay.

This is about ensuring that the service that is being provided for passengers is an efficient and good service.

What assurances can you give the public that your party is fighting this election fairly considering the unresolved spending issues from the 2015 election? How are you personally ensuring that spending this time is whiter than white?

In the 2015 campaign local spending was properly reported. The party did make an administrative error in its national spending report which it pointed out to the Electoral Commission as did other parties.

And we have paid the fine that the Electoral Commission decided should be paid and we would expect other parties to pay their fines too.

We will continue to operate within the rules that are set.

Can our country afford a 100 billion euro exit bill from the EU when in this city insufficient Government funding means our hospital trust is failing, our schools are cutting staffing and subjects, our local council is crying out for funding to keep services going under increased pressures and our police force can no longer afford community officers on our streets?

First of all the figure you’ve quoted is a figure the EU have or certain people within the EU commission have suggested.

We haven’t started formal negotiations yet, and of course there are those here in the UK House of Lords committee who have said we don’t owe anything like that money if we do owe anything at all, so this is going to be a tough negotiation.

So what I would say in terms of the public services that you’ve referred to is that if we’re going to have the money we need in order to fund public services, we need of course to have a strong and growing economy.

Getting the right Brexit deal is a key part of getting that strong and growing economy as well as building that economy for the future.

It’s only the Conservative Party, it’s only me and my team who have got those plans and also if you are going to get the best Brexit deal you need to have a strong hand in negotiations.

I believe we bring strong and stable leadership to take forward those negotiations.

That’s why I say a vote for me and my team and my local Conservative candidates strengthens a vote which will help me to get the best deal.

The best deal on Brexit will help us to ensure we have a strong economy and that will enable us to deliver for public services.


She is known for playing with a straight bat and Theresa May was as persistent as a Geoffrey Boycott innings when faced with The Argus yesterday.

The PM would not be drawn outside the line of off-stump on what Brexit would really mean for Brighton and Hove – a city so reliant on skills and investment coming across the Channel.

Last summer there were warnings about the severe impact Brexit would have on our city’s £750 million tourism industry but Mrs May will only commit to saying achieving a good deal for Britain will be a good deal for Brighton.

Most of us have no idea what Brexit will look like, one can only hope the PM has a clearer vision of what is achievable even if she is not sharing that with us yet.

The PM and her advisers clearly feel that a gaffe-free campaign, leaving googlies well alone, will deliver the majority she feels she needs to warrant breaking her promises against an early election and allow her to deliver the best deal for the country.

Anyone playing Theresa May bingo would soon be shouting house with “strong and stable leadership” and “best deal for Britain” featuring predominately in her well-rehearsed mantra.

We will no doubt by hearing regularly all the way to June 8. Maybe the PM’s refusal to appear in TV debates could be a blessing after all.

Her outburst earlier this week against EU leaders interfering in the election revealed a chink in her usual steely armour. All the noises coming from Europe is this is going to be an ugly drawn-out battle.

The EU is not going to let one of its star performers go easily for fear others may follow suit.

One wonders whether rising to the bait and taking an aggressive stance is really the best tactic for getting what we want.

Yesterday she was not looking to pick fights, barely flickering at the mention of Caroline Lucas and Peter Kyle, two persistent critics of her Brexit procedure.

Even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn barely merited a mention from Mrs May. Its clear the PM would like to move on from the hostile divide of Remainers and Leavers that still splits our country and our county, wishing to leave the labels behind to last summer.

But that message has not got through to her cheerleaders in sections of the press just yet who famously label Remoaners saboteurs that need to be crushed.

None of that dictatorial or vitriolic language was on show yesterday from the Prime Minister herself. The fact she chose the county as one of her first campaign visits, on the day when 88 councils held elections across the country, is more than a desire for the self-styled “Sussex girl” to return home.

This county has as much riding on the outcome of the election and subsequent EU negotiations as any other. From the Bognor fruit farmers to the Newhaven fishermen, from Worthing hotel owners to Gatwick businesses.

And the Conservatives have a lot to defend in the county, 14 parliamentary seats in the sea of blue that surrounded Brighton Pavilion and Hove at the last election.

Expect the PM to brave Southern Rail to see Sussex again in the not too distant future.