Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May News Conference. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired November 15, 2018 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What he says Brexiteers follow. And he is expected more letters to follow his. So he is considered likely by many
commentators they'll reach that threshold in order to call a vote of no confidence by next week. In which case, the prime minister has the
opposition to resign or to fight on.
HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: When I think of Jacob Rees-Moog, Kim Kardashian is probably the last person I'd associate with him. So well done for
making that analogy. Yesterday we spent many hours staring at a door. Today we are staring at a podium.
It is now exactly 5:00 pm local time. This is when the press conference was scheduled for. We'll keep an eye on that.
Let's talk about what happened in Parliament because she was taking it from all sides.
What our worldwide viewers have to understand, it is not just the opposition in this country that is against her, it is a giant chunk of her
NOBILO: It is and not just her own party. I was thinking this today, never before in the history of British politics has there been such 360
degrees of attacks against the prime minister because she is getting it from her back benches. They're the ones threatening to call a leadership
She's getting it from her front benches. They are the ones resigning. She's got it from the opposition, particularly the opposition leader,
Jeremy Corbyn. And not just them but the DUP that props up her government. This is a minority government she governs. She relies on their support.
They also criticize her. And there's the SNP and the Liberal Democrats. She has no friends.
GORANI: But at the same time, she doesn't have the time to renegotiate anything. This all needs to be squared away in the next few weeks. She
doesn't have time to send another Brexit minister to Brussels to unpack the current deal and come up with something more satisfactory to everybody. We
are talking 600 pages.
NOBILO: The timeline is condensing. It is enshrined in British law the U.K. will be leaving the European Union on the 29th of March 2019. There
are options such as the extension of Article 50, that two-year timeline, which the E.U. has made noises to suggest that they would be positive about
that and they would look to extending that timeline if Britain asks for it.
It requires the unanimous consent of the U.K. and the E.U., 27, to do that. And that could allow more time for Brexit negotiations. But of course --
and maybe our viewers can hear it behind us -- there is also a massive push for a second referendum or people's vote.
GORANI: We've heard all sorts of protesters today. People's vote; I think these are pro-Brexit. They want to get the thing done and over. And I
think a lot of Brits would agree, whether they voted to remain or to leave. They are just tired of this. They want this to -- they want to get
something done. They want this uncertainty hovering over the country to be lifted.
NOBILO: They do. That is true across the nation, whether it's the people you talk to on the street, in the pub, wherever you are. In Parliament
there is an apathy and an impatience. They just don't understand why politicians can't get this done.
But the problem is, for all of the criticisms which people often lodge against politicians, this is why most people get into Parliament. I worked
there for several years. They do it because they want to make decisions that benefit the nation in the future and create a better country and make
people more prosperous.
And that is the problem. You have these Brexiteers that fundamentally believe that the future of Britain would better off being outside of the
European Union. They want their sovereignty back. They want control of laws and borders.
But then you have proposal that also, with equal passion, believe Britain must remain in the European Union in order to preserve jobs and security.
This is a matter of national importance that will have significance across generations.
And that is as seriously as all the MPs in there are taking it. They do feel the weight of responsibility as the future of this country on their
shoulders. And that's no exaggeration.
GORANI: -- criticism directed at politicians is, yes, they are probably making decisions and taking positions because they want to do what is best
for the country but also there is also personal ambition, there is political ambition, there are career opportunities for some of them if
Theresa May steps aside.
Who is likely to take her place if she doesn't survive?
NOBILO: The names being spoken about at the moment are all Brexiteers. It's considered necessary by those that are trying to launch a leadership
contest, that it would need to be a Brexiteer to fill the prime minister's shoes and that's namely because all of their chief concerns about her
premiership are the fact that she is trying to craft too soft of a Brexit.
Those names begin with Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, who resigned this morning.
GORANI: Not a household name outside of the U.K.
NOBILO: No, and he hasn't had a particularly long tenure in Parliament but somebody that intimately understands where the negotiations are at the
moment. He seems like he would be -- would add a certain consistency if they were to elect him as the possible leader.
There's also names like Geoffrey Cox, who most people probably wouldn't be familiar with.
NOBILO: This isn't a household name by any means. He is the attorney general and a Brexiteer. He has been very involved with the legal
discussions around Brexit so also considered to be somebody that might be able to grapple with the difficulties of negotiations.
But everybody has their favorite within the Conservative Party that they talk about, even names like Boris are being spoken about today.
GORANI: Well, Boris Johnson, some could argue, had his chance. Didn't work out for him. We don't know. This is the thing about this story. You
really have to be honest and straightforward with people when they ask you questions.
What's going to happen, we don't know?
Anything could happen.
NOBILO: And it's also important to note that when you are in Westminster, MPs don't know. I spoke to a Tory grandee who had a very long career today
and he said he's never known Parliament to be this opaque. He says nobody has a clue.
And we would be wrong to say or speculate about what would happen because simply the large proportion of MPs in the center, not the Brexiteers or
Remainers but those in the center that are trying to be pragmatic, they are wrestling with their conscience. They have not decided what they would do.
So of course we don't know.
GORANI: If what, if Theresa May steps aside?
NOBILO: -- would do if her deal came to Parliament because they want to avoid a no deal. They are still grappling with those decisions.
GORANI: So many questions still for so many MPs but also just ordinary people who are unclear about what lies ahead for them.
Bianca, stay tuned and stay close to us.
Where are we going now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
GORANI: Yes, we are going to Erin McLaughlin in Brussels.
Erin, is there any time at all to renegotiate this deal as far as the E.U. is concerned?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting in terms of where we are in terms of this process now that Theresa May's cabinet has signed off
on the withdrawal agreement, all 585 pages of the agreement.
The draft version goes out to 27 capitals to be heavily scrutinized. It is possible those capitals may want to make comments or some changes. But in
terms of any major change, that seems to be out of the question from the E.U's perspective, especially when it comes to that very sensitive Northern
Ireland backstop solution that negotiators worked so furiously into many nights to resolve.
The fundamental dynamics there will not change. The E.U. under no circumstances wants to see a hard border on the island of Ireland. And
wants assurances that throughout this process the integrity of the single market will remain.
Those are the E.U.'s priorities. Those priorities are not changing. While it is possible to renegotiate elements of this deal, the fundamentals will
GORANI: All right, Erin McLaughlin, thank you for that from Brussels.
Nina Schick, political commentator, is here with me.
You just told me you don't think she'll resign.
NINA SCHICK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think Theresa May is going to resign. Today she's been quite adamant she's done the best she can and
will push this forward.
It's true that her own party and even Labour and everybody is unhappy with the content of the deal. But I think this is the inevitable place the U.K.
would add up vis-a-vis the E.U.
So I don't think there will be any substantial change in the position by the E.U. So therefore, even if Theresa May is removed, it is not clear
what any new prime minister would do to get a better deal.
GORANI: They don't have time to renegotiate this, do they?
SCHICK: They don't have time to renegotiate it. I think the U.K. has three options now. It can either take the deal, leave the deal, if it
leaves it, that's the most nuclear option. That's the most chaotic type of Brexit -- or it can ask for an extension of Article 50, the mechanism by
which the exit process started.
If the E.U. decides to give the U.K. this, it has to get unilateral support from all 27 members. Again, their position is not going to change. Maybe
give the U.K. a bit of an extension if it looks like the government is about to collapse.
GORANI: But this can't be an indefinite extension in the country where the U.K. and the E.U. negotiate ad nauseam for 10 years, you need some sort of
limit on it.
Otherwise ,what's the point?
SCHICK: That's right. And I think when I say extension it's very important to distinguish that perhaps the E.U. will give an extension of a
few months if it looks like the government here is in such chaos and the market starts to react. That would be a kind of boon that they would grant
But certainly will they not be coming back to redraw the deal from scratch.
GORANI: What would the E.U. do, do you think if Theresa May is either pushed out or steps down?
SCHICK: I think the E.U. is limited in what it can do because, as I mentioned, everybody is upset with the content of the deal. But whether
Theresa May goes or stays, the content of that deal is not going to change. And I think the E.U. politicians will --
SCHICK: -- be very wary about what they say and do because they don't want to be seen as -- getting embroiled in the domestic problems of U.K.
GORANI: I'm keeping an eye on our live feed here coming to us from 10 Downing Street. As I was telling our reporter, Bianca, we spent several
hours yesterday staring at a door.
GORANI: -- of time staring at a podium.
What is going on behind me, my producer was asking me, well, there are protesters on both sides. In this case, these are Brexiteers, asking for
the government to get on with it; get out of the E.U. This is the people's vote. That's what they're saying in case people were wondering what was
going on behind us.
Now the opposition party, I get asked this a lot abroad.
What is the Labour Party doing?
Isn't this a fantastic opportunity for them to make a move?
SCHICK: The Labour Party, if they had any other kind of leader that didn't have the inner kind of turmoil they are facing right now, which is the
great irony of Brexit, that both parties are facing a lot of internal battles.
They should have the Conservative government on its knees. And what we see across the spectrum is that the country is split. It's divided. That's
true for Remain and Leave; and also for Conservative and Labour. So if there is a new election, which Jeremy Corbyn is pushing for, it isn't clear
that they would actually win, which is rather astounding, given the immense political risk that the Conservative Party has taken and where we find
ourselves right now.
GORANI: All right, well, we are waiting for the prime minister. It's now 11 minutes past 5:00 pm. We are waiting for her to make her way to the
One of the options she has is to say I acknowledge there is enough opposition within my party that I could face a vote of no confidence. And
I'm going to try to rework this deal.
Can she do anything to placate the hardcore Brexiteers?
SCHICK: I don't think she can do much. I think she'll play this one straight down the line and say, I've done the best I can do. I'm
delivering Brexit. If you try to remove me from power, you face the risk of having no Brexit at all.
GORANI: -- my take on that, she was trying to scare the hardcore Brexiteers into aligning themselves with her because, if they don't, it is
possible there will be another referendum and Britain will vote to remain.
SCHICK: Absolutely, that is entirely what she is trying to do. She is trying to placate the hardliners or scare the hardliners in her party to
get behind her. As you can see, this is so, so contentious in this country that if Brexit isn't delivered by March 2019, there is a fear among some of
the hard Brexiteers, including Michael Gove (ph), that that means the U.K. will stay in. So she's saying that to get them on side.
GORANI: Really anything could happen.
SCHICK: Anything could happen.
GORANI: Anything could happen.
Let's talk about what is happening on the stock markets and on the currency markets because Julia Chatterley is in New York.
Julia, earlier today, the pound was down about 2 percent but it bounced back off of session lows.
Why is that?
JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR: It is interesting to watch. Great to be on the show. For investors here, uncertainty is the key. We've already seen
sterling weaken versus the dollar by around 15 percent following that Brexit vote. There is already a lot of bad news in the price here.
But when you are talking about a situation where, if we push ahead, as investors do here, the challenge is now that Theresa May faces in terms of
the resignations that she's already had with the cabinet here, as you've been discussing but also the difficulty she faces in even passing this deal
Investors are looking at this saying, look, the possibility of here seeing something messy, in terms of a messy exit of the U.K. from the E.U. is
rising. When that probability rises, the risks here for the U.K. economy are a real problem.
That's why I think you see the weakness. You mentioned we saw a bounce off the lows. That came when Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier today,
look, this is not the final deal here. This could be renegotiated.
But I'd push back on that point in particular in light of even the discussion you have been having with Nina and saying, look, the E.U. has
gone as far as it can here. There's a real challenge in negotiating from here.
So a bit of a bounce, fine; but we are sitting at two-week lows for sterling against the U.S. dollar. And I think to make my point more keenly
about the heightened recession risks here, if we do see some kind of messy exit for the U.K. from the E.U., you only have to look at the bank stocks
Look at the pressure the bank sector has come under. I'd put two reasons here. One, the risks of greater -- or greater risks of recession. I was
poring over the 585 pages overnight of this draft Brexit deal, just 300 words relating to the financial sector and --
CHATTERLEY: -- what that will look like even in a transitionary period. There is not enough clarity here to understand what it means for the
financial sector and the implications.
So for two reasons, heightened risks of a messy exit and, two, what happens to the financial heartland of the U.K. You can see that in the bank stocks
today and they are significantly weaker. Hala, back to you.
GORANI: Thank you, Julia Chatterley for that. We are continuing here to await this news conference and the prime minister, Theresa May, will take
questions from reporters. She's going to make an announcement. The big question from our side is what is she going to say.
I was discussing with our political commentator, Nina Schick, the possibility she could resign. And she agrees with me that she doesn't
think that's what's going to happen.
But if she doesn't resign, what are her options?
NOBILO: Well, obviously, all speculation at this point. I think those saying the prime minister might resign, that's wishful thinking. When I've
been at Westminster speaking to people, it tends to be those that have given in letters to try and trigger a vote of no confidence hoping she'll
That would be the fruit of their labors, wanting to see the prime minister resign.
What else could it be?
It could be cabinet appointments. She's lost two heavyweights today.
GORANI: Would you call a news conference on this deal for a cabinet appointment?
NOBILO: She might want the opportunity to speak more fully about her Brexit plan after taking stock of the questions in Parliament today,
acknowledging where a lot of the dissent is and acknowledging where she has been most resisted by Parliament, by her own party, acknowledging the
divisions within cabinet and reiterating that she thinks this is important, why she believes in her deal, why she thinks it's a deal she can sell to
the British people.
GORANI: All right. There is that but there's also the harsh reality of coming up against the clock. Even if she wanted to placate the hard
Brexiteers and those who would like to see her ousted, she doesn't have physically the time.
GORANI: She has a few more weeks. You cannot renegotiate a deal that complex in a couple of weeks.
NOBILO: Exactly. This is how down to a matter of months. The intention in Downing Street and government was to try and pass the withdrawal
agreement by December, by Christmas time so then they would have a little bit of time before Brexit in March 2019 but that doesn't look likely.
Every day there is a delay, every day there's confidence lost in the prime minister's ability to deliver Brexit, to deliver the results of the
referendum, it feels as we're moving closer and closer to approaching no deal. That's certainly the concerns expressed today by many --
GORANI: -- many of the questions I get outside of the U.K. revolve around this central question, which is what did Britons vote in favor of?
We know they voted to leave the E.U. The numbers were undeniable.
But what kind of Brexit?
When you hear politicians say, I'm delivering on what the British people asked me to deliver on, that question was not posed. It was not asked of
NOBILO: So when Theresa May descriptions how she conceives of Brexit, she says it is taking back laws, control of our borders and control of our
money. So stopping those vast sums to the E.U. on an annual basis. That's what she believes people voted for. But you make an important point.
During the referendum campaign, which itself --
GORANI: But you have Brexiteers saying we should stay in the customs union.
NOBILO: You did.
GORANI: -- a hint of mentioning the customs union to Brexiteers, it's something that's now being considered unacceptable by many of them.
NOBILO: It's fair to say the complexities of the Brexit process were nowhere communicated to the British people in the run-up to the referendum.
However, Brexiteers would say, no, it didn't need to be so complicated. We shouldn't have approached the E.U. in such a supplicant fashion. We
shouldn't have accepted the E.U. scheduling because it was the E.U. that said we must first of all discuss the divorce and then we'll talk about a
GORANI: It is Theresa May who triggered Article 50.
NOBILO: She did. And that's another thing.
GORANI: That's where the timeline came from.
NOBILO: Yes it is, and not only that but the government which preceded Theresa May, that of David Cameron, didn't prepare for a no deal scenario.
So once the referendum result was announced, a referendum result, nobody in the establishment expected they were also behind in terms of that planning.
And then Article 50 was triggered arguably too soon without making this adequate no deal preparations. And then here we are, also with the British
government on the precipice of having to trigger the spending to make that contingencies in the event of the no deal simply because we are running out
of time. Nobody wants to crash out in March next year.
GORANI: From Brussels, some would argue triggering Article 50 has created a situation where Britain has inflicted pain on itself needlessly.
GORANI: -- by pressuring itself needlessly.
NOBILO: That is the sentiment that is reflected by many people here. And all of this has been made even more complicated by the prime minister's
precarious position. She was considered to be a strong replacement for David Cameron because she was considered to be pragmatic and somebody that
got on with the job.
And she wasn't much for the fanfare or the political PR. However, when she called that snap election in June 2017, one which she said she would not
call, and then during that election campaign, she lost more and more support in the polls and then lost her majority.
Since that point, she's been in an incredibly weak position to negotiate Brexit because she doesn't have the numbers in Parliament. Whichever way
you look at it, the prime minister herself is not in a stable position. But even if she was, the deal which she is entirely behind, if we are to
believe what she says, is not a deal which many can support in Parliament.
GORANI: And she was a Remainer. She was someone who was in favor of keeping this country in the European Union. Then she was put in charge of
negotiating a Brexit deal. It is a very difficult position to be in.
NOBILO: It is. And one of the great ironies of this is, as you point out, Theresa May, a Remainer, a fairly quiet and unenthusiastic one at that but
a Remainer nonetheless, now taking charge of the Brexit. The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, whose party has spoken about potentially
remaining in the E.U. or the prospect of a second referendum, considered to be proponents of remaining in the E.U. and less eurosceptic, he himself,
his parliamentary record, is one of euroscepticism. He is not a fan of the E.U. He's voted against more integration with the E.U. his entire
So essentially you have --
GORANI: He's coming at it from a very far left perspective as opposed to those perhaps who are hardcore Brexiteers who are coming at it, politically
speaking, from the Right.
Don't go very far. We continue to keep an eye on that podium at 10 Downing Street. Our Nic Robertson, I understand, is in the room there. He will be
there when Theresa May comes out and addresses reporters.
We will be keeping our eye on that. Let's return now to Brussels with Erin McLaughlin standing by.
Have you heard anything from E.U. leaders?
MCLAUGHLIN: Earlier today, (INAUDIBLE) made it very clear that London is the center of attention at this point, that Brexit is essentially the
biggest story for the E.U. and he said the entire world for today, that the E.U. at this point, given the political situation unfolding there in London
is exploring all options, say they're preparing for the possibility of a no deal.
He said they're most prepared for the possibility of no Brexit but he said they are also moving forward with those preparations for that critical
summit that is expected. He called for it this morning on November 25th. That is where the 27 E.U. leaders are expected to sign off on the
withdrawal as well as a political declaration.
That declaration is still currently being negotiated. While Theresa May's cabinet has signed off on the 585-page withdrawal agreement, the legal text
that sets the terms for the U.K. leaving the E.U., there is still work yet to be done on the political declaration that is supposed to outline the
future relationship between the E.U. and the U.K.
Michel Barnier, this morning saying that needs to be done by Tuesday given the turmoil there in London. It's unclear how both sides will get there in
order to have a summit.
GORANI: All right, Erin McLaughlin in Brussels, thanks very much.
Matthew Doyle is the former political director for ex-prime minister Tony Blair and he joins me now.
Matt, thank you for being with us.
MATTHEW DOYLE, FORMER BLAIR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you.
GORANI: What is going on behind the scenes now?
She's 23-24 minutes late. She called a news conference for 5:00 pm.
What is happening?
DOYLE: What they'll be doing there is she'll be trying to work out how she can come up with a line that will in one sense draw a line under what has
been a pretty grim day for her. You've seen two cabinet ministers resign. You've seen her get a pummeling pretty much from all the sides of the House
So this is her chance before the evening news bulletins this evening to come out and try and say, look, actually there is a plan here. We know
what we're doing and this is why people should stick with me and keep confidence in it because --
GORANI: So you don't expect her to resign.
DOYLE: No, I don't expect her to resign but I think what she will do is essentially -- what we'll see is the strength with which she says to those
who want to challenge her, fine.
What's your alternative --
GORANI: Matthew, she's coming out now. So let's head over live to 10 Downing Street.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Serving in high office --
MAY: -- is an honor and privilege. It is also a heavy responsibility. That is true at any time -- but especially when the stakes are so high.
And negotiating the U.K.'s withdrawal from the E.U. after 40 years and building from the ground-up a new and enduring relationship for the good of
our children and grandchildren is a matter of the highest consequence.
It touches almost every area of our national life: our whole economy and virtually every job; the livelihoods of our fellow citizens; our integrity
as a United Kingdom of four nations; our safety and security -- all of these are at stake.
My approach throughout has been to put the national interest first. Not a partisan interest. And certainly not my own political interest.
I do not judge harshly those of my colleagues who seek to do the same but who reach a different conclusion. They must do what they believe to be
right, just as I do.
I am sorry that they have chosen to leave the government and I thank them for their service.
But I believe with every fiber of my being that the course I have set out is the right one for our country and all our people.
From the very beginning, I have known what I wanted to deliver for the British people to honor their vote in the referendum.
Full control of our borders, by bringing an end to the free movement of people -- once and for all.
Full control of our money, so we decide ourselves how to spend it on priorities like our NHS.
Full control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the United Kingdom.
Getting us out of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy for good.
That is exactly what this agreement will deliver.
Free movement -- ended.
Vast annual payments -- stopped.
The jurisdiction of the ECJ -- over.
Out of the CAP. Out of the CFP.
This is a Brexit that delivers on the priorities of the British people.
In achieving these objectives, I am also determined to protect the things that are important to us.
Protect the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that put food on the tables of working families right across the U.K..
Those jobs rely on cross-border trade in goods, with parts flowing easily in and out of the U.K. allowing for integrated supply chains.
This agreement protects that.
Protect the close security co-operation that helps keep us safe. This agreement does that.
Protect the integrity of the United Kingdom and the peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland by leaving the E.U. as one United Kingdom and having no
hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
This agreement does that as well.
Yes, difficult and sometimes uncomfortable decisions have had to be made.
I understand fully that there are some who are unhappy with those compromises.
But this deal delivers what people voted for and it is in the national interest.
And we can only secure it if we unite behind the agreement reached in Cabinet yesterday.
If we do not move forward with that agreement, nobody can know for sure the consequences that will follow.
It would be to take a path of deep and grave uncertainty when the British people just want us to get on with it.
To deliver a Brexit that works for the whole U.K.; a strong economy that keeps jobs safe and wages rising; and first-class public services we can
rely on -- an NHS there for all of us, great schools for every child and the homes that families need.
That is what the people we serve expect and that is what we owe it to them to deliver.
Goodness me, you normally put your hands straight up after the -- Laura.
QUESTION: It is very clear you want to stick to your plan.
Is it the case that others are seeking to take that decision out of your hands and, Prime Minister, is it not the case now that you are in office
but you are not really in power?
MAY: When we bring the deal back, what will happen now is there will be negotiations particularly focusing on the future, framework and filling the
details of that out at the E.U. counsel meeting. That will be brought back to the House of Commons and to a vote in the House of Commons.
I'm going to do my job of getting the best deal for Britain.
MAY: I'm going to do my job of getting the best deal for Britain. I'm going to do my job of getting a deal that is in the national interest.
When the vote comes before the House of Commons, MPs will do their job. They will need to look at that deal. They will need to consider the vote
of the British people to leave the European Union and our duty to deliver on that vote.
They will be held to account by their constituents for the decisions that they take.
QUESTION: Thank you, Prime Minister. If there is a confidence vote held in your leadership at the Conservative Party, do you think it is the
national interest for to you fight it?
And if you win by one vote, will you carry on as prime minister?
MAY: Leadership is about taking the right decisions, not the easy ones. As prime minister, my job is to bring back a deal that delivers on the vote
of the British people and that does that by ending free movement, all the things I raised in my statement, ending free movement, ensuring we are not
sending vast annual sums to the E.U. any longer. Ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice but also protects jobs and protects
people's livelihoods, protects our security, protects the union of the United Kingdom.
I believe this is a deal which does deliver that, which is in the national interest.
Am I going to see this through?
Yes. Next question.
Do you want a microphone?
QUESTION: Surely now, even you have to admit this is not strong and stable.
MAY: What I think people will see is that what I and the government have done has been sticking to the job ensuring we have been delivering for the
British people. That's what we are doing. We're delivering in the national interest.
And look, MPs have been debating the best way to deliver Brexit ever since the referendum took place in 2016. And there has been much criticism
throughout that time of the government's approach. People have been ready to point out what they don't like.
But one simple fact remains and that is that nobody has produced any alternative proposal which both delivers on the referendum and also ensures
that there's no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
I understand some people feel uncomfortable about the details in the backstop, particularly in the withdrawal agreement and I share some of
those concerns. But there's another inescapable fact. There's no deal that can be agreed with the European Union that does not involve a backstop
to act as an insurance policy against return to the borders of the past in Northern Ireland.
All the other approaches, Norway, Canada plus, et cetera, they would all require a backstop. The alternative of repudiating that backstop would not
only mean reneging on a promise to the people of Northern Ireland but it would also collapse the negotiation in hopes of securing the deal.
So what has the government been doing?
We have been absolutely clear in focusing on delivering what is in the best interest of the British people.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, you are not in denial about the chances of getting this deal through Parliament. And for the critics in your own
party who have been sending in letters very publicly, is it time for them to put up or shut up?
MAY: What I hope, as I think you may have heard me say in the House of Commons earlier today, as I just reiterated here, I'm going to do my job of
bringing back the best deal for the United Kingdom. That will then be put before the House of Commons and put before members of Parliament in a
Their job will be to look at that deal and to consider the interest of their constituents and to consider how we can deliver on the vote of the
British people to leave the European Union.
I think most people watching or listening to this will recognize this is not an easy thing to do. This is a complex negotiation. What most people
want to know is that what we will deliver will be in their interest. It will protect jobs and security and ensure a great future for this country.
QUESTION: Isn't it time to say what you clearly think, which is that the Brexit campaign offered something that was not on the menu?
It offered very, very easy trade negotiations. It offered -- there was going to be no problem at all with the Irish border. It was all going to
be fantastic, straightforward, in your opinion, it was going to give us everything we wanted because of BMW and Prosecco and things like that.
Isn't it time to say that I'm afraid some of the things that you were promised, they were never there?
MAY: I think most people in this country recognize that, after 40 years of membership in the European Union, delivering Brexit, dealing with how we're
going to withdraw from the E.U. and what our future relationship is, is not an easy negotiation. These are complex issues.
I think what most members of the public want, those actually who voted for Leave and those, many of those who voted Remain as well, is for the
government to get on with it. That's exactly what we're doing. And for the government to deliver a deal that is in the national interest, that
will protect their jobs and ensure that we have a great future for this country and that's exactly what we are doing.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, what would you say to Britain's friends and allies abroad who are watching all this happening and witnessing what's
increasingly looking like a government in chaos?
MAY: I think what people in Brussels will be saying is that the government has agreed with the withdrawal agreement. They've recognized and -- the
draft political outline political declaration. They have recognized that by the fact that President Juncker has written to the E.U. Council
President Tusk to say that this idea of progress has been made in negotiations and on that basis a council has been called for the 25th of
And I think they see a government that is intent on working with them to ensure that we deliver a good deal for the British people. But as I've
always said, I think a good deal for the U.K. is a good deal for the E.U. as well.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, you've said that your deal is in the national interest but your party is deeply divided on it, perhaps more divided than
any of us have ever seen.
Are you prepared to risk the breakup of your party to deliver the deal you believe in?
MAY: As I've just said, Robert, in answer to an earlier question, MPs have been debating how best to deliver on the result of the referendum ever
since the result of the referendum took place. I think what the British people want us to do and I believe what MPs will do when it comes to the
vote in the House of Commons is focus on the fact that people voted to leave and focus on how we do that in a way that is good for the United
This I'm committed, as prime minister, to bringing the best deal back for the United Kingdom. That's what I'm going to be doing. And I expect when
we come to -- the members of Parliament across my party will look at that deal, will recognize the importance of delivering on the vote of the
British people and recognize the importance of doing that in a way that does protect people's jobs and does protect our security and does protect
our United Kingdom.
QUESTION: Yes. There are reports tonight that Michael Gove has been asked to become the new Brexit secretary but that he will only take that job on
condition that he is allowed to go back to Brussels and try for more concessions.
Will you allow whoever becomes the new Brexit secretary to do that, to try and get more concessions?
And there have been no announcements here of any appointments to replace people who've resigned.
Are you struggling to find people who want to fill those roles?
MAY: I've had actually a rather busy day, as you might have seen, three hours in the House of Commons.
But seriously, Michael has been doing an excellent job and particularly in his defense of the fishing industry. And as you'll see, there's some very
important elements of the outlying political declaration which recognize that United Kingdom will be an independent coastal state in the future.
Fishing is an issue that matters to people. And Michael has been doing an excellent job in terms of ensuring that we deliver on that commitment that
we have. I haven't appointed a new secretary yet. I will make appointments to the government in due course.
QUESTION: To follow up Tom's question, we've seen several of your colleagues today declare they no longer have confidence in your leadership.
What will you do if there is a vote of no confidence in the coming days?
MAY: As I said earlier, leadership is about making the right decisions, not taking the easy decisions. As prime minister, my job is to get the
best deal for Britain and to bring it back to the House of Commons. That's exactly what I'm focused on doing.
I think members of the public want the government to get on with delivering on Brexit for them. And as I said earlier, am I going to see this through?
QUESTION: Prime Minister, thank you very much, Nic Robertson from CNN.
ROBERTSON: You've talked about leadership as being the position of taking hard decisions, the right decisions. Some of the choices have not been
Would you share with the country now some of those decisions that you personally have found have been the hard, tough, not easy decisions to
MAY: In relation to the deal that we are looking at there's, as I've said before, I recognize there are concerns about the backstop. That is an
issue. And I share many of those concerns. And the decision to go forward, on the basis that we have, was not overall an easy one. There was
a very good and impassioned debate that took place in the cabinet yesterday over these issues.
But overall, looking at the national interest, we agreed as a cabinet and as a government that the deal that we have is the right one to proceed
with, to go to the next stage of negotiations. And obviously those negotiations will lead up to the E.U. Counsel on the 25th of November.
QUESTION: Thank you Prime Minister. Ever since you've been in job, you've been adamant the country will leave the E.U. by March of 2019. Over the
last couple of days, you've been talking about the risk of no Brexit.
Do you think, given the parties that are lined up opposition to your deal, that is now becoming a definite threat?
MAY: There were a number of members of Parliament who stood up in the House of Commons today and said their view was that staying within the
European Union was the right thing to do. I disagree. We gave the vote to the British people. Parliament overwhelmingly gave that vote to the
British people to decide whether or not to stay in the European Union. The people voted to leave.
And I believe it is our duty as a government, indeed our duty as members of Parliament to deliver on that vote of the British people. And we will be
leaving on the 29th March of 2019.
QUESTION: To what extent is this crisis of your own making in the sense it's a failure of expectation management and not bringing people like the
DUP and hardliners within your own party along with you?
Obviously they weren't going to like what was in this deal.
Should you not have brought them on board a little more quickly?
MAY: We have been working on this deal and negotiating on this deal, there have been various staging posts where we have made clear to people what the
approach we are taking in relation to these issues. That happened in December at the joint report. Then there was further information we put
forward in the spring and then in July, our approach was clearly set out for people.
We have been discussing with colleagues and with people in the House of Commons, as we have been discussing with business and others as we progress
through in putting the deal together.
What has been the focus, as I said, is making sure that the deal we deliver is a deal that delivers on the vote of the British people, that does so in
a way that is in the best national interest, which ensures that we protect people's jobs and livelihood and security but also ensures that we are able
to move forward outside the European Union, as a global Britain, and for example to ensure that we can negotiate trade deals around the rest of the
I think that is what is in the interest of the people here in this country and that's what we'll deliver.
MAY: Anybody who thinks I've got George Parker on my mind is.
QUESTION: There's lots of reporters with no hair, Prime Minister, I think that is it.
Prime Minister, if the House of Commons voted by majority for another referendum, for a people's vote, would you see that as a resignation matter
or do you see that as you having to implement the will of Parliament as prime minister?
MAY: Look, I have taken a very clear view about the question of second referendum. I've made that view clear to members of Parliament and I think
across the House of Commons, most members of Parliament recognize they gave a vote to the British people and the British people vote and it's up to us
to deliver on that vote and not have a second referendum.
As far as I'm concerned, there will not be a second referendum. We asked people their view. They said we should leave the European Union and we
will leave the European Union and we will leave on the 29th of March 2019.
QUESTION: If the Commons voted for one, you (INAUDIBLE)?
MAY: As we look across the House of Commons, yes, there have been some voices for a second referendum. But I believe actually when people come to
look at the deal that we bring back from the European Council, the final package that we bring back from the European Council, they will look at
delivering on the vote of the British people and at doing so in a way that will protect the interest of --
MAY: -- their constituents. I believe that is what members of parliament will be asking. Not about a second referendum.
I'll take just a couple more.
QUESTION: My question is, given the difficulty you are likely to have getting this deal through Parliament, do you regret calling the general
election last year?
MAY: No, I don't regret calling the general election last year. As I say, when it comes to the vote in Parliament, there will be a decision for MPs
to take. I'll do my job. I'm going to bring the best deal back for the British people and MPs will then do their job and be held to account by
their constituents for it.
So the last question here.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, you are a cricket fan. From the outside, it looks like at the moment you are a long, long way off getting the number of
runs that you need you're your batsmen are dropping like flies.
Is there any number of wickets that will fall in your cabinet before you resign as captain?
MAY: Can I just say that you might recall from previous comments I've made about cricket that one of my cricket heroes was always Geoffrey Boycott.
And what do you know about Geoffrey Boycott?
Geoffrey Boycott stuck to it and he got the runs in the end. Thank you.
GORANI: There you have it, Theresa May, I'm going to see this through, the prime minister of the United Kingdom said, as she faces opposition from
within her own party and from the opposition.
The prime minister is not resigning; that was made very clear after a few seconds. She called this news conference for 5:00 pm at 10 Downing Street.
She said she is sorry for the resignations from her cabinet but she believes the deal she negotiated with the E.U. is right for the country.
She says the deal honors the vote of the referendum and the vote of the people.
Joining me now is Bianca Nobilo and Matthew Doyle, a former political director for Tony Blair.
Bianca, quickly, what happens next?
She still doesn't change the arithmetic of what's going on behind us here.
She does not, it appears, does not have the votes to get this Brexit deal through Parliament.
NOBILO: It appears not at the moment. I believe part of that speech was about daring her opponents, those within her party, who would be on the
precipice of sending in letters to do so.
She's saying it's in the country's national interest to go ahead with this deal, she's claiming it respects the referendum result by taking back
control of money, laws and borders. She reiterated that.
And she said she believes with every fiber of her being, terms we don't usually hear from the prime minister about Brexit, that it is the right
thing to do for the country and it's in the national interest.
GORANI: Matthew, were you surprised by anything you heard?
DOYLE: I think what we saw was Theresa May's one strength. That's the remarkable resilience that she manages to show, despite everything being
thrown at her. The problem is at this point in time it doesn't look like resilience. It looks like she's in denial.
The fact of the matter is as Bianca said, the numbers just aren't there for this plan to get through. The question is, what will a change of
leadership really facilitate?
I have not seen any evidence that a different leader would have been able to secure in the view of the Brexiteers what would be a better deal. There
is a fundamental problem here and that is that the Brexit thesis as advocated by the likes of Jacob Rees-Moog, is simply not possible to
Therefore, Theresa May was always going to disappoint people in terms of the proposals that she ultimately came forward with.
GORANI: I was struck by her mood. This is someone who faced a pummeling in Parliament today. We saw two of her senior cabinet ministers, including
her Brexit secretary, resign. Pretty much everyone writing her off and she laughed a few times, joked with the reporters. That was really remarkable.
NOBILO: It was, especially as she is not comfortable in front of the media. But let's take a step back. Less than 24 hours ago, she was seen
thrashing out this deal with the cabinet. She has seen seven resignations since. She took three hours of political beating in the chamber of the
House of Commons today.
In a way, what else does she have to lose?
So she's there --
GORANI: Well, her job.
NOBILO: She can't do anything about that. I think that's the thing. She realizes that the power in terms of whether or not a vote of no confidence
is called, is with her back benches. It's with the 22 committee and whether or not enough members of her party send in letters.
All she can do at this point is try and champion this plan for Brexit that she has and she says she will see this through and there will be no second
GORANI: Matthew and Bianca, stand by, Nic Robertson was in that news conference. He asked a question of the Prime Minister and he joins me now
live outside 10 Downing Street.
GORANI: So does this mean, that summit on the 25th of November will take place but there is still some doubt hovering towards that, right?
ROBERTSON: She is still working toward it. That was very clear. She came out and she had a very serious answer for almost every question that she
was asked. It was she was not taking, really, any ground on the what ifs.
What if there's a challenge against her leadership, what if this happens, what if that happens. Why don't you go for a second referendum. She was
just very, very clear.
At the same time there were moments of levity there, where somebody asked the question and she laughed. I think she misrecognized a reporter and she
laughed about it. And her final quote walking away was about a British League Yorkshire cricketer, both of them, who got all the runs that he
When you are sitting in there, I was in the front row right in front of her there, trying to read the body language. This is someone who we saw this
morning go through three hours of grueling pummeling in the House of Parliament. This to me was not someone who appeared beaten down.
This was someone who very clearly had their resolve but also had the lightness of touch that she would laugh at her own mistakes. I felt like
this was something who was not reeling in this situation, just getting on and dealing with it but not brooking really any of those tough questions.
What I was trying to do with my question was to get her to open up a little bit at a personal level and share with the country those tough decisions
she's talking about and try to understand her thinking a little bit, if you will.
She said, of course, Northern Ireland, which we would have expected but she very quickly pulled herself back on the track of not getting distracted
from the steely resolve, which we are all taking away from this.
GORANI: Nic Robertson, thanks very much.
Matthew, in your experience in government, is there a political path that could lead us to a second referendum in this country?
DOYLE: Yes, I think there is. If you look at the deadlock that there is within Parliament, there really isn't a majority for any of the different
negotiating positions that there are. So therefore, if you are a conservative MP, you have the question, which is the bigger risk?
Is the bigger risk to go for a general election that might end up with Jeremy Corbyn being elected as prime minister?
Or is it you concede ultimately the politicians are deadlocked and therefore they need to go back to the public to get them to break the
There will be a lot of people for different motivations that will look at this deal and say, what are we handing all those billions of pounds over to
Brussels for, given the uncertainties that there are about how this will actually play out?
GORANI: Bianca, what are you hearing in terms of the possibility of kind of reversing course here?
Because there is a tiny opening here for people who really want the people in this country to vote again, right?
NOBILO: And Theresa May specifically referenced that for one of the first times in the last 24 hours. She said on record that there could be the
option of a no Brexit. We've known for quite some time that the strategy she's used for trying to bounce the Brexiteers into supporting her plan is
dangling this notion that, if they don't, they might risk not having Brexit at all through a second referendum or a general election.
But she has said that on record and made that strategy explicit. Today she did repeat there will be no second referendum. She's trying to rule that
GORANI: She also said there will be no general election.
NOBILO: But I think if she gives anymore, then like those behind us and many others in the country who would like to see a referendum, indeed many
in her own party and in the House of Commons, they'll run with that.
So she can't give them anymore --
GORANI: Help me understand, if she doesn't have the numbers to get this Brexit deal through Parliament and doesn't have time to renegotiate the
deal, how does she survive?
DOYLE: I think she survives purely by her sheer force of will that she's shown thus far but ultimately someone else has to step forward and want the
job. That is the interesting thing, when you look at the leadership dynamic on the Conservative side.
As the old saying in politics goes, to carve someone out, you've got to have someone to carve in. Until there is someone who is saying, you know
what, I want this job, therefore get rid of Theresa May and I'll be in there.
But again, this is where the splits within the Conservative Party continue to make this like a game of three-dimensional chess because there isn't
even consensus among Theresa May's critics as to what they want as the --
DOYLE: -- alternative prospectus.
GORANI: And your party, the Labour Party, isn't this a golden opportunity for them at this point?
With their opposition and the party in power in such chaos and Theresa May so weakened?
DOYLE: And to be blunt, as someone who has always been on the pro-European side of the Labour Party, I found recent months rather frustrating in terms
of the way the current leadership doesn't seem to want to take advantage of what is a crucial moment for our country but instead somehow seems to have
this residual belief it has to deliver the will of the public even though we know going through with Brexit leads to no good scenario for the very
communities the Labour Party seeks to represent.
GORANI: So where do we go from here as we close out the hour for the prime minister?
Tomorrow will also be an interesting day for her.
NOBILO: With Theresa May, you can never be sure of her position. Every time she seems to be at her weakest, many people have said, commentators,
MPs, this is the most precarious position she's ever been in.
She's just given one of the most lighthearted and fairly robust press conferences she's given in some time.
GORANI: She was very relaxed. And she was wearing her Frida Kahlo bracelet.
NOBILO: She was. She said leadership is about taking the right decisions and not the easy decisions. It doesn't seem right now there is a imminent
leadership contest. We're not sure there have been seven resignations today and people like Jacob Rees-Moog coming out in support of triggering
one of those. So we have to watch that space but Theresa May for now at least is sticking to her guns and supporting her Brexit plan.
I'm going to see this through, Theresa May said.
Matthew Doyle, Bianca Nobilo, thank you to both of you.
This takes us to "AMANPOUR" on the other side of this break. I will be back in an hour with "HALA GORANI TONIGHT" with more of our breaking news
coverage. Stay with CNN.