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UAE Pardons British Academic Matthew Hedges; Mexico to Deport Migrants Who Rushed Border; Theresa May to Address Parliament Monday on Brexit; Russia Closed Off Strategic Kerch Strait Near Crimea; Blizzard Wallops U.S. Midwest; U.S. Troops Used Force to Migrants; E.U. Members Nations Voted for Draft Brexit Deal; Matthew Hedges Pardoned by UAE. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: Dramatic images, tear gas fired at migrants. This was the scene as hundreds of people rushed the Mexico border.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Plus, Theresa May will soon face a skeptical government with one big message that her Brexit deal is the only one fit for the U.K.

HOWELL: And the attack that lead to outrage in Ukraine. You saw it there. Kiev accusing Russia of seizing its ships and launching a naval assault.

We are live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. And we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Thanks for being with us. This is CNN Newsroom.

We begin this hour with the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Sunday, hundreds of Central American migrants rushed Mexico's northern border hoping to reach the United States.

HOWELL: U.S. law enforcement fired tear gas at the crowds saying some people were throwing objects at border security. Mexico arrested 39 migrants who now face deportation.

CNN's Nick Watt was at the scene and has the very latest for you from the border.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In this border of San Ysidro is one of the busiest land borders on earth and it was shut on Sunday afternoon for four hours for pedestrians and a little bit longer to all vehicular traffic. And the reason? Well, there were protests, there was a march, there was supposed to be a peaceful protest on the other side, and apparently that got a little bit out of hand.

People say that as many as 500 migrants tried to storm the border. They manage to get past Mexican police and the tear gas was actually fired. This is what eyewitnesses tell us. Tear gas was fired from this side of the border at those people.

HOWELL: Joining now to talk more about this is CNN anchor and correspondent, Rafael Romo. And Rafael, the first question that I have, we see the images of people rushing the border. Did people make it to the United States?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not as far as we understand. It was very peaceful at first hours in the morning, it was a peaceful demonstration, but the problem started to become very evident because we're talking about only dozens of police officers trying to hold back a group of hundreds and hundreds of people, anywhere from 500 to 700.

And so, it was pretty clear that they were not going to be able to stop them if they really wanted to and we saw what happened. They wanted to go across the border and they were able to, but as far as we understand, nobody actually made it to the American side.

CHURCH: And now of course now we know that 39 of those, what, it was around 500, who stormed the border, 39 of them will be deported now by Mexico. Why those 39 specifically and not maybe the other 400 plus or so?

ROMO: They are the ones who police say were the instigators. There was information earlier that there were false rumors being spread among the immigrants saying that whoever made it across the border immediately was going to receive the benefit of asylum.

And so many people could have acted on that with the false hope that they were going to make it. It was all false and nobody made it to the American side.

And so, police say that those who instigated this are going to pay dearly for that. Not only are they being detained but they are being sent back to their countries of origin.

HOWELL: This plays into context. You know, there was the reporting from the Washington Post that the Mexican government, the incoming administration had reached a deal with the Trump administration to essentially keep people in Mexico. The Mexican government, the incoming administration, denied that. But, Rafael, talk to us about how much pressure Mexico is under with so many people.

ROMO: It's in a unique situation. If you remember, Mexico used to be a source country for immigration, sending immigrants to the United States. Now it has become a transit point for migrants coming from Central America, and so, there's you know, a lot of the same pressures that you see here in the United States.

They have had to pay for food, for shelter, for medical services. Medical services for all of these immigrants. And it has been a bit of a problem in the city of Tijuana itself.

The mayor is saying that he can no longer pay for the those needs that the migrants have and urging the federal government and even the United Nations for help for humanitarian relief because he says taxpayers can no longer afford to do this.

CHURCH: So, what does that mean in terms of what will likely happen to those people, being gathered at the border, because they're not going to able to move forward into the United States and there's nowhere for them to go.

[03:04:55] ROMO: Well, the reality is that whether there is an agreement between Mexico and the United States or not, they're staying there. Mexico is sort of a waiting room for those people who want to apply for asylum. And we got in touch with the incoming Mexican administration and they said we cannot make any agreements with the U.S. because number one, we're not in power, first.

And number two, the president does not want to makes Mexico into a holding territory for those who would want to enter the U.S. And so, we have the situation where they have hundreds and hundreds of people in limbo and more are coming in. There was a group of another 250 that arrived Sunday night to this part of Mexico.

HOWELL: I remember we heard from the interior minister reporting where she said that she does not want Mexico to be another holding ground, a waiting room, essentially, but as you point out, there are so many people in Mexico right now and more coming that that seems to be the case.

Rafael Romo, thank you so much.

ROMO: Thank you.

HOWELL: Let's get some perspective on all of this now with Scott Lucas. Lucas, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, also the founder of E.A. World View live this hour from Birmingham. A pleasure to have you have you on the show with us, Scott.

What happened on the border will say very different things to a divided nation. Some will see desperate migrants fleeing persecution, mothers trying to shuttle their toddlers from tear gas. Others will see as the president describes it an example of invasion, people who are not following the rules to enter the U.S. How significant is imagery like this in a bitter debate like the one that's playing out here?

SCOTT LUCAS, POLITICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: Well, let's start with the facts as you've been trying to do. And that is 500 people of thousands who have gathered in Tijuana moved towards the border. They didn't necessarily storm or rush the border, they weren't invading. They marched.

Now they chose to go around Mexican police and continue to the border and they tried to cross into the border where, in fact, if they make it across, they have a legal right to claim asylum as of this point.

Now, what is now being projected is, of course, as you put it, on two different sides. One is that those who tend to sympathize with the plight of those migrants, many of them women and children, will say why are you stopping them, why are you not allowing them to at least be processed rather than using force against them with the firing of tear gas.

Those who want to whip this up on the other side, and I suspect will see this immediately, will make the argument that somehow this is an invading force, that they're going to overrun America, even though they're unarmed, even it is now more than some of them throwing stones and they're facing a fairly heavily-armed U.S. force.

But here is the bottom line, George. Whatever side you take, Donald Trump created this crisis and I think Donald Trump wants this crisis. He is angry, he is frustrated, he is even scared. It is of a combination of issues at home and if he can continue to blame migrants, continue to say that the courts are sheltering migrants, continue to blame liberals who defend migrants, he is hoping to cling on to support against all these issues that he faces right now.

HOWELL: And you say that Donald Trump started this, but just to clarify, these caravans have been coming for many, many decades over many years. This is not the first time. Are you saying that it's because of political, you know, political motivations that the president is focusing on this?

LUCAS: Well, let's talk about how these caravans have been handled before, George. And that is as your correspondent noted, San Ysidro and California is one of the largest crossings in the world. And you can't consider the individual cases of those migrants who reach there and say do they deserve to have an asylum hearing. Or you can say they don't deserve to have an asylum hearing and you can send them back.

And that is what the previous administration did. What this administration has done is to create this idea, first of all, we'll have a wall with Mexico and then anyone who approaches us, we will shake our fist at them, they will not approach.

They have compounded this with a zero-tolerance policy, remember, which has separated children from immigrant parents, they are trying to limit and even deny the right of asylum by keeping people in Mexico and we're at the point. Please remember, where Donald Trump has authorized U.S. forces to use lethal force to shoot protesters, to shoot migrants who throw rocks. That's why I say he at least escalated this crisis.

There was an alternative yesterday to what we saw and that is to deal with those 500 people respectfully, to hear them out and then to apply the process of law, whether they stay inside the United States awaiting a hearing or whether they're sent back to Mexico.

HOWELL: The U.S. president does have campaign rallies ahead. How will all this play toward his base and his continued push for immigration reforms and he is called to build a wall, a wall that he has always said Mexico would pay for, but as we now know he intends for taxpayers to foot the bill.

[03:09:59] LUCAS: Well, on the one hand, of course, Donald Trump, as he did before the May and November 6 elections, when he goes to Mississippi to campaign in that special election for the Republic of Canada, he will whip up the idea that she is standing firm against the invasion of the United States.

But behind that there are some very serious policies. And those policies which are supported by the -- by White House advisor, Stephen Miller is, to not only block almost all immigration into the United States but to cut back on illegal immigrants by about 25 percent. That is the situation. But we hear all about the President Trump base.

Please, remember that in the November 6 elections that use of immigration did not work in areas that are on the front line. Republicans lost at least three congressional seats in Texas, they lost the Senate race in Arizona.

So, the irony is, if Trump is based in North Dakota or in the outer reaches of the U.S. who believe this invasion is occurring, those on the front line don't necessarily buy that message especially at the cost that we're seeing with yesterday's incident.

HOWELL: Scott Lucas live for us in Birmingham, England, thank you again for your time.

LUCAS: Thank you.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. Still to come, Theresa May clears a hurdle in Brussels now she faces a bigger challenge. Getting Brexit through parliament.

HOWELL: The United States is not fighting the war in Yemen but aid groups say it is as much to blame for the humanitarian disaster there as any of the combatants. Hear it live ahead.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: CNN weather watch time. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri here. Watching what's happening across the Americas, the big story.

Storm system locked in across portions of the Great Lakes. Impacted thousands of flights on one the of busiest travel days on Sunday as folks returned back from the Thanksgiving holiday break.

And notice that system pushes on towards Canada but as a result here it could see significant accumulations across places such as Chicago, and we've already seen it across Kansas City where the airport was shut down briefly across that regions.

And notice even snow eventually left in place in Detroit as well. So, travel disruptions expected going into Monday. High temperatures will struggle to make it above the freezing marks.

So, anything that does fall, which is estimated to be somewhere around five to 15 centimeters in a few shots and high as 30 plus centimeters for a few spots, it's expected to stick around for at least a couple of days there. Denver highs around 8 degrees. There is the Arctic air, the cold air it exists here over the next

several days but we do see the trend across the north-east where the cooler weather is expected in Washington down to 3 degrees for a high, New York City down into the single digits as well, but certainly not going to have much moisture with that. So at least remaining dry going in towards late week.

Down into Belize City around 30 degrees, around Managua, 33, Guatemala City also in the 30s, while Mexico City remains dry around 22 degrees.

[03:15:05] And the tropics are beginning to really quieten down. Of course, the hurricane season officially ending at the end of this week.

HOWELL: He has gotten approval of the European Union. History was made in Brussels and now Britain's prime minister faces her next challenge of Brexit. Getting it through parliament. Getting parliament on board. Theresa May will address law makers in a few hours hoping to do that.

CHURCH: The leaders of all the E.U. countries signed off on the draft agreement Sunday. Many did so with mixed emotion, though. But they are united in their belief that this is the best deal possible for the U.K.

HOWELL: And getting this through parliament will not be an easy task. Opposition parties, the Northern Irish DUP and members of the prime minister's old party say they will vote no.

Our team of correspondent covering all aspects of this historic agreement between the E.U. and U.K. And what comes next. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson live for us in London just outside number 10. And our correspondent Erin McLaughlin following the story live in Brussels.

Nic, first to you, what happens next will be critical. Theresa May will be making the case to get members of parliament on board. But we're already hearing, as I mentioned, it's a non-starter for some.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That's how the numbers add up at the moment. She's got a cabinet meeting here in about two and a half hours. She will be addressing parliament later today. She has sent out a letter to the nation, an open letter to the nation.

Yes, all about putting pressure on M.P.s to support this. She says this deal or it's back to square one. There's no doubt here that Brexit has become a little closer, but the challenges to get there and deliver it much higher.


ROBERTSON: Brexit divorce is nigh.

MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER: No victors here today, nobody winning. We're all losing ROBERTSON: Disappointment that was cemented in a U.K. referendum June

2016 has finally arrived.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will not say that we're very happy.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): It is inevitably a sad moment that Europe could not rejoice.

ROBERTSON: And relief that after 19 months of talks there is agreement in Brussels at least for how the U.K. will exit the E.U.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: My feelings are divided. I feel very sad, but also, I feel a certain sense of relief that we've been able to achieve what we have achieved.

ROBERTSON: To that point, this warning, the Brexit deal is done. No coming back for more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the best deal possible given the circumstances.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: This is the best deal possible for Britain, this is the best deal possible for Europe. This is the only deal possible.

ROBERTSON: But if you thought that's Brexit done and dusted, think again. Theresa May needs to get the U.K. parliament to back it.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Before Christmas M.P.'s will vote on this deal. It will be one of the most significant votes that parliament has held for many years

ROBERTSON: No-one doubts its significance, only her ability to pass it. She has dozens of rebels in her own party and 10 key Northern Ireland M.P.'s vital for her majority are backing away, fearing May's deal leaves them less British.

ARLENE FOSTER, LEADER, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY: This draft agreement feels her own key commitments.

ROBERTSON: The main U.K. opposition labor party tweeted Sunday they won't supporting the deal either. Whichever way you voted, you didn't vote for Theresa May's bad Brexit deal, so neither will we, and neither will the 35 Scottish nationalist M.P.'s supported this tweet from their leader Sunday. This is a bad deal driven by the P.M.'s self-defeating red lines. Parliament should reject it. May is soldering on publishing an open letter to pressure M.P.'s.

MAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

ROBERTSON: Parliamentary vote is expected by mid-December. Brexit closer but not done yet.


ROBERTSON: And what we're going to hear from Theresa May very similar to what we've heard in recent weeks, that is this is the deal that the British people asked for in the referendum, this is the best deal that there can be had, that she has delivered on it, and that also, you know, we heard raised yesterday in Brussels she talked about this was a negotiation, and in essence there's some give and take on a negotiation.

So, that's going to be part of the subtext of the message as well. Yes, we may have had to compromise on some things, but we got the key issues. It's going to be a very, very tough sell.

[03:19:58] HOWELL: Nic Robertson, thank you. Now let's cross over to Erin McLaughlin live in Brussels. And Erin, again, we were together when you first reported this news of this divorce deal being approved by the E.U. 27. Here is the refrain, it sounds like a refrain to a song, but this is what Britain will have to consider that this is the only deal that they will have to review.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, George. And yesterday at that summit as I think reflected in Nic's piece there, there was a tremendous sense of sadness. Sadness for the E.U. but also sadness for the U.K. There was a telling moment when the president to the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said that if he was a British citizen, he would feel tremendous sorrow when imagining the future for his grandchildren.

And it was with that backdrop that the 27 E.U. leaders signed off on the so-called divorce deal, which essentially comprises of two documents, the first is the withdrawal agreement. That comprises some 585 pages of legally-binding text than in the view of the E.U. is non- nonnegotiable, because to them it introduces certainty in this process in three key areas when it comes to citizens' rights living in the U.K., the E.U. citizens living in the United Kingdom when it comes to a financial certainty providing a financial settlement in which the U.K. will pay tens of billions of dollars to the E.U.

And then finally, and most controversially that Northern Ireland back stop solution, those are the priorities for the E.U. That was secured by them unanimously signed off yesterday, but again the question is will she be able to get -- Theresa May be able to get this through parliament. It is an open question, but the E.U. 27 were unanimous in that message that this is the only deal that given the red lines of the United Kingdom that she will be able to get through parliament given what Brexiteers want to achieve, given what remainers are also demanding.

So, what happens next, again, we don't know, but no doubt the 27 E.U. leaders here in Brussels will be watching how the situation evolves very, very closely.

HOWELL: All leading up to Erin that date that parliament makes a decision on this come December. We'll have to watch and wait to see what the prime minister does to gain support. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Brussels. Nic Robertson live just outside number 10 in London. Thank you both for the reporting.

CHURCH: And we do want to bring you this breaking news. We've just learned the UAE government has pardoned Matthew Hedges, the British academic was sentenced last week for life in prison for espionage after a five-minute trial. But the U.K. government and Hedges' family had been pushing the UAE to grant him clemency.

I want to bring back our Nic Robertson who is there at 10 Downing Street. Nic, of course, this story you're very familiar with. How surprised are you with the outcome here?

ROBERTSON: There had been some indications at the end of last week and over the weekend. The front office is right in front of me. As you see Downing Street behind me but the front office is right behind the camera here. There had been some indications from the foreign office that, perhaps, this was possible that the UAE was considering the representation that had come from the foreign office here.

The appeals from Matthew Hedges' wife who had been there for that very, very short final hearing, one of four hearings in that trial, the Emirates had insisted that they believed he was involved in espionage. The British government had appealed for clemency and pardon.

We don't have anything yet from the British government here but it certainly sounds as if their optimism over the weekend has been rewarded. We know in the Emirates that right around now is a period where it was expected it could be possible because of national celebrations that this would be the type of moment where the government could authorize the pardoning of prisoners.

So perhaps it's in that context, but what we've heard from the spokesperson of the Emirate government at the moment it is too soon to say precisely what the details are. But it is certainly something that many people in this country and elsewhere were shocked when this long sentence was handed down by the courts in the UAE.

They were shocked because it had seemed to have come out of the blue and they were shocked as well because typically in cases where espionage is the allegation and the charge, that these things are dealt with more quietly and more diplomatically and there were questions being raised throughout the gulf reason.

[03:24:58] Officials I was talking to are saying, well, what does this signal, what is the Emirate government trying to signal here. The signal now seems to be that whatever it was they've got over that for now and they're pardoning Matthew Hedges.

No indication yet when he'll be allowed to leave the Emirates when he'll be arriving back in the U.K. But no doubt for his wife and family, this is tremendous news.

CHURCH: Nic, what's interesting is that the UAE apparently showed a video, a reported confession of Matthew Hedges in the spying case clearly wanting to get that out there, but then still pardoned him.

ROBERTSON: Well, they clearly wanted to make back-up, if you will, what their allegations were, that they said that they had evidence from his own personal electronic equipment, that they had evidence of espionage, they said that he had proper legal representation, that it had proper access to consular officials, but a British consular official in the Emirates.

But these were points that challenged by his wife. She was -- she didn't feel that the access had been there. She didn't feel that he had been properly treated or at least treated in a way that was conducive to a fair trial, that he doesn't understand Arabic, that he was held in solitary confinement for a long time. That this was unsettling and unstabling for his mental position.

So, my assumption would be at this point that if the Emirates are showing that material, it's to bolster their case that they did have in their view a solid case against them.

CHURCH: Our Nic Robertson bringing us up to date on this breaking news from 10 Downing Street.

We do want to go to Sam Kiley now. He joins us on the line from Abu Dhabi. And of course, we have been reporting, Matthew Hedges pardoned by UAE but not before he confessed to spying. Sam, just bring us up- to-date on what you're learning on this.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I've just come from the event, to the press conference, and the demonstration of a video that was played to his wife of Mr. Hedges allegedly confessing to spying for mi-6.

In one of the sections it is a video of him in one of the court hearings in which he is asked by the court whether he was a mi-6 agent and what rank he was to which he replied "captain." Now this is very significant because there are no ranks in mi-6. There is no such thing as a captain in mi-6.

So, it's a clear indication that he was trying to signal at least denial that he was a mi-6 agent, whether he was or wasn't. And then on top of that they showed a further video interrogation with him in a comfortable looking office, in which he sat across the table across the desk from two individuals who were typing and translating, cross- questioning him in English during which he explained that he was a mi- 6 operative but that he was an analyst, not a field officer.

Now this, again, is a crucial difference because, as he pointed out in that interview, analysts analyze and fill to the people who, in a word of spy, 'developed asset,' in other words, persuade others to reveal secrets.

But he then went on to say that while he was in the United Arab Emirates there, he was using the cover of Matthew Hedges, Ph.D. student and that is how he approached assets, not as mi -- not as Matthew Hedges mi-6 agent.

So, what we've got there is a very confusing and inconsistent confession and, frankly, those two job descriptions are exactly what would appear and do appear on the mi-6 web site. They advertise for analysts who stay at home and analyze and field officers who go out into the field and recruit spies as agents for the United Kingdom. He was in this jumbled interrogation suggesting that he did both jobs.

I happen to know, because I happen to have spent many years studying British intelligence, but analysts are rarely, if ever, asked to conduct field operations and certainly not to attempt to recruit agents, which is a specialist task which takes many, many years of training.

So the evidence such as it was provided to us was, in my view, extremely inconclusive as proof of his role as an espionage agent for British intelligence, but, and I should stress this, but the Emirate say they have other matters of intelligence, electronic intercepts, the analysis of his electronic devices and so on, but because that relates to very sensitive material, they say they're not going to share that with us, Rosemary.

[03:29:58] CHURCH: Right. Our Sam Kiley bringing us up-to-date from Abu Dhabi on the phone there. Just repeating the breaking news that Matthew Hedges has been pardoned by the UAE. This pardon, though, came hand-in-hand with an apparent confession, the British scholar saying that he was a spy. We will have more on that on the other side of the break. Do stay with us.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from the ATL. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. We want to check the headlines that we are following this hour. We have just learned that the UAE government has pardoned Matthew Hedges. The British PHD student was sentenced last week to life in prison for espionage after a five- minute trial. The U.K. government and Hedges' family have been pushing the UAE to grant the clemency. A family spokeswoman said Hedges was forced to sign a confession in Arabic, a language Hedges does not read or speak.

HOWELL: Mexico plans to deport 39 migrants. This after they tried to cross illegally from Mexico into the United States. You see the dramatic images that were caught as it happened. The migrants are part of a group who rushed past police towards the U.S. border on Sunday. U.S. officials responded by temporarily closing that port of entry, but it is now reopened at this point.

CHURCH: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces her next Brexit hurdle on Monday. She will urge parliament to pass her Brexit deal which the E.U. has now approved.

[03:34:57] Members of her own party, the opposition parties, and the northern Irish DUP have indicated they will be voting no.

Let's get more perspective on this. Quentin Peel joins us now from Berlin. He is an associate fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House. Good to have you with us.

So, how likely is it that Theresa May can convince recalcitrant British lawmakers to support her E.U.-approved Brexit deal despite current number showing it is not looking very good for her right now?

QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, EUROPE PROGRAMME, CHATHAM HOUSE: No, I think she is on pretty hopeless wicket. There are more than 90 members of her own party, have said they don't like the deal she has done and they don't want to vote for it. That's a huge rebellion. So, I think the chances are that she is simply not going to get this through the British parliament.

It was a sort of curiously unreal day yesterday when they signed off on the deal in Brussels and said, you know, this is the beginning of the end, knowing that within two weeks the British parliament is probably going to say, we don't like the deal, we don't want the deal, and we're going to throw it out.

So, I think she has got a hell of a job of trying to turn that around at Westminster, and she is after all not a very persuasive politician. She tends to repeat herself endlessly. And when she tried to persuade people during her elections last year, she really -- she bombed badly and lost her majority.

CHURCH: So the problem with that, of course, is what happens next. If Theresa May fails to bring some of these British lawmakers on board and approve her deal, what happens? Are we looking at possibly a general election here --

PEEL: She --

CHURCH: -- or could there be a Brexit -- another Brexit referendum? How likely is that?

PEEL: Both of those things are possible. She is required by law if she fails to get it through parliament, to produce her strategy, her plan B within 21 days. I think she probably produced it within 24 hours. She would actually have to say what she is going to do.

Now, I suppose there are three options. One is to go back to Brussels and say please, please, do something to make this better. A very difficult option because actually, the only way she is probably going to get anything near a majority in the House of Common is to make the deal she's done closer to the E.U., actually more may be a permanent member of the Customs Union.

That's precisely the sort of deal that her rebels will hate and will not stop rebelling. So, she is really caught between a rock and a hard place. The second possibility is the election possibility. Now, labor, the labor opposition, will push very hard to try and get an election but under the law as it stands, they won't win that unless they can persuade the conservative party itself to back it and they don't want another election because they might lose it.

And finally, could there be an alliance right across parties to say, well, if we can't decide in parliament, let's put it to another referendum. I think that looks increasingly likely.

CHURCH: Well, I mean, when we look back at it, a lot of the voters across Britain, they didn't really know exactly what they were voting for in that first referendum, did they?

PEEL: No. Precisely, that's in a way what the argument is. Now they have a deal on the table, let them vote on the deal. Curiously enough, even during the referendum campaign, there were key people in the leave campaign who said, look, don't worry about it, you can vote no this time because there's guaranteed to be a second referendum when you will be able to decide when you see what the deal looks like.

So both sides actually said a second referendum was possible. Now, Theresa May dismisses it out of hand, said, over my dead body, I'm not going to go for a referendum. Well, it may just be that in two weeks' time, she has actually no other option.

CHURCH: Well, now, voters have seen what that deal looks like, haven't they? Quentin Peel, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

HOWELL: Again, following breaking news. We've just learned that the UAE government has pardoned Matthew Hedges. The British academic was sentenced last week by en Emirati court to life in prison for espionage after a five-minute trial.

The U.K. government and Hedges family have been pushing the UAE to grant him clemency. We will want to show you a tweet first that we are just hearing from the foreign secretary -- from the U.K. Let's show this tweet first. This is from Jeremy Hunt.

[03:39:58] "We are seeing this fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. Although we didn't agree with the charges, we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily. But also a bittersweet moment as we remember Nazanin and other innocent people detained in Iran. Justice won't be truly done until they are safely home."

Sam Kiley has been following this. Sam joins us now from Abu Dhabi. Sam, this is highly significant for sure. As you were at that news conference and information was presented to you, what did you take away from it?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think what we're seeing here, George, is a very skillful fudge that come up with the developed or cooked up, if you like, by the Abu Dhabi government, the UAE government represented here of course in Abu Dhabi.

And the reason I say that is that from the perspective of the United Arab Emirate, the Emiratis, they had caught a spy and caught him red- handed and got a confession out of him, part of which they played us. The British argument right throughout this case when it was kept under wraps for five months during which his family say that Mr. Hedges was kept in solitary confinement for a good deal of it, there was a negotiation that went on between the Emiratis and the British.

The Emiratis wanted to approach this spy to spy, have it resolved between intelligence agencies. The British pushed back on that, firmly saying no, he wasn't a spy. That is still the British position and may certainly is not the Emirati position. They played a series of videotapes twice. We were not allowed to record them, but we were allowed to take notes, George. The first one has a moment in which Mr. Hedges appears in court and he is asked by a member of the court, what was your rank in MI-6. Now, he replies captain. That's significant because there is no such thing as a captain in MI-6. There are no military ranks of any kind in MI-6.

Then there was a series of clips from an interrogation in a comfortable-looking office, in a civilized environment with him sitting across a desk looking pretty relaxed talking to two Emirati officials in which he explains that he was an intelligence analyst with MI-6.

But then he goes on to say that the people who developed assets, as they call it, who persuade people in foreign countries to betray their nation and reveal the secrets to the British, those are called field operatives. He says, I wasn't one of them, that's not my role.

But then he goes on to describe how that's exactly what he was doing in the Emirates. He describes how he was using the cover of, as he put it, Matthew Hedges PHD, to approach people rather than with his MI-6 hat on, as he described it, Matthew Hedges MI-6.

Now, this may be an outright confession of frankly a Johnny English level of spy or it is him signaling both to his interrogators and perhaps to others that he most certainly was not part of MI-6, George.

HOWELL: All right. Sam Kiley, thank you again for the reporting.

CHURCH: Let's take a very quick break. Still to come, a small but critical waterway is becoming a flash point for Russia and Ukraine. The latest on a violent confrontation near Crimea. We're back in a moment.


HOWELL: We are following a naval showdown between Russia and Ukraine. It threatens to escalate a bigger conflict between these two nations. The U.N. Security Council is set to meet in an emergency session in the coming hours. This after Ukraine accused Russia of firing on and seizing three Ukrainian ships near Crimea. Witnesses reportedly say the ships said to be shown here are being held at the Crimean port of Kerch.

CHURCH: Ukraine says the ships were planning to enter the strategic waterway, the Kerch Strait, before they were fired on. Russia closed the strait Sunday but state media reports it is now being reopened for civilian vessels.

And this dramatic video comes from Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs. It appears to show a Russian ship ramming a Ukrainian tugboat on Sunday. Ukraine's president is furious and says he wants parliament to declare martial law.

Let's turn to CNN's Ivan Watson, who is monitoring all of these from Hong Kong. He joins us now live. So, Ivan, you are very familiar with this region and what's been happening between Russia and Ukraine. Explain to us where this is going and the impacts so far of these increased tensions.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, Ukraine and Russia are two neighbors, former Soviet states that have been at odds for years, but now for perhaps one of the first times we are seeing their armed forces appearing to engage in open conflict together all in this narrow waterway, the Kerch Strait.

This video that was distributed by the interior minister of Ukraine seems to be shot from the deck of a Russian ship and you can hear the commander ordering his crew amid many expletives to ram in to this Ukrainian navy tug boat. The Russians accuse the Ukrainians of staging a provocation and behaving dangerously in Russian territorial waters. It comes down to a territorial dispute between these two countries.

Let's take a look and explain some of the geography here and why this is such a strategic region. The only way to get from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, which is shared by the Ukraine and Russia, is through this narrow waterway, the Kerch Strait. And it is vital for Ukraine for shipping from its port, industrial Port of Mariupol, for ships to come out, they have to pass through here.

It is also vital to Russia because it is a link between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed and seized, according to many western governments, against international law in 2014. What Russia did in the last year was complete a brand new bridge across this waterway linking Russia to the Ukraine.

It is 19 kilometers long and this is where the Russians have begun intercepting and inspecting ships passing through and where they stopped the Ukrainian tree of navy vessels from passing through. They opened fire. They also placed a tanker ship underneath one span of the bridge to block traffic and the areas become increasingly militarized. We saw a show of force, not only Russian navy ships but jets, and attack helicopters flying in the area as well.

[03:50:00] CHURCH: Extraordinary --

WATSON: Rosemary?

CHURCH: -- situation there. Our Ivan Watson, keeping a very close eye on what's going on. I appreciate that report.

HOWELL: When we come back, one of the busiest travel weekends in the U.S. turns into a nightmare for many people when those in the mid- western U.S. will see relief from the blizzard that has roared through the region.


CHURCH: A winter storm has forced airlines to cancel nearly 2,000 flights on one of the year's biggest holiday weekends in the United States.

HOWELL: Fourteen million people are under a blizzard watch across the mid-west and nearly 20 million are under a high-wind advisory.

CHURCH: Our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, joins us now with more on all these delays. What a mess!

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What a mess, yeah, on one of the busiest days, as you said. Certainly not at the same setup that we saw a couple of days ago when we had the travel period began with very quiet weather. And all of a sudden, of course, you have the messy weather that is currently in place here.

The blizzard conditions expected to continue through at least mid- morning across portions of Ohio on into portions of Illinois, I should say, around Chicago as well. We're up to eight inches of snowfall into the forecast as we approach the morning hours.

[03:54:59] In fact, more than double that amount has already come down in parts of Iowa in the past 24 or so hours across that region. The system, it is on the move across the Great Lakes, eventually on into portions of New England area and interior New England really gets in on significant snowfall, but the disruptions really tallying up in past 24 hours, exceeding 6,000 when you look at delays and cancellations into the United States in the past 24 hours.

Really interesting way to look at this, as far as the cost is related with all of this, in fact, on average, it costs about $6,000 per airline to cancel each and every single one of those flights. When you factor in a couple thousand flights disrupted, you see it has major implications. And then you look at the passengers on board, on average, it costs them about $400 per passenger when it comes to lodging, food and time missed from work with all these flights canceled in the past 24 hours.

Again, the system is on the move. Snow showers expected across the interior portions of New England where another foot or so of snow comes down into their forecast. The other big story for Monday as folks try to get back to work in the normality here is going to be the powerful winds in the forecast, up to 50 miles per hour across the Ohio valley. That will cause some big time disruptions as well going towards Monday afternoon, guys.

CHURCH: Horrible. Thank you so much.

HOWELL: Pedram, thank you.


HOWELL: And thank you for being with us this hour for CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Early Start is next for our viewers here in the United States. For everyone else, stay tuned for more news with Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.