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CONNECT THE WORLD
U.K. Prime Minister to Argue against a Second Referendum; Saudis Slam U.S. Senate for Vote against Crown Prince; Yemen Clashes Continued despite Cease-Fire Agreement; Horrendous New Assault Case in India; U.S. President Slams Russia Probe as Problems Mount; CNN Goes inside Tunnel Running from Lebanon to Israel; British Prime Minister Theresa May Addresses Parliament. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 17, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson, live from Abu Dhabi, it is 7:00 in
And we begin tonight in London with the U.K. Prime Minister in the fight of her political life. Yes, again. Right now, whispers of a second Brexit
referendum reverberating through the U.K. and the hallowed halls, it seems, and between some of Theresa May's most senior allies. U.K. media says
prominent politicians in the Prime Minister's own party want to bring the question of Brexit back to the people. As Mrs. May faces the rising
momentum against her deal, she is set to address Parliament in just a few minutes time to firmly opposed the possibility of a second vote.
Turmoil, gridlock, and most of all uncertainty, it sounds familiar, doesn't it? Bianca Nobilo is in London to shine a light on all of this. This lady
is certainly not for turning is likely what we will hear. Reminiscent of the first female British Prime Minister back in the 1980s. In fact, back
in 1980, Margaret Thatcher. What is she likely to say today? And what is her argument against going back to the general public?
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're expecting the Prime Minister to try to dispel all notions that a second referendum would be the solution
here. She is expected to say it would cause irreparable damage and cause more divisions in society at a time when Britain is desperately trying to
She is also expected to say that a second referendum would just bring everything back to square one. At the moment, we're at this impasse, as
many people on either side, in fact, some Brexiteers, many Remainers think that a second referendum could be the logical way forward to break this
deadlock. Where she is saying no, because it would go back to square one.
Now, of course, Becky, that would depend on what kind of question was put forward on a second referendum, as to whether or not it would just be a
simple re-do of the initial vote or something different. But she is really fighting again for her deal, and even though she is safe, from her back
benches -- because she won a confidence vote last week. We are hearing more and more reports that Labour are expected to launch a vote of
confidence in the government, or in the Prime Minister, in the coming days. And that indeed has been the strategy that they said that they would take.
Jeremy Corbyn has said that they will try to get an election on the table and he would do that through trying to challenge the government of the day.
And if they lost the vote of no confidence, that could precipitate an election. And he said if they can't do that then the Labour Party will
push for a second referendum. So, there's a huge amount at stake today -- Becky.
ANDERSON: So, what is the likelihood at this point of a second referendum? And if a second one or a third or fourth or fifth, and until those, who
want to remain in the U.K., get the answer or the decision that they want.
NOBILO: So that's one of the chief criticisms of those who voted to leave, is that the establishment just is trying to get the correct answer, and
that's been a criticism for a long time now. A journalist coined the phrase the "never-endum" and that's also another worry it would go on and
In terms of whether or not it is more likely now, I do speak to MP's who say that Brexit doesn't feel like the foregone conclusion it once did and
the second referendum could be a logical way to break out of this deadlock that they're currently finding themselves in. Also, to quote military
strategists, you're judged by the strength of your enemies. And essentially what the Prime Minister is doing today, the Prime Minister is
standing up there and trying to say this is not the way forward. So, she thinks this is important enough that the momentum has built to such an
extent that the voices advocating this are loud enough that she needs to stand up there and say to Parliament, no, we should not do this. We've had
Tony Blair, John Major, former Prime Ministers come out and advocate for this solution as well. So, the pressure is mounting. I've been speaking
to the People's Vote. They feel good. They have a sense of optimism. So, clearly, a lot to be concerned about if you're the Prime Minister.
ANDERSON: Bianca's in London, and the British Prime Minister is expected to speak in the next few minutes and when she does, of course, we will
bring you that speech live.
Well, another leader under pressure this week is U.S. President Donald Trump, for a variety of reasons. As we will hear later on. Not the least
the support, or his support for Saudi Arabia's controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That has been in the spotlight of course, despite, or
to some because of Trump's background of the Saudi Royal. The U.S. Senate upping the pressure on Riyadh. A vote in the Senate last week backed a
resolution condemning the Crown Prince for the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
[10:05:04] Well, the Kingdom's ministry of foreign affairs then slammed the U.S. assembly.
The Kingdom categorically rejects any interference in its internal affairs, any and all accusations in any manner that disrespect its leadership and
any attempts to undermine its sovereignty or diminish its stature.
A complicated story. Sam Kiley joining me to break it all down. It might be complicated but the statement is pretty unequivocal, isn't it? Back
off, is what they're saying.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Back off, and here is a list of reasons why. And they laid them out pretty clearly and we talked
about this in the past haven't we, Becky? First of all, Saudi Arabia sees themselves as the leadership if not the leading nation in the Muslim world.
Of course, the guardian of the two most holy places. Then reminding the U.S. Senate in particular that it is Saudi Arabia that helps to stabilize
oil prices. Then adding that it is deeply involved in cooperation with the United States, especially over combatting terror.
Behind the war efforts -- or rather the peace efforts in Yemen. Reminding again that they are actually pursuing peace in Yemen. Because of course,
the Senate not only condemned Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi murder but also drew attention to the continuing support of the United States for
Yemen and that's going to get voted on. It's anticipated next year.
So, you've got a whole realm of issues that the Saudis are reminding the Americans in particular of how important they are in that relationship.
And in a sense, they're not wrong. Their problem is that the worm has turned now. For all of their lobbying efforts in Washington, over the
years, Senators Corker and Graham, former great supporters, feel betrayed effectively and that's why they're having to go on the defense.
ANDERSON: And you rightly pointed out that the Senate overwhelmingly approving by a resounding bipartisan margin a resolution that would require
the U.S. to end its military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. This measure, though, is bound to die in the House. And won't actually get the
U.S. out of the war. So, what's the point?
KILEY: I think the point is they're making a point. There is deep concern, and I've been talking to leaders not just in Saudi Arabia, but in
this part of the world here in the UAE, that there is a frustration across Washington, in general terms. But particularly when it comes to the war in
Yemen, a sense that there is blind support that has been offered to the Saudi government in particular over the years is no longer assured and that
does worry the Saudis. There will easily come a point, where, for example, renewed weapons contracts might be in doubt with the United States and the
Saudis are completely dependent on American weaponry. They can't just switch fire as they've hinted that they might do and go and buy their
weapons for example off the Russians or former soviet patents because the machinery just won't work together.
ANDERSON: That is also the argument from Donald Trump, isn't it? Back the Saudis or they might go away. So, it's from both sides, that's a redundant
argument, isn't it?
KILEY: Well, it's a redundant argument, in that they can't pull themselves apart. They are sort of velcroid that are bound together, but they are,
throughout the Khashoggi issue, in a sense, Donald Trump has perhaps uncharacteristically remained rather statesman like in pursuing a pragmatic
relationship with the Saudis. It's a difficult part of the world. His argument is we need the Saudis, particularly when it comes to seeing what
is perceived to be a threat from Iran. And they are deeply intertwined economically. Not the least on keeping their oil price --
ANDERSON: Let's look at the facts on the ground so far as Yemen is concerned. Because last week, historic talks between the Houthi rebels and
the Saudi backed government resulted in a ceasefire agreement in the port city of Hodeidah. Now this ceasefire was supposed to take place
immediately according to the U.N. but there are reports of clashes still taking place. The U.N. special envoy to Yemen tweeting that he expects
parties to respect their obligations, in the Stockholm Agreement.
How committed are both sides to this ceasefire? And if and when it starts, how will it be enforced?
KILEY: Look, that is the question, and that is the question that hasn't been answered. How do you enforce it? There was this vague but optimistic
commitment on both sides to demilitarize in the first instance the port around Hodeidah. What the Houthis have said since then is that who is
going to fill that vacuum? There was this talk of national security forces but nobody knows what that even means. That has left, if you like, a bit
of daylight around for both sides to continue, I have to say relatively low levels of clashes, nobody should expect that the shooting is going to stop
[10:10:00] But I think certainly from the Houthi perspective in talking to them, they feel that they didn't get enough out of this agreement. They
haven't, for example, been able to secure unfettered access to Sanaa airport, which they had been arguing for. Nonetheless, there is now a list
of prisoners, nearly 8,000 on each side, the modalities of that have been agreed, there are going to be prisoner swaps and releases from detention
which include the Saudi-led coalition. Which is a big step forward I think from the Houthi perspective. But ultimately, the Houthis have to make a
calculation, they can't win this war, can they still have a roll in it a political dispensation, going forward, in that country. That is the
expectation, and they need to be able to dial down the level of violence, or risk defeat.
On the other side, of course, there is a question, can they be victorious ever without causing a humanitarian nightmare, 14 million people in danger
of starvation. That ultimately, I think is why there is still optimism because the consequences of continued war is so catastrophic.
ANDERSON: There is definitely momentum. It feels like for the first time there is momentum for some closure on this because of what is happening on
the ground. When and how that closure is affected is still a question which neither you nor I can get an answer at this point. Thank you. Sam
Kiley in the house.
Still to come, six years to the day since a gang rape caused outrage in India. A new case horrifying the nation. This time, involving a 3-year-
old, a 3-year-old, that story coming up.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. It is quarter past 7:00 or thereabouts here in the UAE.
To a story, because this is important, that is so shocking, so heart breaking, one that tragically sounds so familiar right now, in India. A 3-
year-old girl recovering in hospital, police say she was assaulted and raped, just outside the capital of New Delhi. The child is now in a stable
condition and a suspect has been arrested. But if this case wasn't already horrendous, there is another deeply-disturbing aspect to this story.
[10:15:01] This happened six days -- six years to the day where fatal gang rape of a student on a moving bus, an attack that led to protests across
India, and calls for changes in the law. Although as you process the latest news, you may be forgiven for asking exactly what lawmakers have
really done. Nikhil Kumar is in New Delhi. First, what more do we know about this latest shocking case?
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Becky, the details are still limited. We've been told that the attack took place yesterday,
Sunday. As you say, six years to the day, of that brutal gang rape in 2012. The police are yet to confirm that this is a case of rape. They are
waiting for the results of medical tests that were done on the girl. She's in the hospital. She is stable. The case was first highlighted by the
head of the Delhi commission for women, a statutory body here that's meant to promote women's safety. And she said that the girl had been brutally
raped by this man, 40-year-old man allegedly, yesterday. And that he was then found by neighbors and beaten up, and then the police were called.
And he's been arrested.
But we are still waiting for the police investigation to unfold. They are still waiting as I said for the results of the medical tests. As you say,
all of it, taking a step back, all of it is a reminder of the larger problem of sexual violence here. You've mentioned the protests in 2012, we
had protests earlier this year in April, prompted by a series of rapes. One of them involving in fact, an 8-year-old child. So, it is all once
again turned the spotlight on this very serious problem, which sadly, Becky, doesn't seem to go away.
ANDERSON: And to reinforce that fact, one statistic that the team found here is that there is a reported rape every 13 minutes or so in India.
What are lawmakers saying they will do, or prepared to do at this point? We talked about this six-years anniversary. The question is out there.
What has been achieved if anything?
KUMAR: Well, Becky, if you speak to, you know, lawyers, activists, people who work in this area, day in and day out, work to make sure that this
problem is dealt with, that more is done, they will tell you that since 2012, and the aftermath of that brutal gang rape, there have been many
changes which have been positive. There have been changes to the entire legal structure that governs sexual violence in this country. Including
for example broadening the definition of what counts as rape. A measure that was introduced to make it easier for authorities to prosecute cases
such as this.
But then they also point out -- and they have been pointing this out again and again and they said this when protests took place in April of this year
-- that's where the laws have changed, and changed for the better, enforcement and the strength of institutions to actually implement these
laws, that that is lagging behind again and again.
The protests earlier this year -- I mentioned the case of the 8-year-old, there was another case that led to those protest, it involved a 16-year-
old. In that case, one of the men accused was a sitting lawmaker, of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party. Part of the allegation was that he
had been able to evade arrest for about a year, because he had been able to manipulate the state institution, the local police.
And activists say that until these things are fixed, until it is made sure that the police is truly independent, that the judiciary is truly
independent, that there are measures in place for the police to implement the new laws that are introduced by Parliament, that other things are done,
such as the introduction of safe public spaces. You speak to women in Delhi, working women in Delhi, they will tell you that they feel nervous
compared to other cities walking out at night. Unless those things are fixed, this problem is not going to go away -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Nikhil is in New Delhi for you. Sir, thank you for that.
Washington getting ready to turn out the lights for the Christmas holiday. But Donald Trump's White House sure doesn't seem to be in a festive mood.
And in his final week of business before the new year, after countless court filings by the Special Counsel in the Russia probe, and other U.S.
prosecutors it is now crystal clear that the President is under scrutiny on multiple fronts from his businesses, to his campaign, to his
Well, Mr. Trump went on a Twitter tirade over the weekend, bashing the Russia probe, as a Democratic scam. And calling his former attorney
Michael Cohen a rat. His current lawyer Rudy Giuliani was asked about Cohen's plea deal, while making the rounds on Sunday talk shows. This is
what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABCS "THIS WEEK": They found Cohen credible, providing valuable information about Russia-related matters for its
investigation. Also, about his contacts with persons connected to the White House, in 2017 and 2018, and they seem to be getting it there, both
collusion and obstruction.
[10:20:00] RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Isn't that prosecution by innuendo? I have no idea what they are talking about. Beyond what you
just said I have no idea what they're talking about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me ask you few specifics.
GIULIANI: I have no idea -- I know that collusion is not a crime. It was over with by the time the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, the goal post has certainly shifted this year when it comes to Mr. Trump's defense. I want to bring in Boris Sanchez in
Washington. Do we expect any more dramatic cards to be played in the Mueller probe this week? Do you think we're in the lead-up to the festive
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly possible, Becky. As we've seen, information comes from the Special Counsel at
unexpected points. Obviously, Michael Flynn, the President's former national security adviser, the general, is set to be sentenced this week.
So, details may leak out of that, that could be pertinent to the alleged collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, during the 2016
What you're seeing now is effectively a public relations campaign by the President's attorneys. You played that sound from Rudy Giuliani, and just
yesterday, during that same interview, he acknowledged some new details that contradicted what we had previously heard from the President. He
essentially admitted that in a written question, from the special counsel, to President Trump, the President answered yes to a question about Michael
Cohen's contacts with Russians during 2016, about building a Trump Tower in Moscow.
The President and Giuliani acknowledged that the President may have had conversations with Cohen about that as late as November 2016. That goes
into election day. Giuliani says the President doesn't exactly remember the last time that those conversations took place. He said it is also
possible that they happened in June or July of that year. That's around the time that the DNC had found out that they had been hacked by the
Obviously, that contradicts what we had previously heard. Not only from Michael Cohen who said that those conversations about a Trump Tower in
Moscow ended in January of 2016, but also from the President himself. Who as you know repeatedly had said that there were no contacts between anybody
on his team and Russians during the campaign season. Again, there is what Rudy Giuliani is saying and then there is what is actually going on or what
has gone on and obviously we don't know the extent of the evidence that Robert Mueller might have at this point -- Becky.
ANDERSON: No, of course. Looming over all of this is the prospect of a partial government shutdown. The deadline to reach a budget agreement as I
understand it is Friday. And President Trump insists the deal must include funding for a border wall with Mexico. The Democrats call that a
nonstarter and say they won't budge. First, Mr. Trump seems quite blase about the prospect of a shutdown over the Christmas period. Why?
SANCHEZ: Yes, there is that small detail of the government may shut down in five day, right. Yes, he seems to believe that he is secure in his
place. If you recall last week, during a meeting that he had with Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, he effectively said that he would take the blame
for a government shutdown. He believes that funding for his border wall is a fundamental issue. He certainly believes that his supporters are behind
Look, on the calendar right now, he's scheduled to leave for Mar-a-Lago to spend the holiday in Florida on Friday, the same day of the government
shutdown. It is unclear if that is still the plan, but it wouldn't be surprising for the President to leave Washington under those circumstances.
Democrats here have essentially offered a number of different offramps so to speak, whether continuing resolutions, or to fund the department of
homeland security for about one year, the President has balked at that, he is demanding $5 billion for his long-promised border wall -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Boris Sanchez, in the house for you, thank you, sir.
Well, the Middle East is a crucial region for Donald Trump in terms of foreign policy. Something we of course cover very closely on this program.
Us being here in the Middle East programming hub for CNN. And so, I guess Donald Trump might be interested in watching this next report, which is an
exclusive look at Israel's military operation along the border with Lebanon, targeting Hezbollah. Ian Lee has the details.
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is a secret in this hole. Those responsible prefer you not to know. We drop a camera down. Past
tens of meters of hard limestone, to reveal a sophisticated tunnel. Complete with ventilation, lights, it is large enough for an NBA player to
stand in. Israel says it is the work of Hezbollah. The Lebanese militant group with ties to Iran.
(on camera): It was important for the Israeli military to drill as close to this wall as possible. And that's because on the other side of this
wall is Lebanon. And what they wanted to show is how Hezbollah's tunnel began in Lebanon and entered Israel. Finding this tunnel, though, wasn't
so much on what they saw, but rather, on what they heard.
[10:25:00] (voice-over): Vibrations from drilling exposed the digging. This video shows when the Lebanese militants first discovered their tunnels
were no longer a secret.
(on camera): In that video, we see an explosion. What can you tell me about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The explosion, we decided not to kill those people walking in the tunnels, it was a warning for the other side, to stay out of
the tunnels, and we have the tunnels booby-trapped.
LEE (voice-over): Four tunnels have been uncovered so far. The army expected to find more. Israel says they violate a 12-year-old ceasefire.
U.N. peacekeepers who monitor the border are investigating. Secrets of sophisticated technology provides a location and then they start to drill.
There is little margin for error.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it drills half a meter to the right or half a meter to the left, that's it. You're out. You're not in the tunnel and you
didn't achieve your goal.
LEE (on camera): Kind of like finding a needle in a hay stack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is more complicated than that.
LEE (voice-over): The army says that uncovering the tunnels early has limited the threat, but they had the potential to do Israel great harm.
Thousands of civilians living near the border at risk of kidnapping or worse. A senior Hezbollah official previously told CNN the group was
surprised by Israel's operation, but neither confirmed nor denied that they were digging tunnels. Meanwhile, Israel continues to dig down. To build
up security. Ian Lee, CNN, on Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
ANDERSON: Right, and Theresa May gearing up to make another appeal to parliamentarians in the U.K., to trust her, and her deal, to get Britain
out of the European Union. Sounding very much like the last, and only other political female leader of the U.K., and now the Tory head in fact,
Margaret Thatcher. Her great line of course was this lady is not for turning. Those words were famously spoken back in 1980. She vowed to keep
on her own steady course, despite pushback from within her own Tory party's ranks. Let's remind yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET THATCHER, THEN BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: For those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catch phrase the U-turn. I have only
one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning. And I say that not only to you. But our friends overseas as well. And
also, to those who are not our friends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: She sound so pressing, doesn't it? That determination and steadfastness seen right now in Mrs. May, as she continues to insist this
lady, in 19 -- in 2018, sorry, is not for turning. Tough words from one Conservative prime minister. We'll hear what the current prime minister
has to say about the likelihood or not of a second Brexit referendum. That's after this short break. Do stay with us.
[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANDERSON: Let's listen in to the British prime minister Theresa May.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: -- on the Sea of Azov and Russia's continued violations of international law. We agree to roll over economic
sanctions against Russia and we stand ready to further strengthen our support in particular for the affected areas of Ukraine.
And second, we also agree to work together on tackling the spread of deliberate large scale and systemic disinformation, including as part of
hybrid warfare. On this, I outline some of the world's leading work that the U.K. is doing in this field. And I was clear that after we've left the
European Union, the U.K. will continue to work closely with our European partners to uphold the international rules-based system and to keep all of
our people safe. And that is why it is right that our Brexit deal includes the deepest security partnership that has ever been agreed with the EU.
Mr. Speaker, at this counsel, I faithfully and firmly reflected the concerns of this House, over the North Ireland backstop. I explained that
the assurances we had already agreed with the EU were insufficient for this House. And we had to go further, in showing that we never want to use this
backstop and if it is used, it must be a temporary arrangement.
Some of the resulting exchanges at this counsel were robust. But I make no apology, I make -- I make no apology for standing up for the interests of
this House, and the interests of, and the interests of our whole United Kingdom.
In response the EU 27 published a series of conclusions. They made clear that it is their -- and I quote -- firm determination to work speedily on a
subsequent agreement that establishes by 31 December 2020 alternative arrangements so that the backstop will not need to be triggered. The House
will forgive me but I think this bears repeating, the backstop will not need to be triggered.
They underline that if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would apply temporarily. They said that in this event, the EU would use
its best endeavors to negotiate and conclude expeditiously, a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop. And they gave a new assurance
in relationship to the future partnership with the U.K. to make it less likely that the backstop would ever be needed by stating that the EU stands
ready to embark on preparations immediately after signature of the withdrawal agreement, to ensure the negotiations can start as soon as
possible after the U.K.'s withdrawal.
Mr. Speaker, in these conclusions in their statements at the Council and in their private meetings with me, my fellow EU leaders could not have been
clearer. They do not want to use this backstop. They want to agree the best possible future relationship with us. There is no plot to keep us in
Indeed, President Macron said on Friday, quote, we can clarify and reassure the backstop is not our objective. It is not a durable solution.
[10:35:00] And nobody is trying to lock the U.K. into the backstop.
As formal conclusions from a European Council, these commitments have legal status, and should be welcomed. They go further than the EU has ever done
previously in trying to address the concerns of this House. And of course, they sit on top of the commitments that we have already negotiated in
relation to the backstop. Including ensuring the customs element is U.K.- wide, that both sides are legally committed to have best endeavors to have our new relationship in place before the end of the implementation period.
That if the new relationship isn't ready, we can choose to extend the implementation period instead of the backstop coming into force. But if
the backstop does come in, we can use alternative arrangements, not just the future relationship to get out of it. That the treaty is clear, the
backstop can only ever be temporary, and that there is an explicit termination clause.
But Mr. Speaker, I know that this House is still deeply uncomfortable about the backstop. And I understand that. And I want to secure us to go
further still in the reassurances we secure. Discussions with my EU partners, including Presidents Tusk, Juncker and others, have shown that
further clarification following the council's conclusions is in fact possible, so discussions are continuing to explore further political and
legal assurances. And we are also looking closely at new ways of empowering the House of Commons, to ensure that any provisions for a
backstop has democratic legitimacy.
SPEAKER: This is very irregular. The statement must be heard. There will be a full opportunity for exchanges. But the statement by the Prime
Minister must be heard and heard with courtesy. The Prime Minister.
MAY: Empowering the House of Commons to ensure that any provision for backstop has democratic legitimacy, and to enable the House to place its
own obligations on the government, to ensure that the backstop cannot be in place indefinitely.
But it is now only just over 14 weeks until the U.K. leaves the EU. And I know many members, many members of this House are concerned that we need to
take a decision soon. My right -- my right honorable friend the leader of the House will set out business on Thursday in the usual way. But I can
confirm today, that we intend to return to the meaningful vote debate in the week commence can the 7th of January and hold the vote the following
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, when we have the vote -- when we have the vote, members will need to reflect carefully on what is in the best interests of
our country. I know that there are a range of very strongly-held personal views on this issue, across the House, and I respect all of them. But
expressing our personal views is not what we are here to do. We asked the British people to take this decision. 400, 472 current members of this
House voted for the referendum in June 2015 with just 32 voting against. And the British people responded by instructing us to leave the European
Similarly, similarly, 438 current members of this House voted to trigger Article 50, to set the process of our departure in motion, with only 85 of
today's members voting against. Now, we must honor our duty to finish the job. I know, I know this is not everyone's perfect deal. It is a
compromise. But if we let the perfect be the enemy of the good, then we risk leaving the EU with no deal.
Of course, of course, we have prepared for no deal. And tomorrow, the cabinet will be discussing the next phase in ensuring that we are ready for
that scenario. But let us not risk the jobs, services and security of the people we serve by turning our backs on an agreement with our neighbors
that honors the referendum and provides for a smooth and orderly exit. Avoiding no deal is only possible if we can reach an agreement, or if we
all we abandon Brexit entirely.
And as I said in the debate earlier this month, do not imagine that if we vote this down, a different deal is going to miraculously appear. If you
want proof, look at the conclusions of this council.
[10:40:02] As President Juncker said, it is the best deal possible, and the only deal possible. And any, any proposal, any proposal for the future
relationship, whether Norway, Canada, or any other variety that is being mentioned, would require agreeing this withdrawal agreement. The leader of
the opposition as well as some others are trying to pretend, they could do otherwise. This is a fiction. Finally, let us not break faith with the
British people by trying to stage another referendum. Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics. Because,
because it --
SPEAKER: Order. There are many members of this House, including an illustrious chair of a select committee, who are heckling, noisily, Mr. --
I guess Branden McNeil, you are a cheeky chappy, but we need much less of the cheek and much more in the way of courtesy in listening to prime
minister. The Prime Minister.
MAY: Thank you. Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics because it would say to millions who trust in
democracy that our democracy does not deliver. Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last. And another vote which
would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.
And let us not -- let us not follow the leader of the opposition, in thinking about what gives him the best chance of forcing a general
election. For at this critical moment -- at this critical moment, in our history, we should be thinking not about our party's interests but about
the national interest. Let us, lets us find a way to come together and work together, in the national interest, to see this Brexit through.
Mr. Speaker, I will work tirelessly over these next few weeks to fulfill my responsibility as prime minister, to find a way forward. Over the last two
weeks, I've met quite a number of colleagues and I'm happy to continue to do so on this important issue. So, we can fulfill our responsibilities to
the British people. So together, we can take back control of our borders, walls and money. While protecting the jobs, the security, and the
integrity of our precious United Kingdom. So together, we can move on to finalizing the future relationship with the European Union. And the trade
deals with the rest of the world that can fuel our prosperity for years to come.
And so together, we can get this Brexit done, and shift the national focus to our domestic priorities. Investing in our NHS, our schools and housing.
Tackling the injustices that so many still face. And building a country that truly works for everyone. For these are the ways, these are the ways
in which together this House will best serve the interests of the British people and I commend this statement to the House.
SPEAKER: Jeremy Corbyn.
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Prime Minister for an advanced copy of her statement.
On Ukraine, as NATO has said, we need both sides to show restraint and de- escalate, with international law adhered to including Russia allowing unhindered access to Ukraine's ports on the Sea of Azov.
Mr. Speaker, we face an unprecedented situation. The Prime Minister has led us into a national crisis. And if any more evidence was needed of why
we face this grave situation, the Prime Minister demonstrated it last week's summit. There were some warm words drafted and the Prime Minister
even managed to negotiate those away, to replace by words about preparing for no deal.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister boasted, I had a robust discussion with President Juncker, but that cannot hide the cold reality that she achieved
nothing. Standing at the dispatch box last week, the Prime Minister said, I have made some progress.
Mr. Speaker, she has not made any progress at all.
The Prime Minister said so herself while still in Brussels, and I quote, the EU is clear, as am I, that this is the deal. The European Commission
has been categorical. It will not be renegotiated. The EU Council has given the clarification that where possible, this stage, so no further
meetings with the U.K. are foreseen.
[10:45:00] The deal is unchanged. And not going to change. The House must get on with the vote. And move on to consider the realistic alternatives.
There can be -- there can be no logical reason for this delay. Except that, in taking shambolic government to a new level, the Prime Minister no
longer has the backing of her cabinet. The international trade secretary suggested that the Prime Minister's deal no longer has the backing of the
It is worth quoting his words and I quote. I think that it is very difficult to support the deal if we don't get changes to the backstop. I
don't think it will get through. I'm not even sure if the cabinet will agree for it to be put to the House of Commons.
So, we have the spectacle of the last few days, with numerous cabinet members coming forward, with their own alternatives. The International
Trade Secretary suggested that a two-year transition to no deal is an option. The Working Pension Secretary says the government needs to try
something different and build a consensus in Parliament. The Attorney General is reported as saying he wants her gone and for the deal to be
renegotiated. While the International Development Secretary is allegedly liaising with the ERG to launch an alternative option. Others are
reportedly working on a second referendum.
But even if cabinet no longer backs the deal, then who knows what the options would be? So, can the Prime Minister answer this? One, does her
deal still have the confidence of the cabinet? Two, is cabinet collective responsibility still in operation? Three, does it remain government policy
to avoid a no deal outcome?
Mr. Speaker, an unacceptable deal is on the table. No amendment has been secured. Renegotiations have been rebuffed. And not even mere assurances
have been offered. And the Prime Minister's shoddy deal no longer even has the backing of the cabinet. The Prime Minister ran away from putting her
deal before Parliament, because even our own cabinet has doubts, and she herself admits Parliament won't back it. So, we're left edging ever closer
to the 29th of March deadline without a deal, and without even an agreed plan in the cabinet to get a deal. The Prime Minister has cynically run
down the clock, trying to maneuver Parliament into a choice between two unacceptable outcomes, her deal, or no deal.
The country workers and businesses are increasingly anxious. Even yesterday, the CBI said, uncertainty is struggling firms and threatening
jobs, not in the future, but right now. The British Chamber of Commerce has said there is no time to waste. A responsible Prime Minister would,
for the good of this country, have put this deal before the House this week. This week so we could move on from this government's disastrous
This, Mr. Speaker, is a constitutional crisis. And the Prime Minister is the architect of it. She's leading the most shambolic and chaotic
government in modern British history. Even cabinet no longer functions. A Prime Minister whose authority has been lost, a cabinet, a cabinet
disintegrating into clicks and factions, and a Conservative Party so fundamentally split that its very existence is being discussed.
It is clear, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has failed to renegotiate her deal. Failed to get any meaningful reassurances. There is no excuse for
any more dither or delay. This government -- this government, Mr. Speaker, has already become the first government in British history to be held in
contempt by Parliament. The debate on the meaningful vote was pulled at the last minute. And the Prime Minister has now wasted five weeks having
[10:50:00] Not a single word renegotiated. Not a single reassurance gained. This last week has embodies the failure, chaos, and indecision at
the heart of this government's shambolic handling of Brexit. Today, they've been dragged, kicking and screaming, to announce a date to restart
the debate. But Mr. Speaker, it is, it is --
SPEAKER: Mr. Ellis, your distinguished ornament of the government department, the representative of the executive branch, be good, man. You
can do so much better when you try. Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
CORBYN: But Mr. Speaker, it is disgraceful that a month has been wasted since we were due to vote on the 11th of December. There can be no further
attempts to dodge the accountability of government to this Parliament, Mr. Speaker.
MAY: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, the right honorable gentleman asked me three questions during that response.
Does the deal still have the confidence of the cabinet? Yes.
Does cabinet collective responsibilities still apply? Yes.
Does, does the cabinet want to avoid no deal? Yes, the cabinet wants to ensure that we leave the European Union with a good deal, and that is this
The real indecision is the indecision at the heart of a Labour Party that has no plan and no alternative. And the national crisis is an opposition
that is irresponsible to push his party, before the interests of the British people.
SPEAKER: Hear, hear, hear, hear. Mr. Mitchell.
ANDREW MITCHELL, CONSERVATIVE PARTY MP: It is clear, Mr. Speaker, is it not, a deal which my right honorable friend has so assiduously negotiated
is most unlikely to secure the support of this House of Commons. In these circumstances, does she not think it would be wiser to seek an extension to
article 50? Rather, rather --
SPEAKER: Order. Order.
The right honorable gentleman shouted out, I can say gently to our government, don't stands near the chair and shout at your colleagues. If
you want to do that leave the chamber. We'll manage perfectly adequately without you. Mr. Andrew Mitchell.
MITCHELL: -- to seek an extension to article 50 rather than to leave with no deal.
MAY: Can I say to my right honorable friend that I don't think it's right to be seeking that extension of Article 50. I think what Parliament would
be faced with is a decision to exercise its responsibility to deliver on the referendum vote, to deliver Brexit. I continue to believe that this is
a good deal. Yes, we're seeking those further reassurances, but I continue to believe that we can leave with a good deal this is it.
SPEAKER: Mr. Ian Blackford?
IAN BLACKFORD, SNP MP: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Prime Minister for advanced notice of her statement. But I have to ask what is
the leadership? The phrase that is often used, we thought the Prime Minister had reached rock bottom, but she is still digging.
Mr. Speaker, we have four sitting days in this place before the Christmas recess. We are then left with the narrow window, when the determined
channel to finding a way forward out of the government's Brexit timetable. It cannot be done. After two years of negotiations, the Prime Minister has
designed a deal that she knows that she cannot deliver, that doesn't have the support of this House.
Mr. Speaker, it is time to call time on this government. It is a laughing stock. Companies and their workers do not know if we're going to be
crashing out of the European Union in three months' time with just over 100 days. 100 days to prepare for the risk of a no deal that most sensible
folk would reject as being unacceptable. The Prime Minister is playing a game of brinksmanship. The European Council President Donald Tusk was
clear when he said, I have no mandate to organize any further negotiations.
What more does the Prime Minister need to hear to know that her deal is dead? This is embarrassing. The Prime Minister might be prepared to be
embarrassed by the shambles, but the rest of us are not. Parliament needs to take control of the situation and seek to find a solution that prevents
arrest of jobs and prosperity. It's the people of our countries that we are talking about.
[10:55:03] Today, the Prime Minister tells us that there are no other options. That is not the case. Standing before Parliament, ruling out
another referendum on EU membership, is an act of desperation, from the Prime Minister. Knowing that she cannot get her own deal through this
place, the Prime Minister wants to silence the beat. Having taken away Parliament's voice, a rightful meaningful vote, now the Prime Minister
wants to take the right of the people to vote away. Their democratic right to have their say. Their democratic right to change their mind.
Mr. Speaker, I plead to the Prime Minister to put all options back on the table. Stop operating in isolation. Reach out and speak with the
opposition parties. We all have a responsibility to protect our citizens. And it is time, Prime Minister, to move beyond narrow party politics. It
is time to operate in the interests of all of our nations.
I ask the Prime Minister to bring forth the meaningful vote on her deal before the Christmas recess. There is no reason to delay. Let us have
that meaningful vote this week. And lastly, will she do the right thing and meet with me and other opposition party leaders this week?
Collectively? This, Mr. Speaker, is the true test of this government's worth. If we are to believe that we have a partnership of equals, that
now, today, we must be heard.
MAY: Thank you. Well, first of all, I'm happy to say, to the right honorable gentleman, if he wants to come and talk to me about this issue,
I'm happy to talk to him about it. But we do have a fundamental difference of opinion that was revealed in the response of his party to what I said in
my statement. I believe we should deliver leaving the EU for the British people. He believes we should stay in the EU. So that is a fundamental
difference that we have there.
He talks about putting jobs and prosperity first. This deal does just that. That it delivers on the referendum while protecting jobs and
prosperity. He said he doesn't want to leave with no deal. Well, the only way to ensure that you leave with, leave without having no deal is to
support a deal. And can I just, can I just remind the right honorable gentleman gently that 56 percent of Scotts voted for pro-Brexit parties.
SPEAKER: Dame Cheryl Gillan.
CHERYL GILLAN, CONSERVATIVE PARTY MP: The Independent Commission on Referendums published earlier this year and recommended that any second
referendum on a subject should be specified in the legislation enabling the first referendum, so that the requirement for or possibility of a second
referendum and the reason for it is clear to the electorate before the first vote takes place. Would the Prime Minister agree that no such
provision was made, and that calling for a second referendum at this stage is merely a ruse to try and reverse the results --?
SPEAKER: Hear, hear, hear.
MAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can I say to my right honorable friend that I'm grateful to her for pointing that out to the House. Of course, it is
absolutely the case that there was no suggestion when the referendum was put to the people in 2016, that there might be a second referendum. People
were told, they were led to believe that their vote would be delivered by the government of the -- at the time subsequently, and that's what I
believe it is certainly in our interest, as a government to do. To deliver on that vote and leave the European Union.
Speaker: Mr. Vincent Cable.
VINCE CABLE, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY MP: The Prime Minister may be aware that the vote makers, has been offering 66 to one, against her deal passing
Parliament. But even money on the referendum, and even money on her then winning it. Could it be that the cabinet ministers who were known to
preparing for a referendum, are not being disloyal to her but simply better at math?
MAY: I'm not sure the right honorable gentleman should spend too much time in betting shops. I'm not sure the odds on the Liberal Democrats are very
good at all.
SPEAKER: Sir William Cash.
WILLIAM CASH, CONSERVATIVE PARTY MP: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Will the Prime Minister confirm, despite the European Council's own so-called legal
endorsement of the withdrawal agreement, which they state is not open for renegotiation, that as to the respect of the U.K. itself, that this
agreement has not been initialed or signed by herself as a Prime Minister and is only a draft, being no more than a political agreement under which
nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, including the backstop, and therefore, she can still walk away?
MAY: I can certainly confirm to my honorable friend that obviously this is a deal that is negotiated between the U.K. and the European Union but it
does have to go through certain processes in order to be ratified.