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CONNECT THE WORLD
U.K. Prime Minister May to Set Out Brexit Next Steps; Irish Backstop Remains Key Sticking Point; Israel Warns Iran is Trying to "Entrench Itself" in Syria; Global Leaders Skip World Economic Forum; ; British Prime Minister Addresses Parliament Over Brexit; British PM Says a Second Referendum Would Undermine Democracy; Jeremy Corbyn Responds to Theresa May's Statement. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired January 21, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London for you.
Now, we turn to Brexit to start off with. And battle scarred but not beaten yet. British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to make a statement
to Parliament in the next half an hour, as she tries to find a way forward for her Brexit plan. But, the drama and disharmony in Westminster
continues and Mrs. May's historic failure to get the votes she needed to pass her deal last week has stirred a government meltdown. CNN has learned
that cross party members of Parliament are planning to introduce legislation which would make it impossible for Britain to leave the EU
without a trade deal in place and render any alternative plan for Mrs. May completely redundant.
Now the biggest sticking point seems to be as ever the Irish border. In a moment we're going to speak to our Nic Robertson. Nic's live for us in
Northern Ireland. Also, Erin McLaughlin is live in Brussels for us. But first, let's get the very latest from Westminster. And our correspondent
Bianca Nobilo is standing by for us there. Bianca, a busy weekend for the Prime Minister. She's got another big speech. It seems like that's a
daily occurrence now. Coming up in the next hour and she's expected to outline what her plan B is. Is it going to be all that different to plan
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, unlike many other events over the past few months, there really isn't a sense in Westminster of what this
plan B will entail. Usually there's, you know, crumbs of insight from Downing Street, and some speculation, which we have reason to believe. But
we can't say that this time. She's keeping her cards quite close to her chest.
I spoke to an MP about an hour ago and I asked him what expectations he had for the Prime Minister's plan B, and he said he expects it will be plan A
in a sparkly costume. And that's really the question, Hannah, is to what extent is she going to be presenting something substantively new or is it
just going to be the trappings have changed somewhat?
Now the fact that the Prime Minister's only had three working days to put this together indicates that it is unlikely to be a massive change. So we
will have to wait and see what she presents to the House of Commons today. But she does need to really take a different approach than she has been if
she wants to win over a considerable amount of MP's who remain firmly opposed to her plan A.
JONES: Yes, and Bianca, after that historic defeat from last week, the Prime Minister did signify -- signal at least that she would be ready to
listen, to talk more across the aisle, to talk to other parties as well. However, reports suggest that she's actually not really done that and she's
just been looking internally at her at her Tory Party and the DUP, who of course, back up and bolster her government right now.
NOBILO: : Yes, earlier, Hannah, I spoke to the leader of the Scottish National Party in Blackford and he repeated a similar refrain, that it's a
bit too little, too late for the Prime Minister's approach to the parties to try and come together and form a solution, which appeals across all of
the major parties. He said, as far as he's concerned, that the other approach which could command a majority in the House of Commons, short of
avoiding No Deal, is this idea of a customs arrangement, something along the lines of a Norway model. But it does seem like the Prime Minister's
focus has pivoted back to her own party.
She'll be reminded of Prime Ministers throughout history who have turned their backs on their own party and looked across the aisle to the
opposition to try to get support for a controversial policy, none of those Prime Ministers have had a very long lifespan. So the Prime Minister does
need to focus on trying to get all of her party on side, around some kind of plan. But they do represent the most antithetical strands of this
Brexit debate, her Brexiteers and the Remainers within her own party. So, how she tries to do that I guess we'll find out but it is anybody's guess,
because it seems like quite an impossible task.
JONES: Still anybody's guess, still on Brexit. Let's go out to Nic Robertson whose live in Northern Ireland for us. Nic, it's gone back to
the backstop and the question of whether we need this backstop at all now.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, you know, the feeling here, particularly in this city, Derry -- Londonderry, which is the
biggest -- second biggest city in Northern Ireland, it will be Britain's principal border city with the European Union here. A city of about
100,000 people, 80 percent of the people here voted Remain. The border is just a couple of miles away. Many people have relatives just across the
border. We've been talking to them here, they're very concerned about the language around Brexit at the moment.
[10:05:00] For them, it seems to have a very uncertain future. They're worried about the potential for border posts appearing on the border with
Ireland, because that would intimately affect their daily lives. They're concerned that potentially this may lead to a return to violence in
Northern Ireland. No one's expecting violence on the scale that there was here back in the '70s and the '80s, but it is a concern. And central to
that is the backstop. It is rejected by those Northern Irish MP's from the DUP who prop up Theresa May's slender majority in Westminster.
But it is not something that you find much support for around here. There are people here think that the idea of the backstop to keep the border open
was a necessary thing. It's part of their lives, having an open border. So it is turning into a very divisive issue. And it is dividing people
principally along the same lines that people were divided on during what was known as the trouble, the violence here, in the '70s and the '80s.
That there are those that from the DUP and the unionist community who aspire to keep strong ties with the United Kingdom, and those within what
people would know as the nationalist community, that would look towards an open border with the Republic of Ireland and maybe one day a united
Ireland. So you're digging up those old grievances that the peace agreement 20 years ago was in place to lay to rest and keep that border
JONES: Yes, and as you say, Nic, I mean, there's one thing to deal with the trade across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland, but now questions about whether we need to revisit sectarian disputes and go back to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and that's
been put into stark view today, with current day, present day security concerns, right where you are.
ROBERTSON: Sure, there was a car bomb here over the weekend, planted by what police believe is a group called the new IRA. They say it was
intended to kill people, it was a highly unstable and crude bomb. But today, a couple of days later, the security cordon is still in place here
at this bomb site. But the police are dealing with another two potentially similar types of incidents.
There have been two incidents where mass armed, masked armed men have hijacked vehicles and the police have now evacuated people from two
different areas in this town, as they try to figure out, are there bombs loaded into these vehicles. It was the vehicle up here, the car bomb up
here, was hijacked on Saturday night, a bomb put in it, and then detonated, minutes after, innocent people had been walking by. It is a huge concern
here now for the police, that they believe that this car bomb was intended to kill people. And a concern for the community as an indication of how
potentially volatile. No one is clear why these -- why this bomb was placed over the weekend. But is this an indication that some groups are
willing to exploit a vacuum around Brexit. And intrinsic to that, is the concern over what will happen to the border. So the backstop, the Good
Friday Agreement, it's all mixed in there and it is essentially, in the communities here, along the same dividing lines that led to the violence of
several decades ago. The Unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and the nationalists who would aspire to an open border, and
potentially a united Ireland, it is really, you know, peeling the scabs off a barely-healed wound.
JONES: Let's get back to the politics on all of this now, because Theresa May is due to speak in the next half hour or so, to Parliament. Erin
McLaughlin is standing by for us in Brussels now. Erin, she is supposedly about to present her plan B to Parliament. Are all of these efforts though
in vein, given the fact that we still don't know whether the EU members are open to any kind of renegotiation on this withdrawal bill?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hannah, it's interesting, you speak to diplomats here, we heard from the foreign ministers here in
Brussels, earlier today at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting. They made it very clear that from their perspective the ball is in Theresa May's
court to come up with some sort of proposal. They'll be looking very closely at what she has to say in Westminster today, that what she puts
forward to break this impasse. They were also very clear that the withdrawal agreement component of this Brexit deal -- remember there are
two components of the deal, there is the withdrawal agreement which is legally binding. There's also the political declaration which outlines the
future relationship from their perspective, the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation. Renegotiating that, in the words of the Lithuanian
Foreign Minister would be like opening up a pandora's box.
That's the part of the agreement that includes that Northern Ireland backstop solution that Nic Robertson was referencing there. But Michel
Barnier in an exclusive interview with RTE here in Brussels at the same Foreign Affairs Council meeting. Said that he would be open to discussing
the political declaration component of the Brexit deal. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[10:10:02] MICHEL BARNIER, EU CHIEF BREXIT NEGOTIATOR: I'm not sure that this is part of the debate in U.K., as I see, and I follow carefully the
debate. The debate is much more now on the future relationship. And as I said, we are open to work again under the political declaration and to be
more ambitious for the future relations with what the U.K. wants to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Now, EU solidarity has been a critical negotiating tactic for the European Union throughout these negotiations. We did hear from the
Polish Foreign Minister earlier today break ranks so to speak, in an interview with the BBC. Suggesting that there could be a time limit on
that Northern Ireland backstop proposing a five-year time limit, something that Simon Coveney of the Irish Foreign Minister, very quickly ruled out,
saying that is not in line at this point with the EU's thinking. So, all eyes here in Brussels on Westminster at this point.
JONES: All right, Erin McLaughlin live in Brussels for us. And Nic Robertson who is in Northern Ireland, and also, Bianca Nobilo who's
covering events for us in Westminster, My thanks to all three of you.
We'll move on to other stories. And whoever tries to hurt us, we hurt them. Those words from Israel's Prime Minister today. Promising to
continue attacking Iranian targets in Syria. Israeli military says it launched multiple air strikes in the Damascus area, shaking the night sky
with explosions. It says the attacks were in response to an Iranian missile fired at the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Israeli also attacked
Syrian defense batteries trying to repel the airstrike. A Syrian opposition group says 11 people were killed in the strikes. Russia for its
part says four Syrian soldiers are among the dead.
Now, for years, Israel has remained silent about these kind of air strike, declining any comment. So the amount of detail that the IDF is now
providing is really quite remarkable. It even posted this on Twitter, showing the areas that it targeted around Damascus. Let's get more now
from Oren Liebermann. Oren standing by for us in Jerusalem. Also, Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. Oren, to you first. And talk us through what the
Israeli objective is in Syria and whether the fact that it's being far more open now about what it's doing is perhaps something to do with fact that
the U.S. is giving it the opportunity to do so.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israel has always made its objective clear when it comes to Israeli actions in Syria, even before when it
followed its policy of ambiguity and reversed to comment on those actions. Israel won't allow an Iranian military entrenchment in Syria. Israel won't
allow the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. And Israel has drawn a few other red line, saying this is where we will
The question is why a sudden openness, as you have pointed out. Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged an Israeli strike in Syria
openly, shortly after it happened and that was for the first time. And then again after a Sunday morning strike -- a daytime strike which is very
rare in Syria. The Prime Minister who was then in Africa once again acknowledged the strike.
It certainly could be him playing domestic politics. There is a domestic election here in a few months. But it also could very well be a message to
Iran. That Israel will itself draw a line and continue to act and now act openly against Iranian forces in Syria. As has been Israel's red line.
Does the U.S. policy affect this? Israel has known that it always has had the U.S.'s backing when it acts in Syria. The bigger question though is,
the U.S. isn't a real factor here, what's Russia's position on all of this? The Israeli military told this in a conference call earlier today, that
Russia was notified in realtime as the action was happening about Israel's actions over Syria through the deconfliction mechanism that exists between
Israel and Russia.
JONES: Yes, we'll get to Russia's policy on all of this in just a second with Fred. But, Oren, I want to ask another question then again about the
air, Israel, and the U.S., and their relationship with regards to what happens in Syria. The fact that Donald Trump recently announced that there
would be a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, has Israel seen that as an opportunity to make its mark in Syria?
LIEBERMANN: Well, I'm not sure that the decision there, or the announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops has affected Israel's policy.
And that policy again, those red lines have been reiterated both before and again after that announcement. Netanyahu didn't criticize the withdrawal
of U.S. troops or the announcement of the withdrawal from U.S. troops. Although, certainly other former security official did, both out loud and
then some current official did. Though they did so less openly. Saying it was bad for Israel, because it pulled away the only foothold Israel had on
trying to influence the final outcome of Syria after the fighting has ended there. But even if the withdrawal is bad for Israel, I don't know that it
has changed Israel's policy, and the reasons under which Israel will carry out strikes in Syria.
JONES: Well, let's get out then to Russia, Fred Pleitgen standing by for us in Moscow. Now, Fred, Oren just poised a question, and I put it to you
now. What side is Russia on? What is Russia's policy when it comes to -- in particular what we're seeing now with Israeli air strikes in Syria?
[10:15:03] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think first and foremost, Hannah, Russia is on Russia's side in all
this. And I think Russia really has its own agenda when it comes to Syria. First of all, they do back the Assad government. They've done so from the
beginning. And I think that was a very simple part of their strategy. That for them, at least, has worked over the years, as they have been
active, as they had that single party in Syria, the Assad government. That they supported the entire time and they made sure they were able to prop
Now as far as the Israelis are concerned, I think the Russians are very much aware of the fact of what Oren just said as well, that Israel is
willing to go all out to ensure its security and the Russians certainly don't appear to be the ones who are going to stand in the way. There have
been some obviously cases where they've gotten in very close proximity, where a Russian plane was accidentally downed by Syrian air defense systems
after Israeli jets flew in that vicinity and did a strike in that vicinity. But by and large, they've been able to stay out of each other's way.
Now the other party, obviously, that the Russians really need to balance out in all of this, is the Iranians. And it is quite interesting, when
you're here in Moscow, what you hear from the Russians, is, yes, they're fighting on the same side as the Iranians. Obviously, in favor of the
Assad government, but at the same time they wouldn't say that they are allies of the Iranians on the ground. Because one of the things that the
Russians also make very clear, while they are fighting on the side of the Assad government, they certainly never signed up to a confrontation with
Israel. So in that regard, the Russians really are trying to keep the Israelis and the Iranians apart if you will and try to prevent a larger
confrontation there in Syria which, obviously, would be detrimental to their agenda as well of trying to prop up the Assad government -- Hannah.
All right, Fred Pleitgen, live for us there in Moscow. Also, Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, my thanks to you both.
Still to come, on the program today, the no shows cast a shadow at the world economic forum that kicks off in Switzerland. We're live in Davos
for that story, coming up next.
JONES: You're watching CNN. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London for you. Welcome back.
Let's take to you over to Davos. Trade tensions, the U.S. shut down and Brexit, of course, are already casting long shadows over this year's World
Economic Forum and it hasn't even begun yet. As political leaders, business chiefs and powerbrokers gather in Switzerland.
[10:20:00] The key players in these political dramas are notably absent this year as domestic crisis keeps them home and off this world stage. CNN
business anchor Julia Chatterley is on the ground in Davos for us. Julia, good to see you. Now I guess global anxiety because of trade wars and the
like, is the overarching sentiment of this year's Davos but it is not helped I guess by the absenteeism we're seeing with all of the global
leaders who have pulled out.
JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: Yes, absolutely, right, Hannah, and obviously most notable among them is President Trump of course.
On the one hand, it's a good thing, because he does bring one heck of a distraction, I think. But on the other hand, of course, when he's at the
heart of some of the big risks out there, it would be nice to see him here, and representing the United States. I've been looking though at some of
those details and some of those risks. Listen in.
CHATTERLEY (voice-over): High in the Swiss Alps amid the breath-taking vistas and pristine air, the Davos dream of global connectivity and
cooperation is facing a bumpy ride. Some say it may be downhill from here for the Davos elite.
RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: The vision of Davos, which is that everybody's coming together, has been really shattered over the last
year. There are so many issues facing globalization right now. In fact, it's hard to think of something positive for globalization.
CHATTERLEY: What a year it has been since the last Davos. From anti-elite yellow vest protests in France, to populist wins at the ballot box in
Brazil, Mexico and Italy. And strong men consolidating power in countries like Turkey and Hungary. It's not just "America First".
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make America great again, right?
CHATTERLEY: It is the fear of every nation out for itself, everywhere.
FOROOHAR: In Davos, you're probably going to hear a lot about a tri-polar world. U.S. is going in one direction. Europe is going another and China
and some of the emerging markets are going a third.
CHATTERLEY: Let's call it deglobalization, President Trump seems to embrace it. But be careful what you wish for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two big threats to Western-led globalization as we know. The first is the rise of China with alternative models and
political value. The second is the erosion of liberal democratic institutions from within, inside all of these estates.
CHATTERLEY: But Davos won't be all doom and gloom. Yes, global growth may be slowing but the U.S. economy is on solid footing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're actually in a good place.
CHATTERLEY: And certain central bankers are saying they'll be patient. The big hope of course, the possibility of a U.S./China trade deal coming
this year, too.
And there's going to be the usual discussion about technology, disruption and innovation. After a rough 2018, it could be tough going, Davos men and
Davos women, are simply hoping to stay on their feet.
CHATTERLEY: And we'll see on that front. But obviously, the political non-attendees are a part of this story here, too. But I think that does
put us back to the core of what is also going to be discussed here at Davos, and that is how do we address the impact of globalization? Things
like income inequality? Reshaping the world businesses for the development of technology and the impact that that's going to have. So just because
some of these big profile leaders aren't going be here doesn't mean there isn't going to be some worthy discussion here, too -- Hannah.
JONES: And interesting you mentioned in your report, Julia, about deglobalization. I'm wondering whether that will take on more of a
talking point than globalization itself. Particularly in an age of "America First" even without the President of the United States there with
CHATTERLEY: Yes, you're right. And this is "America First", but there's a whole host of countries out there that are seeing pulls to the political
extremes and a push for more nationalistic policies. And I think again it brings it back to what we're seeing here, and it is the spillover effect of
globalization. There's been lots of winners over the last 20 or 30 years but there is also lots of loser. And the debate has to come back to,
again, how do we help those losers, and try to support them better going forward. They're just some of the issues of course. Some of the shorter-
term issues and the things that we've discussed.
Brexit. The risks surrounding Europe of course and the global slowdown there. The United States and the economic slowdown potentially and the
impact of that globally as well. And of course, the trade war. Do we get some kind of break through and a solution this year, even though we didn't
last year between the Chinese and the United States, too? Because these are the big unknowns, and I think that the world and investors of course,
are worrying about right now.
JONES: And one final question to you, Julia, and given the fact that there are so many world leaders who aren't attending, Donald Trump, Theresa May,
et cetera, why are there still any world leaders and business leaders still going?
[10:25:00] CHATTERLEY: It is a great question. It's a great meeting post globally for people to get together, to discuss some of the big issues.
But you know, back to the point that we were saying about this global political leadership vacuum, the question I keep asking is, is now more
than ever the time for big businesses to step up? And I think actually, 2018 was quite definitive in that.
We've already seen the likes of Amazon raising minimum wages in the U.K., and the United States. Microsoft in the last few weeks stepping up and
saying they're going to help the housing crisis in Seattle. More and more, I think, we're seeing business leaders stepping up and I think that's also
going to be part of the discussion. Particularly when big businesses like Amazon and Apple are the same size as certain countries out there. Time
for business to step up. If political leaders can't. Hannah, back to you.
JONES: All right, Julia Chatterley, live for us there in Davos. Julia, thanks so much.
And just a reminder to our viewers that CONNECT THE WORLD will be coming to you live from Davos tomorrow and for the rest of the week as well. Same
time, different place though, a bit colder. Looking at an increasingly unequal world in flux right now.
Live from London today at least, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. And coming up on the program, Britain's Prime Minister will soon lay out her next Brexit
steps to Parliament. But can Theresa May fend off lawmakers threatening to take over negotiations all together? That is coming up next.
[10:30:00] JONES: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones live for you in London this hour.
We're going to return to Brexit, of course, the British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to present her next steps to Parliament any minute now.
We're looking at live pictures from the Commons chamber as I speak.
Now, after Theresa May's original deal of course, suffered that historic crushing defeat, just last week. But Mrs. May is under steep pressure from
lawmakers, some within her own party, who are trying to take control of the overall negotiations for Brexit. A growing group of cross-party
Parliamentary members is planning to introduce legislation that could lead to pushing the Brexit date passed that current deadline of March 29.
I want to bring in Bianca Nobilo who is in Westminster. Has been following all of the Brexit developments for us over the last, goodness knows how
many months it is now. Bianca, so we are expecting Theresa May to speak any minute now. She's expected to outline plan B. She's only had a couple
of days to actually put this forward. Is it likely to be any different or vastly different from what she presented last week, when she suffered that
historic crushing defeat?
NOBILO: Well, unlike many big announcements coming from the Prime Minister, there is a real shroud of mystery over plan B. And people I've
spoken to don't know what to expect other than to your point, Hannah, that it won't be a fundamental substantive change on plan A. They expect it to
be some tweaks, maybe some trappings. One MP told us it would be plan A in a sparkly costume, so they're expecting broadly similar to what the Prime
Minister already presented.
But in terms of what the direction she might go in, well, if her statements since she had the historic bruising Parliamentary defeat last week are
anything to go by, then we would expect her to perhaps p continue to reach out to other parties. That was the first move when her deal was rejected.
She said she's going to ask all of the main party leaders to join her for talks on how to break the Brexit impasse. And she indeed met with the
heads of the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and so on. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, wouldn't meet with
her but they had an exchange of letters. So she might continue to push the cross-party effort on this.
And also, because Downing Street has come out and put an end to any rumors that Theresa May was thinking of modifying the Good Friday Agreement. What
we would also be expecting to hear from the Prime Minister, just reaffirming how important it is for her government to respect the avoidance
of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
JONES: Yes, so they're monitoring live pictures of the House of Commons, Bianca, as we're talking to you. Other MPs currently at the dispatch box.
And explain for us what this means about this cross-party and negotiation, not with the Prime Minister, but rather without her, to potentially take
the whole of the Brexit negotiations away from her. How would that work? And who's behind it?
NOBILO: Well, Hannah, one of the really significant themes about Brexit in general is that it means that British politics isn't divided along party
lines. It's divided along the lines of Brexit. So there are some members of Parliament within the Prime Minister's own party that actually have a
lot more in common when it comes to Brexit with members of the opposition party, the Labour Party. So what we're seeing, with these talks about back
benches potentially trying to take control, that's an effort from some Parliamentarians from the Prime Minister's own party and from the Labour
Party, possibly from some other parties too. The Scottish National Party told me that this morning, that they were involved in some of those talks.
The idea being that perhaps groups of Parliamentarians instead of the government could be informative in shaping the next stage of the Brexit
negotiations. They believe that there could be a consensus in the House of Commons to pursue a softer Brexit. Something similar to the so-called
Norway model which would see Britain remaining in the European economic area, and also having some sort of customs arrangement with the EU, so
that's what is being discussed.
Now, those Parliamentarians who object to those proposals and the idea of MP's taking back power from a democratically elected government have been
calling this a coup. They've been saying it's plotting and that it's deeply unfair. So it's causing even further divisions within Parliament.
But this week, Hannah, we'd expect to see more talk about how Parliament can take back control over the government, if there doesn't seem to be any
progress on the issue of Brexit, and the country is hurdling towards the date, the 29th of March, where at the moment it will be leaving without a
JONES: Bianca, stand by for us. Still looking at pictures live from the Commons. We are waiting to hear from Theresa May, the British Prime
Minister. Erin, I want to come back to you. Erin's in Brussels for us. How closely will politicians in Europe be watching what's happening in the
House of Commons right now or what is about to happen. Given, of course, the fact that the British Prime Minister is about to present her, some say
[10:35:00] It's a motion of what Parliament will then go on to vote on in the next couple of weeks. And there might have to be some more negotiation
with her European counterparts in order to get that through.
NOBILO: Well, I think it is fair to say, Hannah, that all eyes at this point are on Westminster. And what Theresa May has to put forward as the
so-called plan B. You know, right after that crushing defeat that we saw in the Houses of Common last week, some 230 votes, her Brexit deal was
voted down. The sentiment here in Brussels, that there really was nothing at that point they could do. Nothing that they're --
Erin, I have to interrupt you. The British Prime Minister Theresa May is speaking. Let's listen in.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: -- car bomb attack in Londonderry and paying tribute to the bravery of the Northern Ireland police and the
local community who helped to ensure that everyone got to safety. This House stands together with the people of Northern Ireland and ensuring that
we never go back to the violence and terror of the past.
Mr. Speaker, turning to Brexit, following last week's vote it is clear that the Government's approach had to change. And it has.
Having established the confidence of Parliament in this government I have listened to colleagues across parliament from different parties and with
Last week I met the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Westminster leaders of the DUP, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, and backbench
members from both sides of this House. My Right Honorable Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also had a number of such meetings.
The Government has approached these meetings in a constructive spirit, without preconditions, and I am pleased that everyone we met with took the
I regret that the Right Honorable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has not chosen to take part so far. I hope he will reflect on that
Given the importance of this issue we should all be prepared to work together to find a way forward. And my Ministerial colleagues and I will
continue with further meetings this week.
Let me set out the six key issues which have been at the center of the talks to date.
The first two relate to the process for moving forwards.
First, there is widespread concern about the possibility of the U.K. leaving without a deal. And there are those on both sides of the House who
want the Government to rule this out. But we need to be honest with the British people about what that means.
The right way to rule out No Deal is for this House to approve a deal with the European Union. That is what this Government is seeking to achieve.
The only other guaranteed way to avoid a No Deal Brexit is to revoke Article 50 -- which would mean staying in the EU.
There are others who think that what we need is more time, so they say we should extend Article 50 to give longer for Parliament to debate how we
should leave and what a deal should look like. This is not ruling out No Deal, but simply deferring the point of decision. And the EU are very
unlikely simply to agree to extend Article 50 without a plan for how we are going approve a deal.
So when people say "rule out No Deal" the consequences of what they are actually saying are that if we in Parliament can't approve a deal, we
should revoke Article 50.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this would go against the referendum result and I do not believe that is a course of action that we should take, or which this
House should support.
Second, all the Opposition parties that have engaged so far -- and some backbenchers -- have expressed their support for a Second Referendum. I
have set out many times my deep concerns about returning to the British people for a Second Referendum. Our duty is to implement the decision of
the first one. I fear a Second Referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in
this country -- not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break up our United Kingdom.
It would require an extension of Article 50. It would require an extension for article 50. We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to
the European Parliament in May. And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a Second Referendum could damage
social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.
Mr. Speaker, we do not know what the Right Honorable Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, thinks about this, because he has not engaged. But I
know there are Members who have already indicated that they wish to test the support of the House for this path. I do not believe there is a
majority for a Second Referendum.
[10:40:00] And if I am right, then just as the Government is having to think again about its approach going forwards, then so too do those Members
who believe this is the answer. The remaining issues raised in the discussions relate to the substance of the deal -- and on these points I
believe we can make progress.
Members of this House, predominantly but not only on the Government benches and the DUP, continue to express their concern on the issue of the Northern
Ireland backstop. All of us agree that as we leave the European Union, we must fully respect the Belfast Agreement and not allow the creation of a
hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland -- nor indeed a border down the Irish Sea.
And I want to be absolutely clear, in the light of media stories this morning, this Government will not reopen the Belfast Agreement. I have
never even considered doing so -- and neither would I.
With regard to the backstop, despite the changes we have previously agreed, there remain two core issues. The fear that we could be trapped in it
permanently. And concerns over its potential impact on our Union if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the U.K.
So I will be talking further this week to colleagues -- including in the DUP -- to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of
Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House. And I will then take the conclusions of
those discussion back to the EU.
From other parts of this House concerns have also been raised over the Political Declaration. In particular, these have focused on a wish for
further precision around the future relationship. The Political Declaration will provide the basis for developing our detailed negotiating
mandate for the future. And this new phase of negotiations will be different in a number of ways. It will cover a far broader range of issues
in greater depth, and so will require us to build a negotiating team that draws on the widest expertise available -- from trade negotiators to
security experts and specialists in data and financial services. And as we develop our mandate across each of these areas, I want to provide
reassurance to the House.
Given the breadth of the negotiations we will seek input from a wide range of voices from outside Government. That must include ensuring Parliament
has a proper say, and fuller involvement, in these decisions.
It is Government's responsibility to negotiate, but it is also my responsibility to listen to the legitimate concerns of colleagues, both
those who voted Leave and who voted Remain, in shaping our negotiating mandate for our future partnership with the EU.
So the Government will consult this House on its negotiating mandate, to ensure that Members have the chance to make their views known, and that we
harness the knowledge of all Select Committees, across the full range of expertise needed for this next phase negotiations -- from security to
This will also strengthen the Government's hand in the negotiations, giving the EU confidence about our position and avoiding leaving the bulk of
Parliamentary debate to a point when we are under huge time pressure to ratify.
Now I know that to date Parliament has not felt it has enough visibility of the Government's position as it has been developed and negotiated. It has
sought documents through Humble Addresses, but that mechanism cannot take into account the fact that some information when made public could weaken
the U.K.'s negotiating hand. So as the negotiations progress, we will also look to deliver confidential committee sessions that can ensure Parliament
has the most up-to-date information, whilst not undermining the negotiations. And we will regularly update the House -- in particular
before the six-monthly review points with the EU foreseen in the agreement.
While it will always be for Her Majesty's Government to negotiate for the whole of the U.K., we are also committed to giving the Devolved
Administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interests in these negotiations.
I hope to meet both first Ministers in the course of this week and will use the opportunity to discuss this further with them. And we will also look
for further ways to engage elected representatives from Northern Ireland and regional representatives in England. And finally, we will reach out
beyond this House and engage more deeply with businesses, civil society and trade unions.
Fifth, Honorable Members from across the House have raised strong views that our exit from the EU should not lead to a reduction in our social and
environmental standards -- and in particular workers' rights. So I will ensure that we provide Parliament with a guarantee that not only will we
not erode protections for workers' rights and the environment but we will ensure this country leads the way.
To that end my Right Honorable Friend the Business Secretary indicated the Government's support for the proposed amendment to the meaningful vote put
down by the Honorable Member for Bassetlaw -- including that Parliament should be able to consider any changes made by the EU in these areas in
[10:45:00] My Right Honorable Friend and others will work with members across the House, businesses and Trade Unions, to develop proposals that
give effect to this amendment, including looking at legislation where necessary.
Sixth, and crucially, a number of Members have made powerful representations about the anxieties facing EU citizens in the U.K. and U.K.
citizens in the EU who are waiting to have their status confirmed. We have already committed to ensuring that EU citizens in the U.K. will be able to
stay, and to continue to access in-country benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now, in both a deal and a No Deal scenario. Indeed, the
next phase of testing of the scheme for EU nationals to confirm their status has launched today.
And having listened to concerns from Members -- and organizations like the "The 3 Million" group -- I can confirm today that when we roll out the
scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to
stay. And anyone who has or will apply during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed. More details about how this will work will be made
available in due course.
Some EU Member States have similarly guaranteed the rights of British nationals in a No Deal scenario -- and we will step up our efforts to
ensure that they all do so.
Mr. Speaker, let me briefly set out the process for the days ahead.
In addition to this statement, today I will lay a Written Ministerial Statement, as required under section 13(4 and 5) of the EU Withdrawal Act -
- and table a motion in neutral terms on this statement, as required by section 13(6). This motion will be amendable and will be debated and voted
on in this House on 29th January. And I will provide a further update to the House during that debate. To be clear, this is not a re-run of the
vote to ratify the agreement we have reached with the European Union, but the fulfilment of the process following the House's decision to reject that
motion. The process of engagement is ongoing.
In the next few days, my ministerial colleagues and I will continue to meet with Members on all sides of the House, and with representatives of the
trade unions, business groups, civil society and others as we try to find the broadest possible consensus on a way forward.
Whilst I will disappoint those colleagues that hope to secure a second referendum, I do not believe that there is a majority in this House for
such a path. And whilst I want to deliver a deal with the EU, I cannot support the only other way in which to take No Deal off the table, which is
to revoke Article 50.
So my focus continues to be on what is needed to secure the support of this House in favor of a Brexit Deal with the EU. And my sense so far is that
three key changes are needed.
First, we will be more flexible, open and inclusive in the future in how we engage Parliament in our approach to negotiating our future partnership
with the European Union.
Second, we will embed the strongest possible protections on workers' rights and the environment.
And third, we will work to identify how we can ensure that our commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland and Ireland can be delivered in a way
that commands the support of this House, and the European Union.
In doing so, we will honor the mandate of the British people and leave the European Union in a way which benefits every part of our United Kingdom and
every citizen of our country.
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 same statement and I
join with her in condemning the car bomb attack we've seen in Londonderry during the weekend. And commend the Emergency Services and the local
community for their response.
Mr. Speaker, the huge achievement of the Good Friday Agreement, in reducing violence in Northern Ireland must never be taken for granted. It was an
historic step forward but we cannot take it for granted.
The government still appears not to have come to terms with the scale of the defeat in the House of Commons last week. The Prime Minister seems to
be going through the motions of accepting the results, but in reality, is in deep denial. The logic of that decisive defeat is that the Prime
Minister must change her red lines. Because her current deal is undeliverable.
So can she be clear and explicit with the House, which of her red lines is she prepared to move on?
The Prime Minister's invitation to talks have been exposed as a PR sham. Every opposition party politician, every opposition party politician, came
out of those meetings with the same response. Contrary to what the Prime Minister's just said.
[10:50:00] There's no flexibility, there were no negotiations, nothing has changed.
SPEAKER: Order, the Prime Minister was heard, and when there was noise, I call for it to stop and the same must apply to the leader of the
opposition. No one in this chamber will shout the Right Honorable Gentleman down and even bother trying. You're wasting your breath. Jeremy
CORBYN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
But I do welcome the commitment of that the fee for EU citizens to apply for several status will be waived.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was fond of saying that this is the best possible deal on the table. It is the only possible deal on the table.
But our EU negotiating partners are clear, and I quote. Unanimously the European council have always said that if the U.K. chooses to shift its red
lines in the future, to go beyond a simple free trade agreement, then the EU will be immediately ready to give a favorable response.
The House voted to hold the referendum. It also voted to trigger Article 50. There is a clear majority of this House to support a deal in
principle, and to respect the referendum results. But it requires the Prime Minister to face reality and accept her deal has been comprehensively
Instead, we now understand the Prime Minister is going back to Europe, to seek concessions on the backstop. Can I ask the Prime Minister this? What
is the difference between legal assurances and concessions? What makes her think that what she tried to renegotiate in December will succeed in
Mr. Speaker this does feel a bit like Groundhog Day. So the first thing she must do is recognize that the clear majority in this House against
leaving without a deal and rule out No Deal. And stop the colossal waste of public money planning for an outcome.
Questions too must be asked of the chancellor. He reassured businesses that No Deal would be ruled out by the Commons. Yet, he is sanctioning 4.2
billion to be spent on an option he believes will be ruled out.
The Foreign Secretary said last week, it was very unrealistic to believe the House of Commons would not find a way to block No Deal.
Mr. Speaker, can I ask the Prime Minister to meet first with her Chancellor, and her Foreign Secretary, and see if they can convince her to
do what is in her power to rule out No Deal.
And if she will not do that now, will she confirm to the House and if an amendment passes, that rules out No Deal, she will implement that
instruction. The Prime Minister agreed the backstop because of her pledge of the people of Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border, but No Deal would
mean a hard border in Ireland and break the Prime Minister's commitment. Is she seriously willing to accept a hard border?
But today heralds a start of a democratic process. Where this House will debate amendments that will determine how we navigate Brexit. Of course,
the government tried to block us ever getting to this stage. They wanted us to have no Democratic scrutiny whatsoever. Labour set out, and I
believe there may be a majority in the House, for such a proposal for a new comprehensive Customs Union with the EU that would include a say. A strong
Single Market deal that delivers frictionless trade. And ensure no race to the bottom on workers' rights or indeed any other of the important
regulations and protections we have.
We will, as we said, consistently, from the beginning, back amendments to seek to rule out the disaster of No Deal. And as we have said, we will not
rule out the option of a public vote.
So Mr. Speaker, no more phony talks. Parliament will debate and decide. And this time, this time, Mr. Speaker, I hope and expect the government to
listen to this House.
SPEAKER: Prime Minister.
MAY: Thank you, thank you Mr. Speaker. Can I just say to the Right Honorable Gentleman, he says no more phony talks, it would be nice to have
some talks with him on this issue. Because he makes lots of claims about what is being said in the talks that are being held so far. But actually
he doesn't know, because he didn't turn up to those talks.
And I come back to him, he makes a great deal about the issue of No Deal. He said that there is a consensus, I think he said there was a view across
this House that supported a deal in principle and wanted to deliver on Brexit.
[10:55:02] That's exactly what I want to sit down and talk to him about. Because what we need to see is what is it that will secure the support of
this House to enable us to leave the European Union with a deal. And we are continuing to listen to groups across the House, in order to find a way
to secure that support.
Now, he talks about ruling out No Deal. I made, as I said in my statement, there are only two ways that you can ensure that No Deal does not happen.
One is to revoke Article 50, to reverse the decision of the referendum, and to stay in the European Union. That would be a betrayal of the referendum
decision that was taking place in 2016.
And the other way is to agree a deal with the European Union. And it is precisely about finding a way that we can secure the support of this House,
for a deal, that I want -- that I'm talking with Members across the House about and want to talk with the Right Honorable Gentleman about. So I hope
from what he said today, that he will reconsider his decision not to attend those talks.
He asked me to -- he complained about the amount of money that was being spent. He talked about 4.2 billion pounds being spent, and how that money
should actually be spent in other ways. I see the Labour Party have put out a press release saying the money should be spent in other ways.
What the Right Honorable Gentleman might not have noticed is that actually that 4.2 billion is not all money that's being spent on No Deal. If we
stop spending that money, then we wouldn't be prepared for a deal, either. So he needs to recognize that actually government has to spend money to
ensure that we are in a position, whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the European Union, whether we leave with a deal, or in a No Deal
So I say once again to the Right Honorable Gentleman, and across the House, for those who are concerned about No Deal, that means we should be leaving
with a deal, but what we need to find is the way that this House can -- we can secure the support of this House for a deal. What is being clear from
the discussions that we have had so far, is the wide variety of views that are held around this House on this issue. But when it comes to it, and
when it comes to it, we all need to be able to look our constituents in the eye and say that we did the right thing by them. That is leaving with a
deal, that we ensure we deliver on the referendum and protect their jobs. That is what the government is about. That is what we're working on. And
that is what we will deliver.
SPEAKER: Mr. Kenneth Clarke.
KENNETH CLARKE, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: Mr. Speaker, as a supporter of the withdrawal agreement last week, I welcome the Prime Minister's
acceptance of the need for change in the light of the result. And also, her reassurance that she will not compromise on a permanently open border
in Northern Ireland. And that therefore any discussions she has with the hard-right wing on the Irish backstop will not compromise the commitment to
a permanently open border.
But would she also consider reaching out to those Remainers here who are not yet convinced of her agreement. But at least relaxing -- if she can't
do a U-turn -- her normal rejection of a Customs Union, because I don't see those agreements with outside powers lining up to do trade agreements with
us, to compensate us for leaving Europe. And her resistance to regulatory alignment with Europe. Which is not inconsistent with some tightening up
at least with the free movement of labor. I urge her to be flexible on the front, because there was a large majority against the Prime Minister last
week and there are probably more numerous Remainers who voted against it, than there are Brexiteers and she needs to reach out to them.
MAY: I would say to my Right Honorable and Learned Friend, he talks about some degree of regulatory alignment, he might not have noticed that last
summer, the government put forward a proposal which included a degree of regulatory alignment with a Parliamentary lock on that regulatory alignment
which raised concerns of Members of this House in which members of this House said that, some said that they would not consider to be the proper
I actually think that what we need to have in the future is a good trade relationship with the European Union. What we have in the Political
Declaration is a recognition that that issue of regulatory alignment, alignment with standards that is followed by the European Union, is in
balance with the question of checks at the border, and there is a spectrum of whether that balance results.
I've argued for frictionless trade. There are those in the European Union who have not accepted the concept of frictionless trade.