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HALA GORANI TONIGHT

United Kingdom Attorney General Says Nation Could Be Trapped in Irish Backstop; Theresa May Urges Lawmakers to Back Deal or Risk No Brexit; Interview with MP Steve Brine, Conservative Party, UK; Richard Quest Interviews Tewolde GebreMariam, CEO, Ethiopian Airlines; Nations Lining Up to Ban 737 Max - But United States Does Not. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 12, 2019 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from outside the British Parliament. I am Hala Gorani, a slightly earlier program for the

next two weeks. 6:00 p.m. central European time which means in just two hours from now, Theresa May's revised Brexit deal will be voted on and will

almost certainly be defeated, despite that last-minute dash to Strasbourg.

Britain, Germany and France are joining the growing list of countries banning the BOEING 737 MAX. We'll take a look at that breaking news story

as well as an exclusive interview with the head of Ethiopian Airlines telling CNN that pilots sounded the alarm about flight control problems

before disappearing from the radar.

We're following those two major stories this hour. Behind me MPs are getting ready to vote on Theresa May's Brexit plan. She did secure last-

minute package of changes last night but after a dramatic day at Westminster she's expected to lose that vote. Her own Attorney General is

saying that it really leaves the unilateral ability of the U.K. to leave the backstop unchanged.

Meanwhile, and we will be looking a great detail on that as well, a crisis ripping the aviation industry. More countries losing confidences in Boeing

737 MAX 8 planes. In fact, Europe's major economies, Germany, Britain and France have joined other governments and airlines in grounding the aircraft

altogether. That is two days after 157 people were killed on one of those planes flown by Ethiopian Airlines. The decision is affecting airlines and

travel companies and is a huge set back for Boeing as well. We'll be looking at that with Richard Quest who will be joining me later this hour.

Let's turn our attention back to what's going on here in London. It was supposed to be the breakthrough that would get her Brexit deal over the

line but it's been a day, yet another one, of blows for Theresa May as we await a vote here in Westminster that will decide the course of Brexit.

Right now, British MPs are debating the Prime Minister's revised deal before a crucial vote to decide its fate in just about two hours. It's the

meaningful vote. We're asking MPs in that building behind me, do you want to adopt the Brexit bill and if not, what do you want to do? Where does

the country go from there? Her own party, Brexiters from her own party and the DUP that small Northern Ireland party that she depends on have said

they will vote against the deal. That makes it impossible to pass, the Prime Minister as she often does fighting however did come out defending

her deal and urging MPs to back her quote, "improved deal" or risk no Brexit at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UK: Danger for those of us who want to deliver, to have faith of the British public and deliver on their vote for

Brexit, is that if this vote is not pass tonight, if this deal is not passed then Brexit could be lost.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Earlier the Prime Minister was dealt another blow by the U.K. Attorney General. Jeffrey Cox says revision do not reduce the legal risk

that can -- risk that U.K. could be trapped into some sort of customs union in definitely. Listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY COX, U.K. Attorney General: Let me make it clear, the legal risk as I set it out in my letter in the 13th of November remains unchanged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Is there even a glimmer of hope left for Theresa May. Let's bring in Erin McLaughlin, she's in Brussels we will get to her in a moment.

Bianca Nobilo is here with me, CNN's Nina Dos Santos is at 10 Downing St. for us. Bianca, you are hearing and I know you have been talking to MPs

all day. What are the MPs telling you about Theresa May's chances?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought it was interesting phrasing that you used when you introduce the show. You said

do MPs want to vote for the Prime Minister's deal? Now, definitely, overwhelmingly, no. They don't want to but the key question is do they

think it's more of danger not to support the deal and risk all of that uncertainty. Brexiters have been saying more and more frequently over the

last few weeks they fear that unknown. If we get into extension territory, it could well mean a softening of Brexit. It's hard to see how it wouldn't

lead to that.

[13:05:00] GORANI: But it's a question of numbers at this stage. If the DUP doesn't vote in favor, not just abstain, but votes against. If her

hard core Brexiter wing within the Tory Party also vote against, she doesn't have the number.

NOBILO: She doesn't have the numbers. She needs about 116 votes to get this across the line. Last time she lost by an overwhelming majority, a

historic margin of 230 votes. The DUP is often referred to as the tail that wags the dog, so if they have

said they are not going to support it, it is unlikely the lion share of the members will support it. We don't know that for certain. We have counted

around 18 to 20 public switches. That's obviously nowhere enough in will be a matter of degrees. If she's defeated today and her deal is voted down

by something in the vicinity of let's say 50 to 80 votes that she could really bring it back --

GORANI: This is just a remarkable process that has been unfolding over the last two years. It's a degree of defeat that determines whether or not you

qualify something as not as catastrophic as it could have once been considered. Right, because OK, she lost by 230 votes. If she loses by 120

it is not so bad. But it is bad. That is not a majority.

NOBILO: And you make a really important point. These are such unprecedented times. The fact the government can't deliver on its key

policy. When Theresa took the job of Prime Minister, she was there to deliver on the outcome of the referendum. This is her flagship policy. It

was voted down by a historic margin and now she's still looking at another defeat. In any other times the Prime Minister would fail to continue in

that situation.

GORANI: The bar is extremely low. Let's go first to Nina Dos Santos, she is at 10 Downing Street. What are you hearing from 10 Downing? The Prime

Minister has a couple of hours left before learning the results of this vote.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: We're not getting much because the Prime Minister spent a couple of hours in the House of Commons. There's a

lot to continue with Brexit not withstanding. This is a government that has to govern the country. That will start tomorrow with the spring

statement. Brexit has been the all-consuming beast for this government. The real fear is if the conservative government at present cannot deliver

Brexit, I was speaking to a few conservative counselors on the steps of ten downing street, they said if we can't deliver Brexit, as party for the next

generation, people won't believe us and our reputation will be done. That's the type of message you heard the Prime Minister delivering in the

House imploring some of those wavering MPs. She was imploring them to come to her side to give her the ability to deliver a Brexit in some form. It's

the hardest option she more or less is saying they will get for now.

GORANI: You don't get third chances. If their final, best and final offer, Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems that way, Hala. I've yet to speak to anyone here in Brussels that has anything to say to

the contrary. There does seem to be fair bit of frustration here as well given the Attorney General's advice. They were operating under the

assumption that Jeffrey Cox changed his mind. The cabinet passed on it to make an about face on Monday. The EU assumed her cabinet signed off on the

package announced by President of the European commission and British Prime Minister Theresa May only to find out today that the Attorney General had

not changed his legal advice. Few eyebrows had been raised at that.

[13:10:00] Brussels now an open question as to what happens next at this point according to senior officials, they are assuming her deal will be

voted down.

GORANI: Erin, thanks very much. Conservative MP and Public Health Minister Steve Brine joins me now. What do owe expect will happen in

Parliament this evening?

STEVE BRINE, MP, CONSERVATIVE PARTY, AND PUBLIC HEALTH MINISTER: What I expect and what I hope are two different things.

What I hope is MPs across the House support this deal. Why? It's a good deal. Delivers on Brexit. Gets out of a constitutional arrangement into a

treaty arrangement. Now for me that delivers on Brexit, it allows us to take control of our money not spending billions into the European pot --

GORANI: The Attorney General said that leaves unchanged the ability of the UK to unilaterally pull out of the backstop.

BRINE: That's the backstop.

GORANI: But that is why people are saying is not a good deal. Because of that inability they believe legally to unilaterally pull out.

BRINE: This idea of being trapped in something I find very interesting. It is not in the EU's interest to trap us and anything. The backstop was

there for a reason. I think the assurance has been given through the joint declaration. It was good enough for me in January. It's good enough for

me now. I think it's remarkable that the Prime Minister has negotiated a deal with 27 other countries. I think Parliament should back there because

if it doesn't today, then we really are in unchartered territory.

GORANI: It's your own party that's keeping her from crossing the finish line.

BRINE: My own party doesn't have a majority in the House of Commons. Actually, there are 630 some MPs that take their seats, and every single

one of them has a responsibility to our constituents. If I represented a constituency in the north of England with a big manufacturing base or car

manufacturing plants, I would be backing the deal right now. If I represented a consistency with lots of --

GORANI: It's the hard-core wing of your own party that's given your Prime Minister such a hard time.

BRINE: Some of them. Conversations are going on.

GORANI: She lost by 230 votes.

BRINE: She did last time. I've been with the Prime Minister this morning. I've been in the house listening to open exchanges, listening to the

Attorney General's statement.

Talking to colleagues who are in the Erg Group, Conservative MPs here in London and they are not one group with one mind all about to do one thing.

There's a number who think we had our moment last time. Enough is enough. Time to get the deal over the line. The messages are quite clear. This is

the last chance. There's no third chances. Take the prize off the shelf. Or you may lose the prize.

GORANI: You said that's what you hope but what do you expect?

BRINE: I expect it will be incredibly close. These things are always in the House of Commons is a hung Parliament. The reason why we need to move

on, look at this circus behind us. This country needs to move on. That means moving on to the future relationship.

GORANI: At what point does the Prime Minister say I've tried. They've still rejected it. Call a general election. Another referendum. Whatever

the process to get this country to unite once more.

BRINE: I think people think they will throw their hands up in the end. Just sort of say that's it, we're done. It doesn't work that way because

you still have to have an agreement, you still have to have what we are talking about, a withdrawal agreement right now. And then we look at the

future relationship. So even if the deal does not go through tonight there has to be an agreement in place because citizens rights depend on it,

reciprocal healthcare depends on it, loads and loads of other things depend on it.

We'll do our best to get it through tonight and if we don't, Parliament will be asked tonight whether he wants to leave without an agreement to the

end of March?

GORANI: And if not, then you have to extend.

BRINE: We have to ask to extend.

GORANI: Do you have a choice because otherwise -- first of all, you don't have a choice in a sense because if Parliament votes against a no deal

Brexit then you necessarily have to.

BRINE: There's two votes if tonight is not successful. Which is do you wish to leave without a withdrawal at the end of March. If the answer is

no then it is do you wish to extend, and if the answer to that is yes, then we have to ask the EU whether we can have that, please, sir. And they may

say no or they may say yes with conditions.

GORANI: They've signaled that they would be open to it.

BRINE; For a reason. Without a second referendum or general election or some other change in the red line. Nothing certain if we don't get the

votes through tonight. So, you know what? Let's get the vote through tonight.

GORANI: I know you'll be voting in favor of the Prime Minister's deal. Thank you for joining us on the program. We're not just covering this

story from Westminster tonight where the decision will be made. They're all over the UK gauging reaction in different parts of the country.

Nic Robertson is in Londonderry close to the Irish border. Ana Steward is in Edinburgh for us.

[13:15:00] Remember Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. Phil Black is in the north of England in a place called Whitby. It is a

town that voted to leave. So, we are pretty well covered.

Let's start with Nic Robertson. The Irish backdrop. There insurance policy that would only kick in -- apologies. We'll go live to them. I

thought they were extremely immobile there. Here he is live and moving. The Irish backstop that -- I apologize.

We'll go live to them a bit later. A little look at the U.K. pound. It dropped sharply after the government's advice hit Mrs. May chances of

getting the deal passed. It dropped as low as 130 after the U.S. dollar. And that is after the government's chief legal advisor said concessions

secured by the Prime Minister on a quick visit to Strasbourg did not deliver any fundamental change to her earlier agreements.

There was some hope perhaps that the deal she renegotiated or at least somehow reworked would be approved, and when that hope faded, sterling lost

ground. It is now down around 1 percent as investors await the outcome of the vote.

Joining us now is Peter Westmacott, a former ambassador to the U.S., France and Turkey. He joins me now at Westminster. What do you make of -- I was

speaking with Steve Brine, he said the reason the country needs to move on is look at the circus behind us? I don't think he only meant the

protesters. What is this doing?

PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S., FRANCE AND TURKEY: When I talked to my friends elsewhere in the EU and in the United States, I was

there a couple of weeks back, there's disbelief. How can the mother of Parliaments make such a mess of this arrangement?

Of course, of us who thought the referendum was not a good idea three years ago could have predicted it. There's shock. There's worry both by the

process and also about what does this mean for Britain and Europe, and Britain's place in the world and about the future of the European Union.

There's a lot of surprise, disbelief and concern that the United Kingdom is not handling this better.

GORANI: The Brexit critics abroad see this as really political infighting. Bringing the country down, dividing the country further. The whole reason

we had a referendum in the first place is when David Cameron promised his Brexit supporting wing in his own party thinking he would win and have a

mandate. He lost.

WESTMACOTT: Yes. Thinking he wouldn't have to hold the referendum at all because it was a promise, he gave to try to win the election and when he

did, he was confident he had to win. David Cameron is a name on a lot of people's lips about the person responsible for all of this. That's a

problem. It became much more difficult politically. In any democracy if you have a government in power, we are no majority, it is by definition

weak and the own cabinet is divided and they are dependent on ten votes to get any business done.

GORANI: What does this country need to do now to unite once again?

WESTMACOTT: It's going to be difficult. Tonight, looks as though the Prime Minister's deal will go down. Nobody knows. Tomorrow there will be

a vote on no deal. The Prime Minister will have to allow her ministers to vote with their conscience. Otherwise the cabinet will be divided. All

the indications are that the Conservative and Labour Party will vote against no deal. And then we are in extension territory.

That is difficult to because there will be conditions applied by the European Commission in exchange for agreeing to an extension to 29 March

deadline. If that is what we want to do. So, it is a bit of a muddle. But that opens up two possibilities. One is further referendum which is

back on the table. Possibly general election but I don't believe, why would Theresa May and her party go for an early election which they are not

sure of winning

GORANI: Any other Prime Minister in her shoes suffering defeat after defeat. The magnitude we saw last time a meaningful vote was held and deal

went down by 230 votes, historic defeat would have stepped aside.

WESTMACOTT: I think you're right. We're in different circumstances. We're at a time when there's a weak opposition. There's no indication at

this point anybody else wants her job. Not badly enough to unseat her. Normally a British Prime Minister who lost their authority in such a way

would have stepped aside. She hasn't. She doggedly stuck to it and deserves a certain amount of credit for that. Her own party is very

divided and underwhelmed by how she has conducted the negotiation.

GORANI: Whatever you think of her politically, she is one determined politician.

WESTMACOTT: She is. She's lost her voice now and having really tough time of it.

[13:20:00] GORANI: We expect her to speak after this vote. Thank you as always for joining us. Appreciate it. A lot more to come this evening.

Nations around the world are lining up to ban the Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane. There is one notable exception though. They are still flying in

the United States. We'll explain why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: France, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Poland and the U.K. have joined the growing list of nations that are banning the 737 max 8 from

their air space. That plane has been involved in two deadly crashes in the past few months and the latest one came on Sunday in Ethiopia. The United

States has not taken any actions against the 737 MAX and Boeing says the means are safe. Safety is Boeing's number one priority a and have full

confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. Based on the information available we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.

That's the statement that came out after the crash of that Ethiopian airline plane. There's a big difference between how countries are

reacting. The U.S. is alone on this one. Richard Quest has spoken to the head of Ethiopian airlines with more information on what happened in the

minutes preceding this deadly crash. Richard, what did he tell you?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN MONEY EDITOR AT LARGE: What he said was that until now we're just thought of technical problems that had caused the turn back. He

said no. He went further.

Tewolde GebreMariam, said that the pilots reported they were having problems controlling the plane. Once they had realized that they were

having these problems, they asked for a turn back and they asked to return to the airport. Of course, as we know, that was not possible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEWOLDE GEBREMARIAM, CEO, ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES: I also take this opportunity to pass my sympathy, heartfelt condolences to our dear passengers who is

have lost their lives in this tragic accident and my condolences to their families, friends and relatives.

QUEST: You said in your last press statement that the pilot reported technical difficulties, do you know anymore information about what that

was?

GEBREMARIAM: The pilot reported flight control problems. He was having difficulty with the flight control of the airplane. He asked it to return

back to base. Clearance was given to him. That was at 8:44 A.M. at the same time the airplane disappeared from the radar.

[13:25:00] QUEST: No further details about what those flight control problems were, whether they were related to the new MCAS system or anything

similar?

GEBREMARIAM: As you know in the industry, we call it flight control because it's a general reporting system. You might have followed we have

grounded four airplanes that we have and China has also grounded airplanes followed by Singapore, Australia, U.K. and Jet Airways and Com Air of South

Africa have grounded the airline. More than 100 airplanes are now grounded all over the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: It's highly likely there's some political tussle going on between the FAA, between the airlines, and certainly between several lawmakers and

politicians in the United States were all calling for the plane to be grounded.

As the FAA says and Boeing says currently there's no further evidence. The problem is they're not moving out of an abundance of caution.

GORANI: The France, Germany, Britain, all these countries, is it unprecedented that all these countries or this many countries at once would

ban a particular type of aircraft like this?

QUEST: I think if I look back, I probably see that many countries banned the 787 before Boeing and the FAA finally moved. There weren't that many

787s in operation. There were handful in operation. I can't remember a time when so many reputable large scales regulators and authorities have

banned a plane and the U.S. seemingly is oblivious and sailing on majestically saying the plane is safe when there are many others who is are

saying hang on, it may be safe but out of an abundance of precaution, it should be banned or grounded.

GORANI: Right. What I find remarkable is the U.K. asked two Turkish flights to turn around mid air. Why are they taking such drastic measures?

QUEST: I'm not familiar with that. There were a couple of Icelandic Air already flying out. It was a plane heading up to Manchester. One reason

why they might have turned around the plane is that once it landed in the UK, it wouldn't have been able to take off again. There may be an argument

with discussion with Turkish, they decided to turn the round plane and send it back because once on the ground it was going to be staying there.

Anyway, Turkish itself, the airline, as also announced his grounding all of the MAX 8s. The plane wasn't going anywhere any place.

GORANI: If you are an airline flying to those countries, you pretty much don't have a choice. Thanks very much. I'll see you in about an hour. We

will be covering that crucial Brexit vote together in Parliament along with Christiana Amanpour.

Still to come, D DAY for Theresa May as lawmakers prepare to vote on the revised Brexit plan. Does that D mean deal, no deal or dead on arrival?

Back to Brexit, next.

Lifestyles of rich and famous come under criminal scrutiny. American prosecutors have charged dozens of people including some famous Hollywood

actresses in connection with a nationwide cheating scam to get their kids into top universities. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:30:00] HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Back now to Brexit. One of the biggest days in the process. So far, after Theresa May's last-

minute dash to France last night to save her withdrawal deal, well, her hopes might have been dashed today. That's because the government's top

lawyer said that those revisions that she said were legally binding.

Well, he argues they provide no real guarantee. That the U.K. will not be trapped in some sort of customs union because of the Irish backstop,

indefinitely.

Right now, M.P.s are debating that deal in parliament before they vote on it in the next few -- in an hour and a half or so. But there's only 17

days to go until Britain is said to leave the E.U. And many lawmakers are saying they won't back this deal.

The prospect of a no-deal looks ever more likely, a scenario few believe would have a positive outcome. In fact, the majority of M.P.s have

expressed an opposition to the no-deal scenario. So, how does the country feel about this? We have a CNN team dispersed across the U.K. ahead of

tonight's historic vote.

In a moment, we'll hear from Julia Chatterley. She's in the city of London, the financial district. Nic Robertson is in London, there in Northern

Ireland, also known Derry. It's close to the border with the Irish republic. Phil Black is in the leave town of Whitby in the north of

England. Anna Stewart is in Edinburgh, Scotland.

And there, as you may remember, the entire nation voted remain back in 2016.

So, Nic Robertson, let's talk about this backstop. That has been really the sticking point for Theresa May. And the prime minister of Ireland has

said he's satisfied with what Theresa May came back with.

Nic Robertson, can you hear me? All right. We're having issues with Nic.

Phil Black, you're in Whitby north of England. That's a leave part of the country. What are you hearing from people there? Are they -- have you

been able to ask them about this re-worked deal that Theresa May is presenting to parliament this evening?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala. Whitby is a fishing town and it's no secret that fishermen in the U.K. really don't

like the E.U.

And so the message from the people that we be speaking to here today was already pretty well said. And that is they missed -- the parliament has

backed the prime minister's deal or get behind a no-deal scenario pretty quickly. Their passion for Brexit is really almost enormously focused on

pretty much one issue. And that is escaping the E.U.'s Common Fisheries Policy.

The rules and regulations that determine where you can fish. How much you're allowed to catch, crucially. The reason why British fishermen hate

the Common Fisheries Policy, they say it's because it's quite unfair. They don't get enough. They believe that other member states fishing boats

exploit British waters and I think the whole result has been to devastate the British fishing industry.

That's certainly the feeling here in Whitby where people tell us that there used to be dozens of big trolleys operating out of this harbor behind me.

Now, they say there is just a handful.

So for them, Brexit is deeply personal. It's why they want it to happen as soon as possible. It is directly connected to their jobs, their

livelihoods, their families, their businesses, to their community. And needed, whether it drives or declines.

That's what they say. That's the reason they give for why they voted for Brexit and it's why they say they now expect and demand that parliament

very quickly deliver on that vote, Hala.

GORANI: Thanks very much, Phil. We'll be speaking to you later.

Anna Stewart, you're up in Scotland. More than 60 percent of Scots voted to remain. I imagine it's a time of great uncertainty for them as well

especially as the prospect of another referendum a few months ago seemed a likelihood, now, seems more of a distant possibility.

[13:35:02] ANNA STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, every single consigliere in Scotland voted to remain back in the referendum in

2016.

Here in Edinburgh, it's a 74 percent vote to remain, overwhelming. So I've been speaking to people in town to find out what they want from this vote

tonight? Do they want this vote to be passed through since they've been (INAUDIBLE) for so long. Take a listen to what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the vote will not be passed today. And I believe that what we'll have is that there'd been extensions sought. And

that will be the victory that will be coming through from the House of Commons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the M.P.s or prime ministers listen to anybody. They never have and they never will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just feel as if something should happened. And perhaps, if that gets passed, then maybe we can get on with our lives. I

just feel as if everybody stopped because nobody knows what's going to happen next.

And for all leaders, I've watched the headlines on the news and then I turn over and watch something else. Because the word Brexit just puts you off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: I mean, you can hear the frustration there. And I would say that definitely a feeling of Brexit or (INAUDIBLE) another poor man's hope.

They want to see progress. They do want to see parliament get something done.

Interestingly, I would say every single person I spoke to, Hala, said they would support a second referendum.

GORANI: Anna Stewart, thanks very much.

Nic Robertson, I believe can hear me now. He's in Londonderry with more. And of course, the Irish border has been that big sticking point for the

British Prime Minister, Theresa May.

But the Irish prime minister himself said he was pretty satisfied with what she came back with. What about people on the ground.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. You know, I think what the Irish prime minister said today was sort of a double-edged

sword, if will. I mean, on the one hand, he said, as part of Europe, the Irish government, the British government has asked for help and support

more assurances and they're ready to give that.

But then another part of what he said would have been unhelpful for Theresa May -- for Theresa May, particularly in the context of a Democratic

Unionist Party here in Northern Ireland that prop up how slim the majority. Why? Quite simply because he said that the withdrawal agreement is not

being reopened and that the backstop is not being diminished in any way.

And that for the Democratic Unionist Party here is the language that they're afraid of. For them the big concern is, does Brexit make somehow

Northern Ireland more likely to, one day, unite with the rest of Ireland? That's the major concern. So this is what they look for.

So today, when they said that they don't feel that what Theresa May has gone far enough that they believe that they could still be stuck in the

backstop and unable to get out of it.

This is precisely their fear. The bar was always going to be very, very high for them, Hala. So the Irish prime minister saying what he said was

good on one hand, but perhaps not so helpful on the other.

GORANI: Thank you, Nic Robertson. We'll be back with you for our Brexit vote special in about an hour and 15 minutes here on CNN.

Julia Chatterley is in the city of London. What are you hearing there? Because the town has lost ground, uncertainty is never good for markets.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is certainly the most pivotal week for investors, for U.K. businesses since that referendum

back in June 2016. I think the only thing that we can all agree on here is that this likely to be greater volatility particularly in the currency

markets now.

I've spoken to some really big investors over the last two weeks. So actually, they pointed tomorrow's vote rather than today's vote to say if

we can ultimately see a no-deal exit taken off the table here, then we will see greater optimism and perhaps a pop higher here in sterling. And

actually, that's what they're playing for here.

But, Hala, as you and I have discussed, the ongoing uncertainty has been detrimental for the U.K. economy and it's been detrimental for U.K.

businesses here.

So I think the hope, even if we don't see a deal voted for positively tonight, is that we get greater clarity this week. But I've sat there on

Edmonton Green this morning and still the permutations and the options here are still so numerous.

It's difficult to see how U.K. businesses react to even in the next two weeks as we count down to that March 29th vote. It's a tough one here.

But the key, I think, first getting through this vote tonight and then the vote tomorrow and big investors I've spoken to have betted on the

likelihood that a no-deal exit is taken off the table and we see sterling stronger by the end of this week.

We'll see, Hala. Back to you.

GORANI: OK. We will. Julia, thanks very much.

And defending group M.P. Joan Ryan joins me now. Why independent group? If you could explain to our international viewers.

[13:40:59] JOAN RYAN, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Well, we are a group of 11. Three were former conservative M.P.s and eight of us

were former labor M.P.s. And we left our respective parties two weeks ago because we feel that politics in Britain as represented by the two main

parties, a part of government, a part of opposition, is broken. Politics in Britain is broken. And we need a new way forward.

And what we've seen today is parliament in paralysis. And neither of the main parties seems to be able to put the country first. Both of them are

putting forward potential solutions that don't solve the problem around Brexit. But the reason they're arguing the solutions is to hold their

parties together.

GORANI: And are you voting in favor of the deal or against it?

RYAN: I'm voting against this deal.

GORANI: Why?

RYAN: It's not just because what Theresa May brought back from her late- night dash yesterday. Makes no difference at all as we've bene told now by the attorney general from the deal.

GORANI: Well, they said it's improved. You didn't say it's makes no difference at all. You just said from a legal perspective there's no

guarantee. But it's politically improved that it makes it more difficult for the E.U. to require that the U.K. stay against its will in the customs

union.

I mean, you did -- it was a little more equivocal than that.

RYAN: Well, of course, he's bound to be. Isn't he? Because he's defending the prime minister's deal. It's not a deal. It's an agreement.

And we've got no deal at all.

The reason why say it makes no difference is because, actually, it's the legal element that really counts when push comes to shove. A treaty is the

legal document. The politics is something we argue on the floor of the House of Commons.

But the reason I'm not voting for it is because I am not going to support something that makes my constituents worse off that makes people poorer.

And I don't believe when people voted, leave or remain that anybody voted.

GORANI: So why does this deal make your constituents poorer?

RYAN: Well, we've already seen what 2017, the Bank of England said every average family is now 900 pound worse off. That was two years ago. That's

got worst. Forty-two billion pounds lost in business investment.

GORANI: But a lot of that is due to uncertainty. Once you get a deal through businesses know what to expect that can plan for the future, a lot

of what you're saying was due to open questions. Corporations that have no idea where the country is going. Don't invest necessarily in long term

projects in the U.K. because they don't know where the country is headed.

RYAN: Well, we're already sustaining the damage now. We'd have to reverse all of that.

And what we do know is the vast majority of businesses, although obviously they are campaigning hard now that we don't get a hard Brexit, which is the

worst of all worlds. They do not want us to lead the European Union.

We know that 50 companies have already mourned the loss of 21,000 jobs. And we also know over 900 billion pound is being taken out of our country

by financial services.

GORANI: And those are all figures that we've been reporting as well. You have industry -- and you have industry groups, pharmaceuticals, others, car

manufacturers who are not necessarily investing long term.

So what's your solution then to all of this? Your solution as an independent group M.P.?

RYAN: Yes. Well, we've been very clear about what we said. And we put a timeline on it. What should be happening now is we should be deciding

tomorrow we'll vote against no-deal. That should be off the table.

Today, we'll vote against the prime minister's deal. And on Thursday, we'll be seeking an extension of article 50. We want that extension of

Article 50. And we want a series of indicative votes next week to decide which withdrawal deal to put to the people and we should go

GORANI: You want another referendum.

RYAN: We should go back to the people for a choice between the status quo, remain, or the withdrawal deal that gets the majority vote next week.

Because I think if parliament is in paralysis, we are at an impasse. It's clear we can't resolve this. So we should go back to the people.

GORANI: Joan Ryan, independent group M.P., thanks for joining us on CNN.

Still to come tonight, two Hollywood actresses, CEOs in real estate investors, all charged today in a massive cheating scandal in order to get

their kids into top American universities. We'll bring you that story, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:45:48] GORANI: There's a huge scandal unfolding in the United States today. Authorities have charged dozens of people in a college admission

scam.

Now, some names you might recognize. There were two Hollywood actresses among those indicted today. Prosecutors say they were part of a 25-million

dollar bribery scheme that helped the children of wealthy Americans cheat their way into top colleges like Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown.

Let's get more. Brynn Gingras joins me now. She's live in Boston. What are these alleging these people did including Felicity Huffman, very well

known for Desperate Housewives around the world? What are they saying they did to help their kids gained admission to these universities?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala. Well, I can tell you that this is all the paperwork that I came with this case. I mean, look how

extensive this is. This was a one-year investigation called Operation Varsity Blues by federal authorities here in the United States.

And essentially, the mastermind behind this, according to the DOJ, is a man named Rick Singer.

Now, what we're being told is that Singer would allegedly take two different routes with parents who wanted to get their kids into elite

universities. One route would be that he have these parents pay them into -- pay money into a non-profit and he would use that money to hire someone

to take SATs or ACTs which are the college entrance exams for the student or in some cases that person would change the answers to better the score

on these entrance exams test.

Another route that parents would take with Singer, according to the court documents, was through athletics. The paperwork shows that Singer would

bribe athletic coaches to basically allow students into the universities through athletics, through the slots that were reserved for recruitment of

athletes even if those students never played a certain sport before.

So you can imagine how extensive this is. I mean, we're talking about parents. We're talking about administrators. We're talking about people

involved with the tests. We're talking about college athletes here in the United States being a part of this enormous case, again, which took a year

to investigate and it's still going on. Hala.

GORANI: And what happens next to all these people who have been accused of wrongdoing in this way?

GINGRAS: Now, a lot of them are actually pleading guilty. Singer, we're told, is going to be plead guilty in the courthouse here behind me within

the next hour or so.

But, yes, throughout the night, federal authorities have been taking many of these people in. It's our understanding that Felicity Huffman was

arrested from her L.A. home this morning. We're hearing that Lori Loughlin, who you've mentioned that she's waiting to turn herself in

because she was filming in Canada at the time. That this all was unsealed.

And again, those are two well-known names that we know as actresses. But there were CEOs of major companies. There were fashion designers. There

was just an insane amount of people allegedly involved in this major scheme here in the U.S.

GORANI: All right. Brynn Gingras, thanks very much. Just a remarkable story there of cheating allegations on a grand scale.

[13:50:02] More to come, including that looming Brexit vote in the U.K. parliament. Is there any way the prime minister's deal can get approved

tonight, or are we in store for more votes, and then maybe some more votes? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Well, we're just about an hour away now from that vote in the House of Commons on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal. It's a

meaningful vote. It's a much bigger deal than those indicative amendment votes that we cover as well. It's been a day of high drama leading up to

the big moment.

First, the U.K. attorney general gave a very damaging opinion to Theresa May. He said basically those new legal commitments, what she called

legally binding commitments on the Irish backstop, secured last night in Strasbourg.

In fact, don't reduce the U.K.'s legal risk he said of being trapped in that backstop indefinitely. Then Mrs. May gave our own dire warning to

M.P.s. She told them a defeat would likely lead to a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all. This has been her strategy from the beginning. Voted for

this deal you don't love or you might not get any kind of deal or any kind of Brexit.

Bianca Nobilo joins me now with more. I wonder if this strategy of hers, it's just this kind of -- it's just this kind of determination to carry on,

to keep fighting another day. To put one foot ahead of the other in the hope that eventually the process will be so worn down that she will get

that deal through.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think she has been hoping that the element of time would be her friend. But actually, all of

the prevarication and delays have just given space, really, to the other camps to keep going with that causes to the ERG. They wanted a harder

Brexit to those that want a second referendum.

Instead of making them think, oh, the clock is ticking. We're going to have to support the deal. It really gave them space and time to continue

talking amongst themselves and reaffirming their own position. So that hasn't worked.

GORANI: Is there any way we could be astonished tonight when the vote result is announced?

NOBILO: Well, I mean, if either of us had a pound for every time people say Brexit politics is so predictable. So I suppose there is a chance.

And as we mentioned earlier, it's going to be about the scale of this defeat. So, really, it would be a big win for the prime minister even if

her deal lost by anything around 30 to 50 votes. That would be incredibly encouraging.

GORANI: And then, what does she do? Because that's still a defeat.

NOBILO: Then she brings it back next week for a meaningful vote three.

GORANI: Right. So she can do that. But if the defeat is by a wider margin, we're talking triple digits potentially here, then what?

NOBILO: Then I think you're looking at other options such as parliament possibly taking control of the process through one of these amendments that

you've talked about and that would steer things toward a much softer Brexit and permanent customs union avoiding with that backstop discussion.

And that looks like a likely option. Obviously, you'd be going into an extension territory as well. So she really does need to be able to prove

today that there's some life left in this deal. If the defeat is resounding, it's very hard to make a case --

GORANI: So I was speaking with a Conservative M.P., Steve Brine, who says your vote in favor of this deal. Essentially saying, what I think some

people and Europe also would agree with, which is why would the E.U. against the U.K.'s will, want to keep the entire country in a custom's

union? They've done everything they can and gone as far as they can, legally, to reassure the United Kingdom that they won't do that.

Why do hardcore Brexiteers still believe that this is all a trap so that Brexit will never happen or that the U.K. will stay indefinitely trapped in

some sort of customs union against its will?

[13:55:09] NOBILO: This is an important point because the E.U. have said from the beginning that it's undesirable, highly undesirable for the U.K.

to remain in a customs union with them. Because essentially, it gives them special access and special treatment. It does divide the four freedoms

that the European Union market has built upon.

They think it sets a precedent that they want to see just -- that they don't want to see, in case another country decides to leave. So these all

really big concerns as far as the E.U. thinks about this process. Well, we're asking why Brexiteers then are so wrapped up with that issue of being

trapped in a backstop. It does come down to the fact a lot of this depends on good faith and trust.

So Hilary Benn was saying earlier, the chair of the Brexit committee, the problem he has with the backstop in all of these arrangements is it depends

on who's in power. So, yes, Theresa May might say never undermine leadership. Well, X, Y, Z had happened. Then if another person becomes

prime minister, it's not legally clear enough for people to feel - exactly.

GORANI: Sure. It's not a treaty. It's a deal. It's not a treaty. It's not legally binding. But then it's just a question of and whose interest

will it be in the E.U. to keep the U.K. in a deal they don't want to be in.

Thanks very much, Bianca. And then the next hour or so -- well, Christiane Amanpour is coming up next. And after that, we'll have special coverage of

the vote. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

END