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E.U. To Conditionally Extend Brexit to May 22. Quentin Peel, Associate Fellow, Europe Programme, Chatham House, is Interviewed About Brexit. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 21, 2019 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NETANYAHU: You and Ambassador Friedman and your delegation are exceptional champions of our lives. I've called you so many times on so many things.
This evening, I just want to say one word -- two actually, thank you. Thank you, Mike Pompeo, thank you, President Trump, and thank you America.
To the people of Israel I say --
HARLOW: All right. We're going to leave this news conference there with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is hosting the U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This, of course, after the Twitter announcement by the U.S. President Donald Trump that is time for the U.S.
to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a territory seized in 1967 by Israel and annexed in the early 80s, certainly controversial and
sure to anger those Arab countries in that part of the Middle East.
We are going to go to my colleague, Christiane Amanpour, who is hosting her program, a special hour I believe, on these E.U. talks and negotiations and
this draft statement, Christiane, that seems to indicate that the E.U. is willing to delay Brexit until May 22nd. Over to you.
[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. Thank you, Harlow. So, much news, as you've just said from Israel as well
and also from Brussels.
And hello, everyone. Welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
And we are bringing you special coverage this hour of a critical day for the Brexit drama. Word of a decision reached by E.U. leaders in Brussels,
just a short time ago, that could prevent the U.K. from crashing out of the European Union in just eight days.
A draft agreement leaked from today's meetings in Brussels says the E.U. will allow the U.K. to delay Brexit until May 22nd. That is the day before
European elections begin. But that, they day, can only happen if Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal deal is approved in the U.K. Parliament.
This, after M.P.s have already rejected that deal twice. So, it's unclear if it can pass on a third try or if there will even be a third vote after
the U.K. house speaker forbade any further votes on the deal without, in his words, substantial changes.
Now, we're expecting to hear details of this reported agreement any time now, when the European council president, Donald Tusk, and the European
commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, hold a news conference in Brussels. And soon after that, Prime Minister May will hold a news
conference of her own. And we'll bring all of that to you live.
Joining me now here in the studio just to talk a little bit about what's going on and what we might expect is Quentin Peel. He is an associate
fellow with Europe Programme at Chatham House and he's a commentator for the "Financial Times."
So, Quentin Peel.
QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, Europe Programme, Chatham House:
AMANPOUR: Does this -- is this like anything you have ever seen in your reporting life, in your, you know, professorial life, in terms of really
being on the brink, really on the knife-edge, here's a precipice and a cliff and all the other synonyms that we can come up to, to indicate this
hugely meaningful event in this country's history that has yet to even be decided eight days out?
PEEL: I don't think I've ever seen anything so fantastically complicated pushed to such a black and white conclusion. You know, actually, it's all
got to be done. Because it is incredibly complicated taking Britain out of the European Union.
And the problem is that Theresa May has played this game of pushing it right to the line because her parliament doesn't want the deal she's
negotiated. So, she's tried to terrorize them, she's tried to play chicken with them.
And then her problem is that each different part of her parliament has a different chicken, if you like, in the game. The really hardline Brexiters
want a no-deal conclusion. So, she can't threaten them with that. And now, we're faced with a situation where she's been given an extension if
she can get that vote.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's just unpick that because the if is a big, big problem. I mean, the speaker of the House, John Bercow, really made an
intervention that nobody expected last week when he suddenly threw this new spanner in the work, saying, "No. Sorry. Under hundreds and hundreds of
year-old procedure, you cannot bring the same deal for a vote a third time without substantial changes."
I mean -- and again, we're hearing -- and let's hear it from the horse's mouth when they speak, the European leaders are saying, "No, and we won't
give you an extension until you get that same deal voted on."
PEEL: Yes. Well, it's -- and it's not John Bercow, that is one huge potential blockage. But the other one is, she simply hasn't got the
numbers because she needs to get a very large number of the opposition to come and support this deal in order to outweigh the fact that a lot of her
own supporters won't vote for it. You could be talking about as many as 100 Labour votes she needs. And at the moment, I just don't see her
getting them. So, I think it's on a knife edge and I don't think she's going to get it next week.
AMANPOUR: Standby, Quentin, (INAUDIBLE), we're going to our Richard Quest who is in Brussels and who has been speaking to many of the leaders there
as we're waiting for this decision.
And, Richard, just tell me, are they exhausted? Can they actually believe what's going on internally in British politics?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN: There is a fascinating point that you're making, Christiane, because on the one hand you're right, they are thinking this is
a fiasco, it is a shamble, they are out of words to describe just how frustrated bordering on annoyed (ph) they are.
But, Christiane, they are also all senior politicians in their own parties and countries and they know what position Theresa May's like is in. Macron
has riots at the moment over austerity and changes. Belgium is in a minority government. Merkel in Germany, just about out of power having
seen her power ebb away.
Individually, they have huge sympathy for what the prime minister is going through because they know that but for the grace of God go I on another
issue. Whether that will allow them to do anything more than they've done, I don't think so.
They have gone as far as it's humanly possible to show, Christiane, that they are not going to push the U.K. out of the Union. But this is it, as
one leader tell me, time's up.
AMANPOUR: And, Richard, you just said they have bent over backwards and they have throughout this whole process and they obviously don't want to
crash because that will be bad for the E.U. as well and they're already spending tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of euros planning for
this worst-case scenario should it happen.
But I want to ask you this other question, have you asked the question that all the sort of hardline Brexiteers keep saying, "Oh, Europe, you know,
it's up to them to come up with the solution, it's up to them to tell us what to do." Well, I mean, what did the Europeans say when you put that to
QUEST: You raise a very, very good point. They look at you and repeat together, in one, in unison, it is up to Britain. Britain -- it's almost
like a child's party, Christiane, "You wanted to leave, you're the ones that voted to go, we didn't ask you to go, we're not pushing you out. You
want to go, you have to tell us what you want. You need to leave, " and that's the way they put it.
And that every single time, anything from one of the leaders is putting the phrase of, "We respect the will of the British people in their referendum
vote," that rubric is before every major answer. And then they say, "Yes, but, Britain, you are the ones that want to -- " what it really says, and I
may put it in crude terms, Christiane, they'll basically turn around and say, "You are the one that screwed this up. You want to go, you decide how
you're going to go."
AMANPOUR: It is extraordinary actually. And let me just turn to Quentin. Standby, Richard.
The sort of putting all the eggs into the European basket. I mean, you hear over to -- and Richard has very, very astutely summed up the European
point of view. What then will be happening here if she's trying to put this deal again? What are the options for Prime Minister May in ever
getting a deal passed?
PEEL: I think that very slim, which means that actually, already, they should be planning on both sides of this negotiation for the alternative,
that a crash up or is it a much longer-term extension or is it just possible that right at the line, standing on that cliff edge on the 29th,
in eight days' time, the British Parliament might revoke Article 50.
Martin Selmayr, the secretary general of the commission, raised that today as what he thought might be the final endgame. But that for Theresa May
would be like committing suicide. Her party would just split under her.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just say they revoke Article 50, you know, fill in the gaps for our viewers. That means?
PEEL: That means saying, "OK. We changed our minds, we no longer want to leave the European Union. We have decided we're going to remain."
AMANPOUR: But you're an astute --
PEEL: "Without a referendum, without anything."
AMANPOUR: You're an astute observer of British culture, politics, is that ever going to fly?
PEEL: It's pretty unlikely but there is a very clear majority in the British Parliament that says no deal would be a catastrophe.
AMANPOUR: That's correct. That it's equally clear, majorities, who say, "We cannot go against the vote of the British people."
So, here's a question for you. Anybody would think, listening to Theresa May, listening to the hardliners in the ERG, that it was a slam dunk vote,
that there was 90 percent that voted Brexit back in 2016 and 10 percent voted to remain. Of course, it wasn't like that. It was a slim majority.
AMANPOUR: Was there ever a time, let's say at the beginning, that there could have been a different way? Could there have been a sort of a
national listening tour across party, gathering of forces, to get an acceptable Brexit done?
PEEL: I think there could have been and I think there should have been. It was the only sane way forward because it was such a narrow decision and
both major parties, Conservatives and Labour, were profoundly spits on the subject.
But a soft Brexit agreement could have been forged between them all, but it would have probably split both parties. And Theresa May, from the very
word go, has been adamant she wasn't going to split her party.
AMANPOUR: So, do you believe she's put party and person ahead of the country?
PEEL: Absolutely. No question at all. That's been her priority. All the time she's done everything -- her red lines were all about holding have
party together. And the red lines say no freedom of movement, no free immigration from Europe and say no court of justice to rule in Britain at
all, those were entirely to keep the hardline Brexiters happy in her party.
If she'd sat down right at the beginning and said, "Let's have, if you like, a cross party commission to determine our negotiating strategy," I
think she could have probably done it. As it is, she triggered the beginning of this process, this Article 50 request to leave, without having
remotely thought through how they were going to negotiate and how they were going to finish it.
AMANPOUR: And very briefly, if she does get this brief extension, what exactly does that mean?
PEEL: Well, it's only of any sense if she gets the vote next week. Though -- with no vote next week, there's nothing you can do about this.
AMANPOUR: So, we're still looking potentially at a March 29th, one week from tomorrow, crash?
PEEL: That's still there unless something is done within the British parliament to take it off the table. And that has got to be a very drastic
move. And the only other alternative would be some plan, and Europe is saying it's got to be a plan to actually justify a much longer extension,
which makes life very difficult.
AMANPOUR: So, standby, we're going to go to a break while we await the European leaders and their press conference about what it is exactly that
they have agreed to. We will be back with more on this potentially massive day for Europe, and of course, for Great Britain.
AMANPOUR: Hello and welcome back to, Amanpour.
Right now, we're awaiting a news conference from the European Union leaders in Brussels. According to a leaked draft of their E.U. statement, the U.K.
will get its wish for a slight delay on Brexit at least for a short while, some two months maybe, if that statement is, in fact, the agreement that
they have reached. Then the big day will conditionally be extended until May 22nd. That is only two more months and it still hinges on this big,
big if, if the British Parliament agrees on a withdrawal deal next week.
So far, it's managed to disagree twice.
Our Erin McLaughlin is standing by. She's joining us from Brussels.
Erin, you know, as we await, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, and for them to fill out the details of this draft agreement, what are you hearing
from officials as you've been, you know, I guess buttonholing them all day?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, I think Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, perhaps put the atmosphere here
best upon arrival. He said that we're all in the fire exit at this point looking for a solution, that's very much the mood among the 27 E.U.
Theresa May arrived. I'm told her presentation lasted around an hour and a half. According to a diplomat, the leaders peppered her with questions,
hoping that she would give some clarity to the situation, what would happen if she doesn't get a majority in the House of Commons next week, what her
plan is to get a majority in the House of Commons next week, to get this deal over the line, which everyone here, at this point, wants. I'm told
according to this diplomat that she did not provide the answers that they were seeking. She gave no clarity, the clarity that's really so badly
needed at this point.
Once the presentation was complete, she left the room. And then Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, tabled draft conclusions.
Those conclusions confirming what we were hearing last night that the EU-27 ambassadors will be prepared to offer the U.K. a limited extension to May
22nd, just before the European Parliament Terry elections, conditioned on her being successful next week.
But at this point, Christiane, there's a lot of pessimism, there's few people. Few have actually haven't spoken to anyone here in Brussels today
that think she will be successful next week. And in which, case the big question being what happens next. We're totally in the dark on that at
AMANPOUR: I mean, it is really a huge drama. And obviously, as you say, it looks like E.U. leaders will throw Britain a lifeline for a short period
Just to explain for all of us, so that everybody understands, what is the significance of this May 22nd date? It hinges on the process for the next
round of European elections.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, that's right. The May 22nd date is short of what Theresa May originally asked. She wanted a June 30th date, and that's extremely
problematic in the eyes of the E.U. She knew that when she made the request. We're told that Jean-Claude Juncker personally warned her not to
request a June 30th deadline because of the parliamentary elections.
If the U.K. somehow is still in the E.U. past May 22nd and then somehow this deal collapses during that time period and the U.K. has not
participated in the elections, it'll essentially call into question the entire parliamentary process and therefore, the new commission, the whole
system has potential then to end up in court.
So, E.U. leaders today are aware of that, they have the advice from the commission stating that they're going to want to protect E.U. institutions
at all costs at this point, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Erin, it really is quite terrifying, in fact. Well, I want to turn to Hadas Gold who's sitting here in London looking at the internal
dynamics of the political situation.
Hadas, I mean, it almost looks like a political hand grenade is being tossed between Europe and the British prime minister. Nobody wants to pull
the pin and nobody knows how to prevent some dramatic explosion. What is happening right now, do you think, within the political system here that
might change the facts on the ground.
HADAS GOLD, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, honestly, Christiane this has been the scenario that Theresa May has been in for months. We still have
the same deal essentially, she's been trying to get through. And still, we have those divisions in Parliament where she can't get enough members on
board to get on with her deal. And we still see that last time she tried to get this through, she lost by 149 votes. Now, that's less than the 230
she lost by last time.
But she's going to need to get a cross party group of members on board with her. And so far, we haven't really seen any moves towards that. Last
night she took the very unusual step of coming out and addressing the public from 10 Downing Street and telling the people pretty much, "It's the
members fault. It's not my fault. It's the parliament's fault. I'm just as frustrated as you and they need to get on board."
And there are some critics who are a little confused by that because they said, "Why are you doing this? Why are you throwing this at the members
that you need so desperately to get on board with you and get this deal through?"
Honestly, Christiane, I'm not sure what can be done right now, what changes will happen. So far, the only thing that has change is the extension, this
very, I have to call, the flimsy lifeline until May that will get her an extra few weeks. But it's going to take a lot of finagling behind the
scenes to try to get enough members on board, and we have just seen a lot of anger from them, especially in the last 24 hours, especially after that
statement at 10 Downing Street, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And we've heard members of her own party be equally appalled, and not necessarily the hardliners, but people who are saying,
"Listen, we're already getting death threats. You don't need to make us the enemy of the people," so to speak. So, this is very troubling.
Perhaps it speaks to a sense of desperation from Theresa May, who knows.
And also, as you've been saying and what we've been hearing, it's -- it looks like she just keeps trying to persevere with this one plan, only
plan, and hopes that somebody will blink in this very, very difficult game of chicken.
AMANPOUR: Let's go back to Richard Quest. Thanks, Hadas. We'll be back to you throughout the hour. But let's just check in with Richard again in
I mean, Richard, when you discuss again with the leaders, and I heard you speaking to Manfred Weber, you know, it is a game of chicken, it does look
like nobody wants to be the responsible party for causing an explosion or a crash.
QUEST: You summed it up perfectly, Christiane, when you gave that analogy of the hand grenade being tossed backwards and forwards. That's exactly
what's happening. And the E.U. does not want to be seen to be pushing the U.K. out.
So, they're going to go as far as they practically can to facilitator. But, and this is the crucial part, they will not damage their own
institution in the process. And what the leaders were saying as they arrived today is that there comes a point, there comes a point when you are
doing damage to the European institutions. Manfred Weber said that to me.
They've got to have elections. It's not a myth that they can just continue until June. June, maybe the European Parliament becomes illegal if the
U.K. isn't sitting there and they're still remember. These are not just merely academic issues.
And so, Christiane, you are right, the -- both sides are, to some extent, tied in how far they can go. But the long and short of it is, the answer
lies in London. They can talk to her until they're blue in the face, they can give her any lifeline that she asks for, they can finagle it as much as
they want, but the answer lies, Christiane, where you are, in London.
AMANPOUR: I know. And yet, people like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg and all the other ERG and very, very determined Brexiters keeps saying,
"No, the answer lies in Brussels," where you are, they're going to have to realize that their fate is tied to ours and they also do not want a
So, let me just ask you, just to recap all the things you've been talking to, industry leaders and others, finance ministers, who have been telling
you the long and the short of the reality of the economic issues that are going to be ahead.
QUEST: If she gets her agreement through and the U.K. goes into the transitional period or the interim period, then the U.K. is fine. There is
then two years to put in place a free-trade agreement. And the U.K. is correct and the Brexiteers are right, you start from a level playing field
so you have a head start. It shouldn't take anything like the seven or eight years that it took to do (INAUDIBLE). That's if they got into the
If they don't get into the transitional period and it becomes a no-deal Brexit, then -- look, let's clear, it will be messy, it will be chaotic,
there will be long lines, we've already seen them. The French customs union, they want to try and -- or going to work to rule at the (INAUDIBLE)
whether you're (INAUDIBLE) from and there are two-hour waits. So, you're going to get a lot of that.
But, and I think it's fair to point this out though, Christiane, it is not -- a new deal Brexit is not going to be financial Armageddon for Britain.
It will be a nasty black eye, it will be a kick somewhere painful but it is not going to be financial Armageddon. The economy can withstand it or be
it, there would be -- we would feel poorer, there would be losses jobs would get.
AMANPOUR: Richard Quest, thank you very much. And we're going to have the very latest on all these crises talks ahead as we continue our special
Brexit coverage. We are waiting again for that press conference from the E.U. leaders. And in the meantime, we're going to go to a break and we'll
be back very soon. So, stay tuned.
AMANPOUR: So, we're waiting to hear from European leaders and then from the British prime minister, Theresa May any minute now. And this is a
crucial, crucial day because it's about what happens eight days from now.
Now, according to a draft statement, leaders in Brussels are agreeing to give the U.K. more time, a little more time to leave the E.U. Theresa May
was hoping to buy three more months to get Brexit in order. A draft of this statement though show she got perhaps two, until May 22nd. There's
still a big string attached, Britain only guess extension if Prime Minister May can get her withdrawal proposal through Parliament next week, and we
know that lawmakers have already rejected that withdrawal proposal twice.
And just to be clear, if it doesn't get through, the default under the law is leaving the European Union next Friday as scheduled with no deal in
place, i.e., crashing out.
Let's now talk again to Quentin Peel, who's sitting here with me. He's the former foreign editor of the "Financial Times," he's a fellow at Chatham
House here in London. And you were even a correspondent for the F.T. in Brussels. So, you have a huge amount of experience and expertise.
Can I just pull back the all-important question from what we were talking with our business editor, Richard Quest, that it might not be, either which
way, financial Armageddon for Britain. But what do you say about, you know, not people at the very top of the pyramid who presumably got their
own insurance policies, the big companies, and this that they, might take a little hit, but small businesses, medium businesses?
I mean, I'm just reading in "The Economist" about lamb exports, you know, Shropshire in England is a major competitor, a really major competitor in
the export of lamb, and it could face a complete collapse.
PEEL: Small business is going to be very badly hit. The last figures I saw said that 80 percent of British small and medium enterprises had done
no planning for a no-deal Brexit. The big boys haven't a problem, they've got the money to spend, they've moved people, they've set up enterprises
outside the country so they can carry on operating, the small people haven't, that's one point.
The other fundamental point and problem about a no-deal Brexit is the crisis of trust it would create. Britain is signatory to something like
14,000 international treaties. The single most important in terms of complexity and so is the E.U. treaty. If we just said, "To hell with it,
we're walking away," who would trust us to sign deals in the future?
And there's a second vital international treaty there, which is the Irish peace treaty, the Good Friday Agreement. A no-deal Brexit would be
terribly destabilizing in Ireland, which is why the Irish, of all the E.U. countries, are desperate to avoid it. They would be very badly.
AMANPOUR: And they seem to be making a huge amount of preparations right now. But just to play devil's advocate, you know, you say breach of trust
and breaching agreements and all the international treaties, but the Brexiters say, "No. I mean, we want to be part of all these major
institutions that we've been part of," I mean, all the ones that don't, you know, impinge on our sovereignty as they as they claim.
Why would it be breaking all those treaties? I fully understand the threat to the Northern Ireland peace agreement with the hard border, that would be
a big, big threat.
PEEL: But the other ones, it's the poisoning of relations. I mean, we would be breaking all our agreements, breaking the financial agreements,
breaking the legal agreements to recognize, you know, things like E.U. citizens' rights. Are we going to be able to maintain those?
Now, if we broke all those things to try and put back together these security agreements or foreign policy deals, it would take years, I fear,
to get people back around the table to actually trust each other because we would have said in a way, "We're spitting in your eye and walking away,"
and saying, "To hell with you."
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you from an observer over the channel in Brussels and in Europe over the years. So, what do you say to people here in Great
Britain who voted for Brexit who say, "Oh, the Europeans are just being horrible to us. They just want to punish us so that no other country will
spin off and they're just being greedy deliberately mean"?
PEEL: It's simply not true. There is a slight prevarication I'd make there. But nonetheless, on the face of it, and clearly, I know Berlin very
well, the Germans are terribly keen not to have a massively disruptive break. They want to keep Britain as close as possible to the European
Union. They don't want to damage themselves, it's selfish.
But there is this one element which is that if Britain were able to leave, which what Boris Johnson once famously said, "We can have our cake and eat
it," I -- all the benefits of the single market but walk away from all the commitments, other countries might do it too.
And coming out to the European elections that we were talking about, that could be a real encouragement to all the nationalist forces, Madame Le Pen
in France, the Italians and so on, to say, "Well, hang on. Maybe we can go the whole hogging ourselves walkaway." So, they want to make two things.
They want to make sure it's not a bad deal for everybody but they don't want to make sure it's too good a deal either.
AMANPOUR: So, let me pick that up actually with our Erin McLaughlin who's standing by in Brussels and she's obviously been taking the temperature
from there for months and months as this has dragged on.
Erin, I mean, obviously, about the issue that I just asked Quentin, you know, a lot of British people who say, "It's up to the E.U. to give us a
good deal and why are they punishing us and being horrible to us," that's one question for you and the other is, give us a sense of how important
these upcoming elections for the European Parliament are and the threat by many of these populist nationalist groups who are really hoping to make hay
in these upcoming elections.
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes. With respect to your first question, Christiane, I think a lot of diplomats here that I've been talking to, if you pose that
question to them, they respond by saying, "Well, we did give the U.K. a good deal. We gave the U.K. the best deal possible."
[14:30:00] Remember that this backstop, the Northern Ireland backstop, which is really at the center of this impasse is a compromise and it was
the U.K., Theresa May's decision, requesting that the backstop include a customs union for the whole of the United Kingdom.
The E.U. originally wanted a Northern Ireland-only solution. And Theresa May pushed back and Theresa May got her way. Now, that solution is at the
center of this impasse. So I think that would be the response to that question that many E.U. -- senior E.U. officials would give you.
With respect to the parliamentary elections, they are extremely concerned about the parliamentary elections, which are expected in May because of the
perceived rise of a Euroskeptic tide sweeping across Europe. And at this point, that's also playing into their thinking in terms of an extension.
They don't want to be perceived as imposing a solution on the U.K.
The U.K. needs to come up with a solution of their own. They don't want to play into that Euroskeptic fire and they also want to preserve the
integrity of the E.U. institutions which is now being called into question by Theresa May's demand for this June 30 deadline.
AMANPOUR: Erin, again, we continue to wait for the press conference to really lay out the nuts and bolts of what the E.U. has agreed. So stay
with us. We'll have much more of our special Brexit coverage just ahead.
AMANPOUR: So we're all waiting for official confirmation and announcement from Brussels in Belgium, a seat of the E.U. after British Prime Minister
Theresa May asked to delay this country's scheduled exit from the European Union, scheduled in just eight days from now.
According to a draft agreement obtained by CNN, the E.U. Council is willing to delay Brexit until May 22 but only as long as the British Parliament
approves a withdrawal agreement next week. I want to go back to our Richard Quest in Brussels who has a special guest standing by and can flesh
some more of this out for us. Richard.
QUEST: Indeed. My guest is somebody you have spoken to on several occasions, Christiane. It is the first vice president of this parliament,
Mairead McGuinness serving Ireland. Good to see you.
MAIREAD MCGUINNESS, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VICE PRESIDENT: Great. Nice to join you.
QUEST: So they've agreed now, I mean it will be announced, an extension until May 22 which is the last day before the European Parliamentary
elections, contingent upon getting it through Westminster.
MCGUINNESS: Well, what would be the point of giving the extension if it doesn't get through Westminster? I mean it will be absolutely meaningless
to use that well-worn phrase. So I think the leaders are being very aware that we're hoping the deal will get through. We're not certain about that.
But we are listening to the prime minister and what we're saying is, look, we're happy to help if you need a [14:35:00] technical extension.
QUEST: What is the point? I stand ready to be proved wrong but she can't get it through Parliament. Everyone says that.
MCGUINNESS: Well, maybe you know more than I do and I'm crunching the numbers as you are. Perhaps you're right. But then we deal with that
At this stage, the prime minister has spoken for a long time with the leaders. One presumes they've asked this question but what if it doesn't
go through. I understand she is not answering that question. I expect that's because --
QUEST: Isn't that -
MCGUINNESS: -- she needs to keep pressure on MPs to vote for the withdrawal agreement.
QUEST: Isn't that the negligent part of it, not answering the obvious that we all know? So for example, next week, if it doesn't go through, and
we're all back in here and I know you're expecting to be back here too, what happens then? Do you -- would you prefer a no deal or would you
prefer a longer extension?
MCGUINNESS: Let's forget about my preference here. This is very clear. If the withdrawal agreement goes down again, hurt meaningful votes which
turn out to be meaningless, we then have a date, 29th of March is Brexit date.
Unless the prime minister decides that she will look for a longer extension. It is not in our hands at this point. It is up to the British
Prime Minister to actually say she needs a longer extension.
QUEST: Right. But she's not going to do that.
MCGUINNESS: Well, I don't know. You're also saying you know the outcome of the vote.
QUEST: No, no, no. With respect, no.
MCGUINNESS: I don't know these things.
QUEST: Because she said last night in her statement outside of Downey Street, "I will not go for an extension longer than June 30."
MCGUINNESS: Yes. But with respect to the prime minister, many things have been said that we will not go and we will not do in this long protracted
Brexit saga and they turned out to be changeable or if you like movable.
And I think in politics, this idea of I will never, I will stick to this line, doesn't work. Europe knows that. That's why we try and work
together. That's why this whole place exists that we don't ever say this far and no further.
QUEST: Are you sick and tired of this whole Brexit business?
MCGUINNESS: I suppose part of me, I'm intrigued and I'm perturbed by it. Sick and tired is something that I try and avoid giving into because I
think -- no, no, no, I think this is an important point.
Donald Tusk is very clear, everyone has Brexit fatigue. You probably have it too but we can't let that win. We have to stick with this until the
bitter end. I hope that it's not bitter.
QUEST: Isn't the one problem with the whole issue of an extension and then a no deal Brexit, a no deal Brexit does not answer the Irish border
question any more than all the arrangements that are being put in place would answer the question of Europeans coming up through Ireland into the
United Kingdom and Italy?
MCGUINNESS: Yes. But I think that suggests that this is the Irish problem stopping the withdrawal agreement getting through.
QUEST: It is an agreement.
MCGUINNESS: No, it's not.
QUEST: Well --
MCGUINNESS: Absolutely not. And be very clear on this. The reasons why the Remainders and Brexiteers voted against the withdrawal agreement were
for different issues. Yes, indeed some vote against because of the Irish issue. But others voted against it because they want to remain in the
And at the end of the day, this uncertainty which we're now in at the 11th Hour, in my view, makes the backstop more vital than ever. And I think the
British Prime Minister, to her credit, knows that.
QUEST: I'm going to have one last go with this.
MCGUINNESS: OK. I'll listen. I'll see what I can do.
QUEST: If we're back here next Wednesday or Thursday night, 24 hours before the end, are you in favor of offering a longer extension with who
knows what or basically saying it's time to do this no deal?
MCGUINNESS: OK. Let me use your words. I'm going to try this one more time. It is the British Prime Minister that has to request a longer
extension. I think Europe would be open to that.
But, and this is a big but, we cannot have a prolonged uncertainty. We want a short bit of uncertainty and deal with this issue. So, of course,
Europe will listen to all sorts of possibilities but it is not for us to say to the prime minister this is the solution. She must request that.
But let's deal with it on this step-by-step approach. I hope you're wrong. I hope the withdrawal agreement is voted through to end this uncertainty.
Thank you again. I hope we're not back here next Wednesday. But if we are, I hope then the right decisions are made.
QUEST: Christiane, Mairead hopes we're not back next Wednesday. I think many people in this building hope that we're not back next week but I don't
find anybody who actually thinks we won't be back next week.
AMANPOUR: Well, Mairead McGuinness has a very soothing and calming effect. She's a brilliant explainer, very rational. Thank you for bringing that to
AMANPOUR: Theresa May had pinned hopes for her Brexit deal success on winning over Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, remember? They
didn't even vote for the Northern Ireland Peace Process in 1988 -- [14:40:00] 1998.
As of now though, they are still refusing to back the deal because of the Irish backstop but as Nic Robertson reports, voters in their own heartland
are worried that the DUP may not stick up for them when it matters the most.
NIC ROBERTSON, INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR, CNN: This is DUP heartland territory, the Democratic Unionist Party. More voters here think could
impact Theresa May's final days of negotiations with the European Union.
It is Lisbon, Northern Ireland's third largest city. Relatively prosperous, proudly loyal to Mainland U.K. but increasingly worried about
their place in it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are part of the U.K. and I think of myself as part of the U.K. But I don't know. Does Ireland want us? No. Does the U.K.
want us? No, maybe not. So it is quite worrying.
ROBERTSON: Do you think Theresa May is going to look after the interests of the people of Northern Ireland?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think so.
ROBERTSON: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a should. Because I think she should have stayed in the first place.
ROBERTSON: Many here are counting on the DUP to stick up for them. In short, Northern Ireland's bonds to the U.K. remain unchanged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've got a responsibility. And I don't know whether that responsibility for them is going to be absolutely heard of.
ROBERTSON: Do you feel that Theresa May is not listening to the DUP at the minute?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she is listening but she's backed herself in the corner. If there's a deal that suited Theresa May, she could dump
ROBERTSON: And what political cost would that be for the DUP you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the people here are very significant cost.
ROBERTSON: Some already sensing the DUP might abandon its red lines and shift blame to May's hard-liners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DUP said they are only 10 politicians and yet there's quite a few more, hundred, saying the same thing as them. Hardly could
blame DUP if things do go wrong.
ROBERTSON: And others contemplating what their parents' generation would never have done, turning their back on the Unionist roots.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we've tried governing ourselves. We've tried being governed by Westminster. So maybe the option is to be governed by
ROBERTSON: United Island. Do you think the DUP is afraid of that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, of course. Of course, they are. Of course, they're going to take out.
ROBERTSON: She was right about the anger. Without any prompting, a passerby jumps in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what you think --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not what I think.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- or what you say -- no, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not what I think.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what you think, there'll never be United Ireland in our lifetime.
ROBERTSON: I was going to ask you that question in your lifetime, do you think it will happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON: Yes? And you come blank to blank to blank. What -- and you're laughing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Britain needs Northern Ireland.
ROBERTSON: Where Unionists were once united, a Pandora's box has been opened. The DUP, Theresa May, the E.U. will struggle to put a lid on it.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Lisbon, Northern Ireland.
AMANPOUR: And can we just remember for a second that it was years and years of euphemistically called troubles that took 3,000 lives in Northern
Ireland and that was all settled in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. And, again, it's important to say the whole situation here boils down to being
able to preserve the peace in Northern Ireland and preserve a porous border.
Let's go now to Hadas Gold to talk more about what route she might see out of the political impasse here in Great Britain and in the Parliament. Do
you see any votes sort of moving as the pressure mounts?
GOLD: Well, Christiane, we did see a decent bit of anger from MPs over Theresa May's address to the public last night from 10 Downing Street where
she pretty much blamed the Parliament for why her deal has not passed through. But we are seeing some reports that there are going be some
cross-party talks tomorrow to try to shore up some support from the Lib Dems, maybe even from certain Labour MPs who come from leave areas.
But it's not clear that those numbers will add up enough to get that deal over the line. You have to keep in mind also that for the pro-Brexiteers,
the sort of hard-right members, to them a no deal is a good thing. They are OK with it. They rather have the no deal than this ongoing Brexit
And as I've traveled around the U.K., talked to everyday people, even those who voted to remain have told me overwhelmingly that they just want the
process to keep on, pretty much what Theresa May addressed to the public yesterday.
And notably, actually today, I would just like to note there is a petition on the Parliament's official petition website that has reached over a
million signatures. I think last I checked there's 1.2 million signatures asking Parliament actually to revoke Article 50 [14:45:00] and stay in the
Those petitions, they only need 100,000 signatures before Parliament is expected to consider debate on that topic. It's unlikely we'll get a
debate on revoking Article 50 in the next week or so before that March 29 deadline. But you get a sense of how the people are feeling, the
There's actually another march scheduled for Saturday, a People's Vote March. Last time, the People's Vote March had this in London. A few
months ago, they sent more than 700,000 people came out to march against Brexit.
But despite all of that, recent polling still shows that the people of the U.K. are rather split to this day on whether to stay in the E.U. or to
leave and that, I think, really goes at the problem, the impasse that we have still today in the U.K., Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. Hadas Gold, thank you so much.
We'll be right back with more on this crucial E.U. Summit in Brussels. We're going to take a break but stay with us.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And now, to another story that we're following. The Trump administration appears to be on the verge of a
massive change in policy over one of the most disputed tracks of land in the world.
President Donald Trump tweeted that it's time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Let's take
you live to Jerusalem and our Oren Liebermann. You have more there, Oren.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Christiane, this came perhaps as no surprise in a tweet from President Donald Trump saying it's time, after 52
years, to recognize Israeli's sovereignty in the Golan Heights.
A bit of background here. It was 1967 during a six-day war when Israel took the Golan Heights, captured the Golan Heights from Syria. And since
then, it's been considered under international law as occupied territory.
Israel annexed the heights in 1981 but no country ever recognized that in the world until today with President Donald Trump's tweet. This signals a
major shift in U.S. policy, as well as going against essentially the international consensus.
But let's talk about the elephant in the room here. Netanyahu is facing tough elections coming up in two weeks at this point where he's facing a
difficult election campaign seeking his fifth term. Now, a senior administration official told our D.C. colleagues, that wasn't a
consideration but that is, to put it mildly, a bit hard to believe.
Netanyahu or rather Trump has appeared to campaign openly for Netanyahu. This announcement comes as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was here and
he still is in here meeting with the prime minister and that appears to be Trump basically campaigning for Netanyahu.
On top of that, Netanyahu goes next week to Washington, D.C. where he goes to APAC, the major conference of the American Jewish Lobby and he'll meet
Trump again. So at a key time as Netanyahu is facing a difficult re- election campaign and the headlines here are not in Netanyahu's favor, at least they weren't up until now, this is a major boost for Netanyahu in
this election campaign.
And, of course, Netanyahu is all smiles about it. In fact, the government press office even put out a picture of Netanyahu talking to Trump on the
phone which I haven't seen before in my four years here with Netanyahu telling Trump, [14:50:00] you've made history.
AMANPOUR: You know Oren, we've heard that before particularly with the moving of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And we know that it
was Prime Minister Netanyahu who lobbied repeatedly for this recognition of the annexation of the Golan Heights, to recognize Israel's sovereignty now.
Prime Minister Netanyahu looked positively giddy as he was thanking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his, you know, shoulder to shoulder
solidarity and being a great friend. And he was talking a lot about how both countries are committed to basically destroying Iran's what they call
dastardly designs on Israel. What is the real reason for Pompeo's visit to Jerusalem at this particular time?
LIEBERMANN: Well, as we looked at the itinerary, looked at the reasoning, we basically said look this appears to just be the Trump administration
campaigning for Netanyahu. They weren't covering a new ground until, of course, Trump's recognition of Israeli's sovereignty in the Golan Heights.
They were simply talking about Iran and the threats it poses to the region. It wasn't anything new. Now, what was interesting was that when Pompeo
went to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, a considered occupied territory, he went with Netanyahu and that's something we've never
Heads of state, major officials have generally gone on their own because of the sensitivity of the Old City between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
This was a change. He went right up there with Netanyahu and then just a short time later, we got Trump's tweet.
Now, there's a difficulty for Pompeo here, and that's from here he goes to Beirut. In a press conference standing by Netanyahu, he said he would talk
to the Lebanese government about the threats of Hezbollah, the Israel to the region and to Lebanon but I suspect that would be a much more awkward
meeting as Beirut, the Lebanese government will be furious because they have their own claim on part of the Golan Heights.
So that's Pompeo's next stop. Meanwhile, as you pointed out, Netanyahu will be here celebrating. He heads for Washington tomorrow or on Saturday
AMANPOUR: Oren Liebermann, thank you for reminding us about one of the world's most intractable problems. Thank you very much indeed for joining
And I'm turning again now to round out our program with Quentin Peel because what's happening with Brexit is the most intractable modern
political conundrum. Let us talk about the people of this country who voted for Brexit.
Many, many of the places that voted for Brexit are now seeing a possible crash or exit from the E.U. as actually detrimental to their own
communities, their own economic survival, their own small business and other industries there. What -- how are the people feeling about this
moment that we're in right now?
PEEL: Well, at one level, it's remarkable how little those views have changed between the half of the country that voted for Brexit and the half
of the country that voted to remain. It has shifted a bit.
The last poll we just saw Actually has the remain vote now climbing up to 60 percent against 40 percent for Brexit. So it shifted because people are
I think starting to say oh, my God, this is much more difficult than we ever thought.
Have the people in those areas that voted heavily for Brexit really changed their views? I'm not sure. Because the ones who are not coming into the
electorate are the young people and they are overwhelmingly for remain.
This vote split the country between the old and the young. And it's more young voters coming on to the role that are actually shifting the views.
And with every passing year, the chances of doing Brexit again if we don't do it now are going to get less.
AMANPOUR: Actually, one should really think about that because the future is for the young and not for the old. That is just a fact of life. And I
think that's quite a poignant remark that you just made.
What about the, again, you know, you've covered Brussels for so long. What about the story that the British people have been given about Brussels over
the decades and not just in the run-up to the Brexit referendum but for years since becoming members of the E.U. and even before that?
PEEL: I think that similar to the British view of the E.U. was colored, if you like, by Margaret Thatcher's great budget battle. We want our money
back. We're spending too much money in Europe. We don't get a fair deal.
And I think that that colored the way the British islanders anyway saw Europe. Now, I should qualify that straightaway, the English particularly.
This is an English backlash against Europe. Scotland votes remain. Northern Ireland votes remain,
So that's one issue but the other is the failure of the British government over the years to engage and to understand how the European Union works.
And throughout these negotiations, it has driven me mad to watch Brexit say, "Oh, but this is how the Europeans negotiate." They will blink at the
last minute. No, they won't.
The Europeans don't [14:55:00] blink at the last minute. They have to maintain unity between 27 so they are very difficult to move.
AMANPOUR: And I guess lastly, what about what Hadas was telling us about this petition that's got over a million signatures. It takes only a
hundred thousand for it to be put to debate in the House, these big marches. What do you think Parliament will do with these million-plus
signatures? Will they even address it?
PEEL: I don't think it's going to be the decisive factor but it shows what a pent up if you like, passion there is on the remain side as much as on
the Brexit side. I think what might focus minds in Parliament is the imminence of crashing out.
If right on the deadline there is no other way of stopping it, could parliament just decide to revoke the request to leave? Theresa May won't
do it. But if Parliament took control, perhaps they could.
AMANPOUR: If, if, if. Quentin Peel, thank you very much. Former foreign editor of "The Financial Times".
And that does it for us right now. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Our coverage continues with Richard Quest who is live in Brussels as we
continue to wait for that press conference from the E.U. leaders on this critical and crucial moment.