tv BBC News at Six BBC News March 21, 2019 6:00pm-6:31pm GMT
today at six , we're live in brussels , for the crucial eu summit, looking to break the deadlock , just eight days this is bbc news. i'm christian fraser live at the european council summit in brussels. in the past hour we have heard that eu leaders will agree to theresa may's request to delay the uk's exit from the bloc. but only until the 22nd of may and provided mps in westminster back the deal. an extension should be conditional ona an extension should be conditional on a positive we're expecting a news conference shortly with confirmations of those with confirmations of those details from the president of the european council donald tusk
and later with theresa may. a very good evening, welcome to brussels. a lot of focus here on the d raft brussels. a lot of focus here on the draft conclusions that were provided just an hour ago by the eu council. you will remember theresa may had requested an extension untiljune the 30th. what has come back from the 30th. what has come back from the 27 leaders is an extension until 22nd of may, which is the day before the european parliamentary elections, and it also says in those d raft elections, and it also says in those draft conclusions that given the uk side has indicated it will not be fielding candidates in those european elections, this is the only extension that will be granted. here
isa extension that will be granted. here is a report from our political editor, laura quinn spoke. this could have been her last lap of this red carpet, a final summit before next week's plan goodbye. instead theresa may is here to ask for our pause, a little longer to untangle the mess. this delay is a matter of personal regret to me but a short extension would give parliament the time to make a final choice that delivers on the result of the referendum. what matters is that we recognise that brexit is the decision of the british people we need to deliver on that, we are nearly three years on from the original vote. it sounds so simple but the prime minister is asking for just a little time but it's anything but. she is struggling with disbelief here and frustration and resentment all around at home, but it's the eu's call, not hers. a short delay if mps say yes to the deal might be fine, rely on that?
not yet. presidentjuncker, what will you say to theresa may tonight? are you theresa may? no. we can discuss and agree an extension, if it is a technical extension in case of a yes vote on the agreement we negotiated during two years, in case of no vote or no, directly, it will guide everybody to a no deal, for sure. the speaker of the house of commons telling us that he doesn't want a new vote, jean—claude juncker telling he doesn't want a new deal, so telling he doesn't want a new deal, so the normal door to get out of the situation has nearly gone, so we are more in the fire exit looking to find a solution. her problem, not her mistake that we are where we are, it is because too many people have so far played party politics on this issue, and my hope is that of
course the uk parliament next week will do the sensible thing and vote yes. there is still huge resistance to the deal that has been voted down twice from those who want another referendum, pulling a stunt in brussels today, and some of the support that was there for the deal now slipping away at home. support that was there for the deal now slipping away at homelj support that was there for the deal now slipping away at home. i think there are a number of us who moved oui’ there are a number of us who moved our vote, moved our position last week to vote for the deal who are now saying, well, everything's back on the table. the situation has changed, the prime minister has asked for a delay. many of us do not wa nt asked for a delay. many of us do not want a delay, we want us to keep our word to the british people. some outrage too, though, after the prime minister pointed the finger at parliament last night, upsetting the place she needs onside. all of you are doing your best. this should not be and i'm sure will not prove to be a matter of any controversy whatsoever. there is no escape from
the controversy, though. brexit is of the greatest importance, and the greatest source of division. the labour leaders in brussels too, a shadow negotiation of sorts. we are therefore looking for alternatives and building a majority in parliament that can agree on a future constructive economic relationship with the european union. we've been discussing how this can come about and we've been trying to reach out here. easier thanit trying to reach out here. easier than it sounds. after nearly three yea rs of than it sounds. after nearly three years of this, the prime minister finally perhaps looks like she is among friends, but the scale of the political challenge is a clear and urgent foe. laura quinn is back reporting. lots of things will be happening over the course of the next few hours —— laura crowe rensburg. we will have a press c0 nfe re nce laura crowe rensburg. we will have a press conference from donald tusk and jean—claude juncker, they will give us their thoughts on what went on in the room this afternoon. we
are told theresa may spoke to them for 90 minutes, a longer spell than we might have anticipated, and lots of questions for the prime minister on what might happen if the deal is defeated for a third time next week. there was supposed to be a bilateral meeting between the french president and the prime minister early in the day. that's now been rescheduled. that may happen before we hear from theresa may later this evening, so we are obviously going to focus on some of the comments from the leaders later tonight, but let's hear from emmanuel macron. these we re hear from emmanuel macron. these were his thoughts as he went into the room earlier this afternoon. translation: i am not here to comment on any political system, i am here to say we do respect the vote of the british people, we respect what the prime minister and the parliament are making, but we have to be clear. we can discuss and agree on an extension if this is a technical extension in the case of a yes vote on the agreement we negotiated during two years. in case
ofa no negotiated during two years. in case of a no vote, or a negotiated during two years. in case ofa no vote, ora no, i mean, directly it will guide everybody to ano directly it will guide everybody to a no deal, for sure. this is it. i have no other comment at this stage. when you look at the draft conclusions, where they have been presented by the 27 leaders, it only talks about the short extension, it rules out for the moment it would seem a rules out for the moment it would seem a longer extension, so what are the implications for the uk site? here is the chief negotiator for the eu, michelle barnier. a short extension of the departure of the uk, chosen by the uk. such an extension should be conditional on a positive vote next week in the house of commons. we have done our best.
we have done our best. now the solution is in london. what happens if the house of commons has no? so michelle barnier, some easy answers for the eu leaders today, everybody behind a short technical extension, but very much hoping that the house of commons answered some of the more difficult questions for them next week, otherwise they will be back here on thursday for another eu summitand then here on thursday for another eu summit and then the decisions get an awful lot tougher. they have been told today to keep preparing for a no deal, nobody wants that, says the austrian chancellor, but they must keep preparing. i hope that there will be support in the parliament next week because we all have the same interests, to avoid a hard brexit, to avoid a no—deal scenario, and so i hope that there will be a majority in the parliament next week and i hope that we can't support theresa may on that.
what happens if there isn't? are you going to discuss that? if there is no support in the parliament, then the no—deal scenario gets more and more realistic, and that's not good for the uk but also not good for us in the european union. just a line breaking news this evening, the ministry of defence saying that they have a bunker in the basement of the mod in london thatis the basement of the mod in london that is now making preparations not only for military services, armed services overseas, but also contingency planning within the uk. 3500 troops we are told by our defence correspondent are now readied for any contingency planning, and those troops and others would be available if other departments need them. and we've also seen over the course of the last week or so the foreign and commonwealth office making similar plans, all of it under the banner of operation yellowhammer, which we we re operation yellowhammer, which we were told, and it is rumoured, will
be triggered on monday as that voting gets under way in the house of commons. right, let's take a pause and a step back and get some detailfrom our pause and a step back and get some detail from our reality check correspondent, chris morris. let's remind ourselves what is the uk side actually asking for and what has the eu side said in response? theresa may has basically requested a three month delay to brexit, an extension of the article 50 period until the end ofjune. what that means is she wa nts end ofjune. what that means is she wants her deal still to be forefront. that means the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration that goes with it. there is need to be approved by a vote in the house of commons. we try that twice already, it's failed. and then if they were to be a successful vote, you need the extension to turn the withdrawal agreement into uk law. the response from the uk, we had already heard from donald tusk yesterday that yes, a short extension is possible, but only if
that meaningful vote gets past. those are the lines that have appeared in the draft conclusions we've seen, but of course with the big rider, it's something that had been previewed byjean—claude juncker yesterday. the line in the d raft juncker yesterday. the line in the draft conclusions, saying you can't go untiljune and 30th, it can only be until the 22nd of may, any extension, the day before european elections begin. it's a pretty strict interpretation of the law. there are lawyers out there who will say there are ways you could have a much longer extension and not fall foul of the law, but politically, led by the european commission, that is the strict interpretation of the law they have decided to go for. what is fascinating about european council summits is you get the 27 leaders, presidents and prime ministers, in the same room, the leaders are there, without their advisers, it is basically all of them together discussing the solutions and this plan that theresa may has put on the table. yes, and
we do have to remind people that we have seen so far are conclusions, they could change. countries could set other conditions. i mean, obviously they have talked about it before, in the sense that donald tusk‘sjob is to before, in the sense that donald tusk‘s job is to coordinate between the different capitals, so we imagine he had a pretty good idea of what would fly with everyone. the crucial thing is that all 27 countries have to agree, the uk and the other 27 all have to agree what the other 27 all have to agree what the extension looks like. if one country says they are not happy with that, it isn't going to happen. but the one thing we know they want at the one thing we know they want at the moment, desperately, is for a third meaningful vote in the house of commons to get through next week. that's why there is this sense of pressure, it is this or no deal, and so pressure, it is this or no deal, and so forth. so they want that vote to pass, we know and they know obviously that the numbers aren't looking good. there would also then have to be a debate in the house of lords, but if that hurdle could be ove i’co m e lords, but if that hurdle could be overcome then you could be getting into this short technical extension to get the deal over the line but we are not there yet. all indications are not there yet. all indications are that hurdle will not be
overcome, because they will read the british papers, here the interviews, theresa may right now does not have the numbers. no, and the indications are that the speech or the statement she gave in downing street last night has made things worse, and i've spoken to european diplomats today who have made precisely that point. so where does it leave us? technically at the default position, if it doesn't go through, is no deal. if nothing changes, 2300 uk time on the 29th of march, under the law as it currently stands, we leave the eu, deal or no deal. i think the key question at the moment is, at the moment, today, in the current circumstances, emmanuel macron is saying a no vote in the house of commons guides us towards no deal. the key question is would he say that in a week's time, when we have perhaps had that vote and it has failed to go through? the other option of course is a longer delay. there would be reluctance on the eu side. we know it is something
theresa may has said she is not prepared to leave the country into, but it is still technically another possibility if no deal is the other option. if you had a longer delay, then other things open up, an election, possibly another referendum, or of course the nuclear option, boom, you revoke article 50 altogether, brexit doesn't happen, and we stay in the eu on the same terms that we have now. that would be an incredibly divisive moment in british politics clearly, and there doesn't appear to be a majority at the moment in the house of commons for revocation, but it is an option that the uk can trigger unilaterally if it desired to do so. there is no mention in this draft conclusion of a longer extension. presumably, we must take it for granted that they are trying to help the prime minister over the line here, and so sensitive is this discussion of a longer extension that today, i understand, this draft conclusion when it was sent, it was sent in an
envelope rather than an e—mail, so it couldn't be leaked. that's right, and what it says, this is our plan a for the next week. what it doesn't say is what's plan b. they are trying to imply that our plan b is no deal, but is it? frankly, the political legal complications surrounding that produce an extraordinary amount of uncertainty and nobody can say for sure where we will be in a week's time. chris morris, thank you very much indeed. so how will that go down in westminster? chris mason there, is there any reaction to what has been published in the draft conclusions? never a truer sentence said that the one from chris morris about no one having the faintest idea of where we will be in a week's time. very much the sentiment here. speaking to people about those draft conclusions, there is a kind of world weariness really. the place has thinned out compared with yesterday, given that it is a thursday, some mps returning to
their constituencies, but a real sense of anxiety, a collective sense of anxiety amongst mps, regardless of anxiety amongst mps, regardless of their perspective on brexit, that this is it, that the crunch point has been reached, that next week they are going to have to make some pretty profound decisions whatever happens, whether that is formally changing the law here in the uk so that brexit doesn't happen at the end of next week, or accepting that ano end of next week, or accepting that a no deal outcome is a reality. for some, if you mps, that would be something they would embrace, most would find that a pretty grim prospect. more entertaining on monday as we know will happen a discussion amongst mps about potential other ways forward. and in all likelihood before we get that third attempt by the government to get its meaningful vote through, but as you were reflecting with chris, at the moment they're just simply isn't the numbers for that. actually some mps who change their mind between meaningful vote one and meaningful vote two and came behind the government in the second attempt to get it through, some of them now
going all wobbly again and are not convinced they will stick with that position come the next vote. that statement the prime minister gave la st statement the prime minister gave last night in downing street doesn't seem last night in downing street doesn't seem to have won any people around, and has absolutely angered some people, that suggestion it was her on the side of the people against parliament, as you were saying, in some of those clips you are playing, really infuriated some mps who genuinely fear for their public safety now, and advice has been given by the commons authorities around how mps keep them safe. for instance, taxes being allowed to go on to the parliamentary estate so they can be in a car as they leave, rather than having to launch —— run the gauntlet of the campaigners and activists on both sides of the argument who are permanently camped outside now. yes, as you know, i am an avid listener to your podcast, brexit cast, you didn't release it until too late, i was in bed listening to it, but the thing you have been telling me over and over
again is that this prime minister has said, look, if you don't vote for this deal, it could be no brexit. what has happened in the last 2a hours to take us from it will be no brexit to it possibly could be no deal? where you need more stamina, christian, it appeared about two o'clock in the morning, i had visions of you waking up and devoting 45 minutes with your notepad and pen, writing down all of those insights. what's changed? i thinkjust the rapidity of political movement here that one idea if you like was tried by downing street, that idea that, as you say, it is her deal or no brexit at all. actually now, given we have got closer to that point where no deal could still happen, it is the other side of the ledger, if you like. now there is some talk here at westminster that if you get into a situation in the middle of next week where the two sides of the coin, if you like, are the prime ministers
deal and no deal, we know there is not the majority for no deal in the commons, and that might mean people would be willing at the last minute to back the deal. but even the scale ofanger to back the deal. but even the scale of anger after that statement in downing street last night, and also given that the commons is going to have an opportunity to shape its own outlook on brexit at the beginning of next week, and then potentially the week after, if there is a delay to brexit and the prime minister's deal is rejected, every conceivable outcome is now being discussed, whether that be a delay, a no—deal brexit, a passing of meaningful vote three, and every conceivable other option. we have reached a point, and this seems absurd but it is true, where even the most ridiculous suggestions are being discussed and given some element of credibility, because, well, frankly nothing seems ridiculous any more. yeah, it is
extraordinary, isn't it, that eight days to go, we are all sort of assuming of course there won't be no deal, we are talking tough, they are talking tough here, emmanuel macron says we are ready for no deal, the dutch prime minister saying we have made preparations, theresa may saying it is my deal or no deal, but you are saying it is still very much on the table. we could just be eight days from leaving the european union without a deal. may absolutely, and we say this repeatedly but it bears saying again that that is what happens if nothing else changes. that is the law of the land here in the uk, because we are still seeing the uk, because we are still seeing the discussions in brussels around the discussions in brussels around the suggested relatively short delay, but there has to be a process, a legal process here at westminster, secondary legislation, what is known as a statutory instrument to amend the current law of the land. we have a very few braille house of commons, and so it
is simply not certain what is going to happen. until fairly recently, it felt like the brexit process moved from one month to the next or one week to the next. recently it's felt like it has gone from one day to the next and then on to the one after. now it is an hour process. i've never known in my time reporting here at westminster for more than ten years, that a quote you might receive from a senior politician, either on camera or privately in an off the record conversation, has never had such a short shelf life. you hear a bit of insight or intelligence or gossip from a cabinet minister, you think that's great, well, it is in that instance but not for very long, because very, very quickly it can suddenly be out of date or the person in question has simply changed their mind. incredible. it is going to be a dramatic eight days, stay tuned to brexit cast, you will get some of the answers there. chris mason, thank you very much indeed. just to confirm that in the next half hour
or so we are confirm that in the next half hour or so we are expecting jean—claude juncker and donald tusk to put some flesh on the bones and tell us what happened in that meeting, but will they go as far to tell us what would happen if that third meaningful vote goes against theresa may, or are they staying on message? are they talking just about that short extension with no other deal on the table at the moment? let's hearfrom the german chancellor angela merkel. i always think there is a good cop, bad cop relationship that goes on between emmanuel macron and angela merkel. macron at the moment taking a really ha rd merkel. macron at the moment taking a really hard line against the uk, a little bit of a softer tone from angela merkel. translation: i think you and i, we all must be aware that we are dealing with something of historical importance, and therefore we must also tread carefully, and above all do everything possible to the last hour to ensure that there may be an orderly exit for the uk from the eu.
that means that we have to consider the interests of all sides, including those of the british, and so the discussion today with the british prime minister is, of course, very important because she can tell us how she sees things from her perspective, and then we in turn will formulate ourjudgment. angela merkel, you get the feeling that she understands the gravity of the situation right now. she wants to keep the european family together, she would much prefer the uk site to be in it but if they are not, then she wants the uk to leave with that negotiated deal, an orderly exit. maybe she is impressing on her fellow orderly exit. maybe she is impressing on herfellow european collea g u es impressing on herfellow european colleagues that for the brexit fatigue there is at the european council and there is an awful lot of exasperation with the uk side, it is worth sticking with the deal and trying to help the prime minister crossed the line. i was telling you
about some very interesting reporting from jonathan beale about some of the planning that is under way at the ministry of defence. jonathan is with us, just set out what sort of detail you have managed to uncover. we already know there is under the codename 0peration yellowhammer what to do under a no deal, there are different departments helping with planning in case there is a no deal. we also know 3500 troops are on standby, there have been call—up papers to army reserves to make up 10% of that number. we have got today is more of the detail of what the military is doing. they have a separate code word, operation red fold, for their planning, which include setting up an operations room and the optics don't look that great, i suppose, if you are a member of the public. it is in you are a member of the public. it isina you are a member of the public. it is in a nuclear bunker, deep in the bowels of the mod with big blast
doors and the labyrinth of corridors therefore stop they use it for crisis management throughout the year, but they have an operation unit that will be manned to deal with a no—deal brexit if that happens. essentially the mod is stepping up a gear. so some of the rumours floating around was that 0peration yellowhammer, the umbrella term for this emergency planning, that would be triggered on monday. do we get a sense that this all begins next week? i don't think you get a sense this begins, because there has to be confirmation there isa no there has to be confirmation there is a no deal in the sense that all these pieces come into play as soon as that is known but you have the planning going on, and i think what this tells you is that the planning is stepping up a gear, that they are preparing for what could happen, and they are going to have a crisis room, a situation room, if you like,
down in the mod, in that bunker to coordinate all the efforts. we don't even know really what troops would exactly even know really what troops would exa ctly d o, even know really what troops would exactly do, those 3500, whether they would be driving fuel tanks or what exactly. as i said, there are people from the armed forces helping them plan. but certainly this is stepping up plan. but certainly this is stepping upa plan. but certainly this is stepping up a gear plan. but certainly this is stepping up a gear but it is not actually at the moment in operation. thank you very much for that, jonathan beale. asi very much for that, jonathan beale. as i say, there is a line in the d raft as i say, there is a line in the draft conclusions this evening that for all that has been discussed today and the extension that has been granted to the uk side, all 27 countries need to keep preparing for the no deal scenario and that is what sebastien coates, the austrian chancellor was talking about in the clip you had just a short time ago —— sebastian kurz. i'm joined by ingrid steinerfrom the austrian daily newspaper kurier. what do you make of the draft conclusions? well, i guess it means
that we will still hope there will be no hard brexit, at least that's what i understand. 0f be no hard brexit, at least that's what i understand. of course we have to wait and see next week whether there will be another meaningful vote, and if it passes then we will have this technical extension. if not, then i guess we will see each other next week, thursday probably. that has probably already been pencilled in, hasn't it? it seem so, yes. i have just pencilled in, hasn't it? it seem so, yes. i havejust been hearing pencilled in, hasn't it? it seem so, yes. i have just been hearing from jonathan about some of the emergency planning under way in the uk. we know from the netherlands and those countries close to the uk that there isa countries close to the uk that there is a lot of planning going on. what is a lot of planning going on. what is the situation in austria? we also have our emergency planning, we will not have that many problems as for example france or the netherlands. 0ur problems will be less bad, but there is of course our enterprises, our transport system is prepared, i guess, more or less. trying to feel
our way through the language, the way it has been codified in this document, there is no mention of a longer extension. do you think that is all part of a negotiating strategy to try to focus the minds of the mps back in the house of commons? i guess the sense is to put pressure on the british mps to get this deal done finally, and as long as there is no clear language on that, there is the maximum pressure possible. but it must be abundantly clear to everybody back at home that is what is going on, so do you think within the meeting today, they've faced up to that fact and there has been a lot of discussion, because obviously theresa may left the room after she had spoken to them and they sat for two or three hours to discuss what they would do. do you think a lot of the discussion about what might happen in the event of the deal going against her next week, the vote going against her, do you think some of those plans are already being formed? as far as i
know, as i hear, no. ithink there is quite a mighty discussion going on, especially between france and the netherlands on one side, and germany, who is more reluctant and more moderate. but as far as i have heard, there is no clear strategy yet. obviously, there is a line in this draft conclusion that the uk is not going to take part in the european elections, and we have seen a variety of dates put forward today by different european institutions about where the cut—off point should be. as i understand it, although it saysin be. as i understand it, although it says in this draft conclusion that the 22nd of may is the cut—off, it would effectively be much sooner, wouldn't it, because you would have to prepare for the election? i'm not sure i got this question. wouldn't you have to have candidates, field those candidates, make the european parliament aware of what you are going to do far sooner than may 22? as far as
going to do far sooner than may 22? as farasi going to do far sooner than may 22? as far as i have heard, but this is probably only a rumour, there are some british mps who are prepared, and there are already some lists. so i guess some mps know what they have to expect. i was talking earlier about what goes on in the room here, it is just interesting to people. you are i presume are filing for your newspaper, you have properly filed several times today for stop what happens in the evening, because there is a variety of press conferences we are about to get, and so conferences we are about to get, and so much detail we are expecting, what do you prioritise on an evening like this? my my priority is to send a message that there is still hope. i was saying, which press conference do you prioritise? to listen to the commission first or someone else? what do you do when you try to spread yourself so thin? i think my first choice will be the austrian chancellor but it will be only short and then i will run to donald tusk.