tv Dateline London BBC News March 31, 2019 11:30am-12:01pm BST
this is bbc news, i'm ben brown. it is polling day in the ukraine for the first round of the headlines at 12pm: this is bbc news. the headlines: police in england and wales are being given greater stop and search powers to tackle rising knife crime. theresa may considers her next move to break the brexit deadlock following the latest defeat of her withdrawal plan. there's been a sharp rise in the number of adults calling a national helpline for the children of alcoholic parents, according to figures seen by the bbc. the founder of facebook, mark zuckerberg, calls for governments to play a more active role in regulating the internet.
next on bbc news, dateline london. hello and welcome to dateline london. i'm carrie gracie. today, one topic — brexit on borrowed time. what happens next? and who decides? westminster? brussels? theresa may? a new british prime minister? british voters? my guests today are tim montgomerie of the website conservative home, political commentator steve richards, stefanie bolzen of german newspaper die welt, and portugese writer eunice goes. welcome to you all. the prime minister staked so much on her brexit deal, she lost twice, then she staked her leadership
and lost again. some joked that theresa may couldn't even manage to fall on her own sword successfully. but with all our futures hanging in the balance, no british citizen or resident has much to laugh about this weekend. so what next? is theresa may's deal dead now? it is hard to know that it is dead, although john bercow, the speaker, might have an opinion on that. it is perfectly possible he could rule out parliament even discussing it again. he was reluctant to have a third vote, so a fourth, he might veto it. what is likely, and it is a dangerous game to make predictions at the moment, parliament will probably vote for a customs union on monday and i think if that is tied to her deal, potentially, in the middle of next week, if a vote goes ahead, i can see a parliamentary majority for it. a parliamentary majority for a customs union, not for her deal?
you have to have some sort of withdrawal agreement and then the customs union is about the future relationship with the european union. i can see once the labour party, which has always supported a customs union, has got a parliamentary majority for a customs union, they could then back the withdrawal agreement. whether that is something the prime minister would then even allow to be voted on is a different question. steve, do you think that is realistic? we saw eight options, for indicative votes last week. the customs union was one of them. will it get across in the week ahead? it could well do. it was very tight, that vote for a customs union, and i know number 10 think that is highly likely, that parliament will vote for a customs union next week, but the reason why this saga is so unpredictable is that highly and usually in british politics,
there are so many moving parts and no—one is fully in control. we are used to an era that if you knew what number 10 was doing, you could probably tell what was going to happen next because normally in britain prime ministers are powerful. theresa may isn't, the house of commons has some power but not total power, because she might reject their customs union vote, the european union are a player and we will talk about that later, the opposition party has real power, so no—one is fully in control. what about the rest of the cabinet? we have seen trust breaking down but is there still some coherent power in cabinet? not over this because they are divided. for example, most of them are highly critical of theresa may but they haven't been able to get their act together to tell her to go at a particular moment because they are split. if the subsequent negotiation is over a customs union, i can't see
quite who is the instrument for that because it has to be the prime minister, but theresa may is so inflexible, i can't see her having that negotiation, coming back, saying, i have got a customs union, so it is very hard to see quite what happens in the next few days beyond a sense that, i know this is a cliche, they will be seismic. eunice? i agree, and i'm not so sure that if her agreement is put forward to a vote in the house of commons that there will be a majority for it because even if there is a movement within the labour party to support the withdrawal agreement, having secured a customs union, the labour party is also extremely divided about brexit and this is the story of the last weeks or last year, that party discipline has completely broken down across the two main parties and everyone else, in particular the snp, the dup,
they know that they can have a role in either making the withdrawal agreement approved or to create a completely different situation, so i think we are in uncharted territory. no—one knows. who knows what is going to happen within the next week? but i think there has to be a way forward from friday onwards if britain is going to leave without a deal. or if there is going to be an extension, a prolonged extension, with britain participating in the european parliament elections. stefanie, a firm prediction? no, it is very difficult. but from a european perspective, they have been watching this very closely now for years and there are many moving parts, but there are also moving parts in europe. just dealing with westminster, we have heard europe say
on friday, the commission said that a no deal exit is now a likely scenario. do you think that is their real view? it is their real view but also michel barnier said on friday that the european union could live with a customs union, so there is a certain influencing in the back. the customs union was always something that the european side saw as positive and easier to solve than the northern irish problem than the deal is now on the table. the big advantage of the customs union is that it does solve a lot of the northern ireland problem. the problem for a lot of the conservatives is that they believe a big positive was the ability to negotiate trade deals with other parts of the world. we had donald trump's advisor saying that britain should not worry, the us is ready to ride as cavalry to the rescue with a trade deal.
you can argue about that but if we are part of a customs union, we can't have that kind of trade deal, so do not underestimate the resistance of large numbers of conservative mps. so one of the things people have been saying in the last few weeks is that the international trade secretary has struggled to make progress on trade negotiations for after brexit so that utopian future of our free trade deals looks less rosy, even to people inside the conservative party. i think that is a criticism that some people are making but it is very hard to progress in negotiations with other parts of the world if they don't know whether we are going to be part of the single market, part of a kind of customs union, so we can only really see the opportunities once the deal is settled. no—one is going to commit much political capital in any part of the world until they know
what our future with the eu is going to be. eunice? we have just heard over the past 24 hours how conservative mps are going to be briefed next week on a customs union, and this is the real problem, the real tragedy of brexit. brexit is being defended and negotiated by people who know very little about international trade, how the european union works as well. very few people, active members of the government, and this is a failing of rule 101, the number one rule of politics, which is know your adversary well, know your enemy. that is the only way to negotiate, what are their strengths and weaknesses, and the british government hasn't been able to score one point out of the european union. they are going to do it
with the rest of the world? i think people might have that illusion, but it is an illusion. it was interesting this week when they debated those so—called indicative votes because watching that debate compared with the others was like entering a different world. you can disagree with some of the exchanges that took place but at least they were exploring a range of options in quite a grown—up way. they could not agree with any of them. they did not vote for one of them. but the debate was quite nuanced, intelligent, there were open disagreements, but why this was happening days before the uk was supposed to be leaving the european union is crazy. water under the bridge, we are where we are, eunice says we need to think about our adversary, whatever we are going to call them, coming back to you, stefanie, where does this stand?
the europeans have said a summit on the 10th of april. the leave date legally is the 12th of april. is there enough time to get a deal in place? what was interesting at the european council last week was that they had to change the agenda. they sat down, there was no script on the table, and they really worked out what is important to them and one thing that came out was the european election. that is going to take place between the 23rd of may and the 26th of may, and they have categorically said the united kingdom, until the 12th of april, when they have to trigger the system to participate, has to tell them, so this is really crucial because they saw the risk that the functioning of the european institution is really at risk if they have still a wobbly situation with the united kingdom. what i hear in brussels is, if by the 10th of april the united kingdom still doesn't
know what it wants, there is nothing that convinces the eu 27, there probably wouldn't be a no deal on the table, they can still say they can go on until the 27th of may, because they will know they are not going to participate then, and to me that makes sense. so it is definitely a no deal exit if that happens, but a no deal with a month to prepare? i find it surprising that people say the europeans will blink and they can't allow a no deal. there is a danger that the narrative will be, by nigel farage and others, that no deal was caused by the europeans, but i think we have now got to a point where, if that happens, it happens. that was clearly the mood in brussels last week. is that the mood you are picking up as well, that it is going to be painful for ever and ever, we would rather have short—term pain now? absolutely, and the french president is really showing to be quite
impatient with the brexit process and if there is going to be a one—year extension to britain, if it is going to be more of the same than what happened over the last three years, what is the point of that? the european union faces incredible problems. there are very important european elections, out of which you are going to have a new commission, a new president of the council. a new budget needs to be negotiated. brexit has been absorbing a lot of time of eu business. people are literally fed up and i think a lot of europeans are thinking this is going to be bad, britain leaving without a deal, but this is a bad we can live with. we cannot let this issue continue to dominate european politics for years to come. and, tim, do you agree with that, and if it is true, that it is well
understood inside westminster? interestingly, today was the day we were supposed to have left the european union, and i was at a party last night run by nigel farage's supporters. it was not much of a party, the mood was subdued, but there are still quite high hopes in that circle that no deal will happen. not because they expect theresa may to deliver it for britain but because they think an exasperated european leader is soon going to say, and there has to be an absolute consensus among eu leaders, we have had enough of this. we have got a month to prepare for no deal and you are out. and in the nigel farage sort of camp, is that the analysis in the conservative party? that is why a lot of the hardline group of tory brexiteers in parliament, that is why they have kept voting down the deal. i don't think they have faith that theresa may
will ultimately vote for no deal, theyjust hope president macron, who came reasonably close to that position at the last summit but was overruled by angela merkel, but every eu leader has to agree to a long timetable and it's perfectly possible for domestic, concern about the european union's integrity, that one eu leader might say, enough is enough, you have had your chances to have a deal. i think if that were to happen, there is quite a high chance parliament would revoke article 50. on the record you have heard quite senior figures say there is no circumstances they would revoke article 50 unless it looks like we are crashing out with no deal. they can't openly advocate for it because they are too scared to. but i think in those circumstances, that might happen. are you saying we get to the 11th of april
and parliament revokes article 50, having not debated it previously? it will be clear by then that no deal is happening. it might be clear before then if we haven't got a deal or europe has said no. then i do think it is a possibility. then you are potentially thrown into britain participating in european elections, and the anger at that decision amongst brexiteers is absolutely explosive. it will make the mood we saw in parliament square yesterday look like a picnic and you see potentially the beginnings of the realignment of british politics, because the conservatives and the labour party have failed to honour one of the largest votes in british history, you get a brexit party and this new change uk party, which has emerged, doing incredibly well in those european elections. we always use the word crisis and unprecedented, but these really are extraordinary times. the european elections
will be exactly that if they are held in britain, remain against brexit. so in a way it is a second referendum in its own right? it will be like a protest vote because there will be no instrument at the end of it for remain meps and brexit meps to change anything. i think the turnout will be high. but it won't be the same turn out we had with the european referendum in 2016. we are talking about 35% or 40%. it would be a massively highly—charged campaign. and yet that thought will be concentrating hq for both major parties, steve. i think both major parties will dread them but clearly, because we are now at the point where labour are in effect calling for a longer extension
because they want a different negotiation to take place, that they are working on the assumption that the european elections will happen and they will be a nightmare for the two big parties because equivocation over this issue won't get very far in those elections. it will be a remain versus out european election in the uk. let's turn to the question of leadership because we haven't really addressed this head on yet. theresa may said last week that she would put her leadership on the line and yet she didn't get the vote through. does that mean she has to go anyway or does she not have to go anyway? stefanie, what is your view? what is obvious is that the party wants her to go but the big question is, how is she going to go? this very much depends on the next hours and days. it depends what happens next in parliament,
will she put out another vote? the consensus is clearly she is going to be gone by the 22nd of may, but how this will all play out, from the inside... from the inside, what do you think? her pledge was that she would go if the withdrawal agreement was passed, but if you are the prime minister and you basically announce to the world and your party that you are ready to go, you have not really got the credibility or authority any more, so the problem is, i think that events are leading to a general election. but the problem for the conservative party is, they don't want to go into that general election with theresa may as leader. there needs to be a contest to replace her, that contest takes time, and do the conservative party have time to have an election quickly to avoid european elections and choose a leader? i don't think they do have an opportunity
to have a general election with a new leader quickly enough so i don't think you can rule out the possibility of theresa may leading the tories into another general election, which is quite a thought for those tories who remember how badly the last election went. if it is a general election led by theresa may, good luck to the conservative party, really. on what manifesto? she promised as prime minister to deliver brexit, we haven't yet delivered brexit. she was a prime minister who promised to heal the burning injustices in britain. she hasn't done anything about it because she has been busy not delivering brexit. what kind of results will the conservative party obtain after a general election? what is for sure is, if there is an extension of article 50 and britain will remain in the european union for another
year, and this is a hypothesis, if the conservative party will have even another leader, the fact remains that with this particular parliament that we have, the problems remain the same, the arithmetic will be the same. whoever is in charge, whoever will be prime minister in britain, will have to deal with that arithmetic, so the only options are really, are we going to move the red lines and so then it is possible to negotiate a different deal with the european union or we are dealing with a new parliament but we do not know, because it is so fickle, public opinion is so volatile, that it is very likely the new election will result in another hung parliament. steve, you have been making these programmes. can theresa may move these red lines? i have been making programmes for bbc sound around the world. great programmes.
thank you. everyone i spoke to told me, don't feel sorry for her, she wanted this job and she will try to stay there for as long as she can. she doesn't ache to leave, however much the pressure. in terms of whether she can move the red lines, ifind it hard, the other thing everybody said to me, it is well known, the inflexibility, pathologically inflexible. i can't imagine her negotiating a new deal. she clings to her deal as she has always clung to policies when she was in the home office and everywhere else. but one of the fascinating things about this moment, this parliament clearly cannot continue for much longer. a government can't govern, forget about brexit, it can't get most of its legislation through, and i can't see how there is an early election for the reasons tim outlined. would she really lead
them into the election? if that happens, i think labour would win. what would be the brexit policy in the manifesto? while i can't see this parliament lasting much longer, i can't see how there is an early election. this is the fascination of british politics. and the question we haven't tackled yet, who is the moses, as borisjohnson was talking about, to lead these tribes out of egypt? the early favourites, according to the bookies, are borisjohnson and michael gove, the two people who led the leave campaign. i think we need, speaking as a conservative, i think part of the mistake that happened last time when theresa may was chosen, it was a very fast coronation. the tory party thought she was the moses of that moment and it turned out that when the general election came, she wasn't up to campaigning. what the conservative party
needs to avoid, if it didn't have this pressing timetable, is a proper contest where we test all the candidates. i think if we had that testing process, both the big negatives of michael gove and boris johnson, would stop them becoming leader. the tories really need a candidate who can unify them and unify the nation afterwards. it is not clear to me, although i am open to be persuaded otherwise, that boris or michael gove can do that, and so you are looking at a candidate like jeremy hunt or sajid javid, although they are remainers, potentially coming through and winning this contest. with a little bit of detachment from this, do you look at this and feel this is the failure of an entire political class in the uk or is it a similar kind of set of challenges but more attenuated than we see elsewhere in europe? it is a very special situation, simply because of the referendum in 2016 which has split the country.
we don't even know what is going to happen tomorrow. i think the symptoms of this crisis we see them everywhere in europe. we see them in france, we see them in my country in germany with the rise of the anti—eu and anti—immigrant party, we see this everywhere. people are disenfranchised, i think you say, with the political class. so it is a zeitgeist thing, not a plague on the houses of westminster? yes, but one thing this has done clearly, and some say this is what the european commission always hoped for, it has shown what not to do and not to put this divisive question to a nation. do you want to stay or do you not want to stay in the european union? what everyone has now understood is that leaving the european union is very difficult. eunice, do you feel this is a failure of the political
class orjust a set of very difficult challenges? i think it is a combination of both. we have a similar crisis in europe but europe has been a virus in british politics for a very, very long time. british exceptionalism has led and informed the positions of a generation, several generations, of british politicians. to a certain extent, leaving the european union was bound to happen. if it was not in 2016, it would be some time later. steve, inevitable? what is inevitable? this painful trauma? absolutely right, britain's politics has never been at ease with the european union. it has been tumultuous at every point, be it a labour government or a tory government. however, it wasn't inevitable. when david cameron held the referendum, europe as an issue for voters was way down the list,
he called it for other reasons. i don't think it was inevitable. that's it for dateline london for this week. we're back next week at the same time. goodbye. hello. for those of you in scotland and northern ireland, a sunnier and less breezy day today for mother's day but for england and wales, a lot more cloud, a bit more of a breeze and a bit cooler as well and the cloud could threaten one or two showers as well, particularly as we go through southern counties in the afternoon. temperatures may hit 15 but that will be tempered by the strength of the wind. tonight, the breeze coming
from an easterly direction will push cloud back towards northern ireland and north into the west of scotland. a few showers here stopping temperatures from dropping too much but elsewhere across much of scotland, england and wales, away from city centres, it will be a cold night with a widespread frost. a bright start today for the vast majority but already showers in northern ireland, western scotland, becoming more abundant through the day, some heavy with hail and thunder, spreading into central scotland, too. some parts of eastern scotland may stay dry, even with the breeze picking up, showers into the isle of man, cumbria later, but much of england and wales dry. sunniest towards the south—east and with lighter winds, we may see temperatures up a bit but they will drop drastically for tuesday and wednesday and it is a story of april showers for all.