tv British Ambassador to the U.S. on Brexit Negotiations CSPAN October 29, 2018 12:49am-2:19am EDT
and it would be for the better. >> and i want the house to remain in republican hands because i am tired of gridlock and things not getting done. if it clips, i'm afraid it will be another session of no change. >> the issue i think is most important relative to this coming campaign is for there to be balance in a house of representatives and the u.s. senate. i think it will offset a bit and enforce the current administration to try to govern more from the center, which i important. when we govern from the center, i teach my students this as a history teacher -- it is really important to do that because then it teaches us to have empathy for the other side and also to be able to recognize other people and the issues that are important to them. ♪ >> voices from the state, part of c-span's 50 capital's tour. >> on tuesday, the british
ambassador to the u.s. joined a panel discussion hosted by the brookings institution on the state of brexit negotiations and the possibility of a second requisite referendum being held. this is one hour and a my name is tom wright. i am delighted to welcome you all today. let me take a moment to thank the partnership that we have and ho acknowledge the robert bosc -- this is part of our brookings transatlantic initiative.
we are able to do things here in europe and brookings, the simply would not be possible without the support and partnership we have with boston. we are grateful and look forward to the work that we do in coming years on brexit and on other issues. were generally for a brief moment, i would like to frame the points to conversation that we will moderate shortly. britain's pending exit from the eu, whether one agrees with it or not, will shape the future of the united kingdom, europe and the future of the transatlantic relationship. is on today'sho panel, amanda, has an important report where she documents the have impact on ireland and put pressure on scotland. we look forward to hearing her thoughts on that. tags it come off course, which has for the eu, raising questions about the future relationship and the covenant to
britain, and also about the future relationship with britain. we are already seeing obstructive is in within the eu vast theow far and how protests on bags it should proceed. meigs it will also have an important impact on the relationship. most americans are familiar with the term brexit, it is one of those that relate but i traded into the public consciousness. the united states has been absent from the negotiations, which marked a departure of americans traditional role as a active participant in debates about europeans future. it is primarily a matter for the united kingdom and eu 27,, but it does in fact an impact u.s. vital interests.
he will moderate the panel. to united kingdom ambassador the united states, ambassador, thank you for joining us. our seniort is fellow here are brookings and also, has a report on "divided kingdom". ofinda creighton is the ceo a consulting company has served in the irish government as european minister for european affairs. alexander is a fellow at harvard university department of international affairs at formerly served as secretary of state for scotland in the
british government. i would also like to recognize mr. hall and the irish ambassador who is here with us please feel free to use your phones if you are tweeting about today's event. with that, over to you. >> thank you very much, tom. always to beis here are brookings and to see so many familiar faces. so thank you for having me. it is a pleasure also to have such a well-qualified panel and diverse panel to discuss this imminent, on the brink issue that we are all facing. just to remind you, for those courant, we have halloween approaching next week maysure enough, to resum therea is very close to midnight in brussels, very close to negotiate something approximate
in her chakras deal for britain's agreement, which has to happen my march 29 under article 50 and which includes three things. one, what happens to british people living in europe, which has been resolved. which is also, very much been resolved, and three, which is unresolved, is, not a the good friday agreement. keeping the irish republican border open with northern ireland. today. focus on that that is the key thing here, rich region will not result in britain giving candy to brussels. the question is how much and with how much bad wealth. we have a very diverse range of on offer.
people talk about radical answer into our days. in geopolitics, which is very much true, globally. in theical uncertainty coming months and weeks of what will happen with brexit is really very, very cute. it is as plausible in a no deal having and theresa may failed to secure a divorce agreement or having succeeded in parliament and parliament having voted it down -- as it is, i think, after last saturday's 700,000-a strong march in london for a people's vote that there is a second referendum. and then the third, ordinarily mainstream scenario that terry's am a gets her deal -- but theresa may gets her deal, parliament agrees and we get to much 29 after which the real negotiations begin. this adjust the beginning of what a and europe looks like.
let us start with the radical uncertainty. -- you have been -- [laughter] >> not to persecute you, but you have been britain's ambassador to the eu. you work national security adviser to the prime minister and you're now, of course, britain's ambassador to the u.s. you have the experience of representing the british government and aching on its behalf. what is your from mosys best speaking on his behalf. the is your prognosis on slightly apocalyptic deal scenario, that it squeaks through parliament scenario, and the fantastical peoples will scenario, perhaps slightly left fantastic scenario. what are you thinking at as far as probabilities here. >> thank you for the colorful introduction and for coming to me first. you are presenting what feels
like one of those front office and additions with three options for ministers, where we want to choose the middle one. i would choose the middle one, let me explain why. the withdrawal agreement, which is an agreement between the eu and the 27, which covers all of -- the priment minister in the house of commons yesterday said that it is 97% done and we have the agreements on monday, on the rights of eu citizens living in the united kingdom and the rest of united kingdom citizens living in ofope, and most of the rest live-in arrangements. the hardest part was always deal on be around the what happened on the irish border, and so it is proving. but we have got 95% of the way there. if we get the free trade deal
that embodies the chakras -- the exchequer proposal, that gets deal through it. the issue is the backstop arrangement if the negotiation should not be completed in the implementation period, which runs until december 2020. that is not where we expect to be, or want to be, so we are talking about a contingency that would help never happens. , therel have some time is no european council in december, it is still possible that there could be an extra european council in november. we all of us want the same objective. the commission, the british government, the irish government and the other member states, which is no hard border between northern ireland and southern
ireland. so i am confident we can get .here and get a deal 40 europeanbe 30 or negotiations in my time doing my 50 years doing this work and am confident it is achievable with the usual creativity that the specialists bring to drafting the agreements. i am relatively confident about getting the deal with the european partners, and it would accept that it looks quite a trite vote in the house of commons, but i think there is a lot of talk in the many, and unnamed mps say that they will not vote for a. i think whether there's -- when they consider the alternative, that will concentrate minds. dublin could encourage its mps to support and do deals with other groups.
her, despites on all the predictions of the moment getting the deal through the house of commons and getting to that place. >> very briefly, i want to move to lucinda. we have the best, but we repair for the worst. -- we hope for the best that we prepare for the worst. >> as the government has said, emergency planning going on in whitehall. i know that our colleagues are looking at all of this in whitehall. they were also trying to find a way that improves -- that involves a deal, or no deal, so yes, we are doing contingency planning for that. but it is absolutely no the expectation end of the plan is that we get to a deal in the next month and a half and that we then get it through the house commons.
>> lucinda, your political career has been a very much engaged with europe and also, of course, ireland. it spans the integration of , you were a member of the european parliament, you dealt with the irish presidency of the european union. timeis your -- that same you read has also been the entrenchment and the success of the good friday agreement that ireland.ved peace in how fearful are you that that is now in jeopardy, to what degree is your no deal contingency planning in ireland now a sort of, live activity? the risks this final phase of the .egotiations are very high there is a huge degree of concern in dublin and in belfast
country,s the ireland the deal prospect of not been concluded. i think it probably will. i spent time in brussels and i think there is a real desire. i'll suspend spent time in andon anything there is desire on both sides to do the deal. but i think the arithmetic on the house of commons, and i'm ,ure they will talk about this i think it is a highly risky scenario. there is a lot of planning across government departments in dublin and it is a difficult thing to plan for, so there's a lot of theoretical planning underway, and i think the implementation of that is very unclear. i think there is a legitimate emotional deep
concern in ireland about the political future of the ireland. it is a very sensitive topic in london, those advocate for brexit don't really like the issue of the peace process in ireland to be raise at all. they think it is scaremongering and fear mongering and they were angry when the prime minister raised this at the european council last week. but he was right to raise it. piece isis -- that hard 1 -- the peace is hard-won and fragile. i concluded my high school exams in 1998 and i come from the generation which, through our childhood, witnessed our televisions every single evening , bombs, not just in northern ireland, but also in britain. , which devastated people's lives.
thousands of people killed. that was something that people ireland are difficult send about maintaining and preserving the peace process. and we don't take it for granted. we are really concerned about what a no-deal scenario could potentially unleash if there is no agreement before march and probably by the end of this year. so this is a real risk and threat and something that most of us are concerned about. douglas, you are steeped in british politics, minister for europe and the last labour government. we will bring scotland into this conversation. you were the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs. given your parliamentary experience, your no have a not where which is
most left binds are, but you are still in a power position to observe and, with your experience, judge of the prospects here. given your experience and given the leadership of your party, if jeremy corbyn is, at best, a lukewarm for european come of a summary who did not turn up to the march last saturday, what are the chances something could go wrong in this vote and we no-deal, hardto a brexit situation? >> i think the risks are real and the jeopardy great. there is of course, in negotiation risk. can the two sides find common ground on the issue of the backstop. there was agreement on that at the december council in 2017, by the smartest minds in london, dublin and brussels, so far, have not managed to find a formulation. but both sides want to find that common ground.
the consequences of not finding that common ground, for all reasons, we just heard from lucinda, are extremist severe. my hope would be that the image it weeks i had, it would progress . but in december of 2017, there was not simply just an agreement reached on the backstop, there was also a mission undertaken by theresa may that there would be a meaningful vote on the outcome of the negotiations. so i think we need to counter not just the negotiation risk but the ratification risk. the reason there is so much speculation across the united kingdom at the moment is that there is no majority at probably meant for any of the negotiation outcomes under consideration. 's characteristic british understatement and, under fire by suggesting that this will all be resolved. i have to say, as we se say in
scotland -- i have my doubts because it seems to me that the unionist party may well not support their partners in the conservative party when it comes to the issue of character relationship between northern ireland and the republican. there are a number of conservative mps who have declare that they are not to support the deal at its contemplation. so the working assumption in downing street right now seems to me that the labour party will may.in and save theresa i have to say come imd become a deeply skeptical that you will see anything like the number of labour mps that the conservative office are presuming will support theresa may in this circumstances actually. in that sense, even if we were to see a breakthrough in negotiations between the united kingdom and brussels in the coming weeks, the drama most of the house of commons and at the moment, i don't see a
parliamentary majority for any of the proposals that are on the table. >> i should add on to your kim,ement took him best to the diplomatic ogre face -- after trump was elected, he tweeted that nigel farage should be the new prime minister. nobody even heard or read the tweet in london. amanda, i want to get into the constitutional evolution of the questions applied to this. let us start on that mediate, what that democratic unionist party, which of course, propped up the theresa may government. the their concerns are with plan and the border agreement with the implications for keeping an open border, implied by the plan. concern therep and why is there such an
ideological issue for ers?ervator brexite >> it has been a perfect storm of events. theresa may became prime minister following the resignation of david cameron and she decided to hold snap elections as a way of strengthening her negotiating position going into brexit and that had disastrous results, livin losing her parliamentary majority. at the same time, it is also worth noting that northern ireland has been without an assembly for over 500 days. so at this could ago time when we are discussing with in ireland's future, the only voice coming out is the voice of the democratic unionist party, which is propping up theresa may's government in london and there is no voice coming out in belfast. when i was in northern ireland in may doing research on this report, i met with a dup representative who had been sunni and involved in the
campaigns. the way he articulated was that recognizes that northern ireland has special circumstances but they don't want northern ireland to be given a special status what. they have been always concerned about with the backstop, is that the idea that you would essentially create a border in of the irish sea and it would be treating northern ireland are partly from the rest of great britain. in many ways, what is offered in the backstop would be the best of both worlds, economically, from in ireland, because it would be able to participate within the eu single market customs union, but they would be operating within the united framework. for the du p, this raises an acceptable status issues for them, in terms of the larger constitutional situation within the united kingdom and therefore, has become anathema to their political position. american, the only non-european on this, how do you assess the trump administration's role in all of this. trump is mentioning earlier in
the introduction that a traditional american administration would be trying itselfssee and insert constructively into these divorced negotiation's. that is not happening, though, is it? >> no, it is not. it has been unclear what the u.s. position actually is. president obama was very forward leaning in terms of supporting it. he went to london before the brexit referendum annex best american support for a strong united kingdom within a strong eu and suggested the united kingdom would be in the back of the queue in terms of trade negotiations with the u.s. if it went forward with brexit. trump has taken a very different approach. he called brexit a great thing, he referred to the eu as a foe case, henk it is worst is actually supportive of the weakening of the eu and
potentially breaking countries away from the eu. it has been surprising that the u.s. has not been more involved in these negotiations, on the face of it, particularly on the northern ireland side. the u.s. supported the northern ireland peace process. we had a majority leader very actively involved in shepherding the good friday agreement. but i think the u.s. really has not played a very active role. i think the u.s. government has a set that it is not and it's interesting to have the united kingdom crash out with no deal, it would be damaging in geo-economic terms. the state department has made process tods in the encourage progress for a deal, but the u.s. really has not played a role that we might see from some traditional u.s. administrations, in terms of putting pressure on both sides and in particular, trying to find a way forward on the northern ireland. >> of course, as you mention, it the job was
voluntarily done by trump, but when trump was in britain, he the just said borris johnson would make a great prime minister. so he has a habit here. kim -- [laughter] >> [indiscernible] the dustou are one of one of the sort of, great claims about the brexit campaign and the brexiteers was a post brexit united kingdom-u.s. trade deal agreement between the u.s. and the united kingdom. clearly, britain would not be in a position to negotiate this and america would not want to negotiate this until we knew the arrangement, post brexit. when he was in britain, trump said that if britain is in the customs union to factor, in order to keep the irish border open, then it will be very hard to negotiate with britain a separate trade deal.
that was a reasonable point anna: what are the prospects for assuming -- that was a reasonable point, right? what are the prospects therefore, for a great prize, the rise of brexit, namely, a trade deal with america? >> the prime minister and the president have talked about this at each of the last several meetings i attended. most recently in new york, about three or four weeks ago. we are keen on i free trade agreement and the president always says consistently how keen he and his a ministry should are on this and how they would be ready to start negotiating just as soon as we are. we have this implementation period running from march 2019 to december 31, 2020, in which we can negotiate if we can even can do ise only thing
actually implements the agreement, and we cannot implement until we have left everything at the end of december 2020. we set up a trade investment working group which has met four that is the structure in which we will negotiate whether it happens. ready tohing is go and i am confident once we willleft on march 29, we stop the -- start the negotiations quickly. the scope of the negotiations, and just how far we can go in terms of what freedom we have to set our own tariff level, we will have to wait and of our future relationship between the united kingdom and the european union. to be yourse we are regulation, and so on. therehe political will is
. the u.s. takes 20% of british exports, so it is our dealer biggest single bilateral trading partner. there is huge potential for a lot more, including in the services sector, so this will be a top party for the government once we are done. >> douglas, is it fair to say that if we did get to the position where technically, the u.s. and the united kingdom could start a big trade deal, that that would be an ideal trump team position, which is, we are bigger, you are smaller. a would-be britain playing ireland? >> i would have to disagree with kim. the position of the government is of the post-imperial fantasy -- let us be clear. i was trade investment and foreign affairs minister in a previous british government. the idea that. donald trump is willing and waiting to do an altar-generous deal with the united kingdom seems to me to be enough mystic,
to put it most generous. the fact is, trade negotiations are sentimental people. it comes down to arithmetic and psychology. if you look at the arithmetic, if you are sitting with 500 million citizens behind you as we do as part of the european deal you're able to strike us on a mentally different than if you are sitting with 65 or 70 million consumers behind you. fundamentally, we are sitting with a president who got elected on a thomas of putting america first. the idea that he is, for reasons used historic relationship ready to put a deal that protects the united kingdom seems consistent with what has been there on the outset from which is that somehow, by leaving the e.u., britain will stand taller in washington, beijing or moscow, and that will become a buccaneer and north atlantic singapore. there really is literally no
evidence to that effect. even in the so-called implementation period, in reality, it will be period during which a political the commission is translated into a binding agreement. no serious country will engage in a meaningful way in trade negotiations with the united kingdom until the northern character of the uk's relationship in terms of future trade with the european union 27 on our doorstep. so i think the idea of -- or the beginning of april, if we are in the scenario, that the rest of the world will rush to senator demint with britain, i think it is another iteration of the conversation we were hearing from the brexiteers two years ago, that as soon as breads it happens, there will be a gathering of countries to do deals with the united kingdom. i wish that was true, but i see no evidence that it will be true
. >> them a pickup on that fantasy. [laughter] that is a fantasy that one can laugh at because it has no real world applications. the deal could involve all kinds of unpopular things in the united kingdom. >> all you have to say is. >> correlated chicken. -- but him, exactly the fantasy claim is also extended to ireland. you had very senior british conservatives politicians, like jacob smog, boris johnson, /on aboutn a flat bash what ireland could do to accommodate itself to britain's decision. one of them said the other day, we could have people checking who crosses the border, like we had during the troubles. boris johnson has talked of computers solving at all, that
you don't need any checks on the crash, we can actually out of turley, the customs union, and keep that. how is this -- we have had the irexit talk, you can leave the and, of union, too course to our kingdom, which would called the british isles. [laughter] >> which we have seen before. >> you are a much more secure country. nevertheless, to what degree is this bringing up rather bad memories and changing the political plan -- political climate in the republic? >> it is a very big question, and a sense. on the one hand, the relationship has clearly the deterioratedd -- in the last couple of years, since june 2016. we had a high point in bilateral
relations when queen elizabeth visited in 2011 and came to ireland and traveled around the country. there was a really strong collateral relationship and personal relationship as well political ands prime minister. certainly, those relationships have been strained in the last two years. and of course, offense was taken by the remarks from some cabinet lights and from leading within the conservative party. however, i would say, we have gone to the point in ireland where we are desensitized to the nonsense coming from some of those people. fatherris johnson's intervened and said, if irish people want to shoot at each other, that is fine -- i don't think anybody is taken that sort of nonsense seriously. -- borisise, when johnson wasn't not the only want
to talk about the technical solutions to the border question -- that was a very serious line of thought within the conservative party and the government, the maximum facilitation -- so these are quite serious ideas that have been floated, but one by one, they have been battered away. >> i have heard it described as [beep] r griffe >> you are right. ireland as a country is a much more, firstly, economically successful way place than it was when we first joined the community. we have learned to stand in our own two feet. being part of the european union has gives on us -- has given us the confidence that did not andst here to four that is been amplified in the last two years in particular. what ireland currently has the fastest growing economy in the european union.
unfortunately, as they united kingdom economy has slowed down very significantly. so we have a sense of confidence about our economy, about our society, about our politics and nothing, no degree of insult that might be flung at us by certain individuals in irish politics will impact us. if anything, we definitely feel a stronger, more assured member of the european union as well. whoword many in london doused the solidarity between european union members to -- they said, when it comes down to it, paris will choose london over scotland because of the strength and size of the united kingdom. but as we have seen, european solidarity, those countries who wish to remain within the european union, the single market and the customs union will stick together and will defend the values and principles that underpin the union.
ireland has benefited from that and that is why many are surprised to this day, even though we have been having these same conversations for at least 12 months around the border, the peace process and around this issue of a backstop, all of the predictions about fragmentation, about divide and conquer within that european union have been proven wrong and dublin's theretence that will be solidarity has been correct. i have no doubt that will continue. >> lucinda was gracious in dismissing the insults, but one of the most profoundly distressing, depressing aspects of british public debate over the last 18 months has been the extent to which it has revealed very senior british politicians' profound ignorance of relationships with our neighbors in ireland, a lack of affinity
and understanding with the fragility of the peace that was hard-won and secured by politics and can assuredly be undone the politics and when the right steps are taken -- if i am honest, i think it is revealing of the character of the modern conservative party. this used to be the conservative and unionist party. what we are witnessing, i believe, in the united kingdom today, is the rise of english nationalism wrapped in the union jack. and actually, what it is revealing is that many members of the conservative and unionist party, because they still travel under that name, have a disregard for the interests of the integrity of the united minds, ifd in their the cost of a so-called clean and brags that the breakup of the united kingdom, that, to them is a price that they are pay.ng to that is a mainstream opinion now within the conservative party, both in parliament and in membership across the country. >> amanda, you have written a
very good paper to accompany this panel about the constitutional implications within britain. douglas referred to the average reaction on this and spoke about that. included, the referendum of their united ireland and certainly live talk of a scottish or friend him. i have heard in reference to consent about the ugliness in britain, i have heard the acronymic description of what a britain without northern ireland or scotland would be, which is a united kingdom with england and wales, .k.e.w, which is another much of the establishment you're talking about. the scottish are not looking for a referendum right now because it would not win it, right? >> i think there is a referendum affect you give scotland.
think won in 2014 and i we have learned the referendum's do not answer these questions for generations, in fact, they continue to keep these questions allies, so there is fatigue over that. having seen the messiness of messy, it highlights how the scotland united kingdom divorce would be. also the discussion about northern ireland shows about if the uk's out of the customs union and single market and skull and wanted to rejoin that, he would have some sort of witht border scotland and england because of that. the questions have become a lot more complicated in scotland. i think a lot of this will depend on how brexit plays out. people in scotland, i think it was 68%, what it to remained -- >> 62% -- so there was overwhelming support. there has historically been a feeling in scotland that there are being dictated to by a government that they don't necessarily support and share the same views with. what i talk about in my paper that i think is sort of
constitutional but really matters, is a question of where powers from brussels will return when they come back to the united kingdom. this has in fact, become one of the big debates in scotland that would motivate a potential second independence referendum. when the devolved governments were set up in the way the scotland act was written was a number of hours would be reserved to westminster, things like foreign affairs and trade, and everything else would be divulged to scotland. agriculture, fisheries, many in scotland, particularly the scottish national party, but others, see that these powers should be coming back to us. kingdom is continuing to play it as a live issue as to who actually controls these powers. if they are controlled by london, for the sake of having
things like agriculture and fisheries, you will have have dy are involved in these things in london. >> if you have a referendum in the u.k. and excalibur to become constant -- indiana by constitutional means, i think brexit would be the u.k. leaving the eu and skull and to remain, so that's a different question from scotland seeking to be independent from the u.k. and trying to get a backdoor into the eu.
reapply would have to for e.u. membership but given that they currently implement all of the legislation, i think that would be a fairly easy case for them to make and i think opinion seems to be evolving somewhat in the european commission. >> do you want to? >> i genuine believe that as of today, the integrity -- the greatest threat to the integrity of united kingdom is not scottish nationalism or british nationalism. we made our choice. stay.oice was to scotland didhere vote to remain part of the referendum in 2016 would be the spark, the provocation which would spike support for independence of above 50%. in fact, to change my metaphors, that was the dog but never bark. we have not seen any significant
change in the opinion polls. in that sense, i think there has been what bill clinton used to be -- used to call a teachable moment as we witness the attempts to try to come to terms with the breakup of a 14 year then when contemplating possibility of breaking up a 100 year union between scotland and england. the look opinion at the moment remains opposed to independence. you look objectively, the reasons why we as scots made that choice, one of the reasons was economic. nationalists were unable to make the case but they were credible answers on the currency, and also on the fiscal position given the volatility. has one of those issues become more difficult, not more straightforward. in that sense, these
difficulties and they said they would's start a second recommend and lost 21 seats in the general election of 2016. i don't want to leave you in the impression -- with the impression that scotland is champing at the bit for another referendum on independence. my senses, if the nationalists are able to persuade people that there should be another referendum, perhaps we'd fight the next referendum not on economics but on emotion. the impossibility of being part of a great britain led by boris johnson and in that sense i do think there are real straits to the integrity of united kingdom. i think scots at the moment have a view that says, let's not cut up our leg. to stick with referendum for radicals, onethe
of which was his hard new deal brexit. a lot of peaches -- a lot of people have mentioned the degree of eu unity has been perhaps underestimated. theirhink quite clear interest with the member states here. scenario where we might be heading toward a no deal brexit which would damage ireland and europe, do you think rigidf the strong, fairly negotiations by europe, you have to have all four, goods, it a who blinks first situation?
would there be more flexibility -- inope russian mark europe? >> before i answer that, we are on the other side from the irish government on the border between the republic and northern ireland but we are both committed to know hard border. will try to do his work together to find a politically acceptable solution and the easy one is there would be a free trade deal. two, the planese b and the backstop, are outstanding. question, i am personally not surprised at the way the negotiations have unfolded.
deal brexit,o a no we will survive but there will be damage to both sides. the europeans, and to us. much better therefore if we can find a way through. i am hopeful that we can. the other task we have to do, a political statement on the future which needs to be substantiated -- substantiated and detailed enough to provide a meaningful focal point but it's going to be a political declaration, not a full legal agreement. it's difficult to -- difficult for me to see why it should be possible to reach that political outcome either at a special
hopeful council so i'm and optimistic. we will see what happens next. >> you've got an admirable assumption that other people share your rationality. are notactors necessarily weighing up things in a judicious manner. my question is whether that also applies to the europeans. you've got rich experience in europe. the assumption by the british are many people in britain has --n merkel is more super's sympathetic to a pragmatic deal. macron is a lot more theological. you have rules of the club and we are not going to bend. change in extreme
games of chicken circumstances? think merkel is a great friend of the u.k. and going of slow-motiont car crash as i see it which led to the referendum in the u.k., period wherehat david cameron was trying to negotiate a deal to work for the u.k. and allow him to go back and have this referendum but convince voters to stay in, merkel joined cabinet meetings with the british government, it was huge intensity in that relationship. consider there is nobody around the table as sorry as she is to see what has unfolded. willingness that as
to compromise on the fundamental pillars of the european union, the four freedoms, i think is to grossly misunderstand her. she is totally wedded to the free movement of people. she is totally committed to maintaining the integrity of the single market and the customs union. that is not just a fringe position, it is fundamentally a german position. i've listened for the last two years to people in london saying, the german car manufacturers will lead -- lean on the german government and there will be compromises. i think that's completely wrong. frankly, merkel has faced some doubt at every stage and has made it clear, she's communicated to german industry to say, the single market is
nonnegotiable and it is a fundamental principle. sees itself as a custodian of those ideas. if anything, the risk of fragmentation makes it even stronger from a german point of view. so no, i don't see any wavering on that and i don't see pressure coming up as anticipated. pressure coming from germany and perilous -- and paris on dublin to watch her down the language watertch her down -- down the language. really people misunderstanding with the european project means to france and germany if they think that's going to happen. >> there is guarantee show even be in the government in march 2019. >> there's no question about
that. macron in a sense is in bolded -- emboldened but is really struggling in opinion polls and there's this test case in terms of what they will do for european elections in this liberal alliance that he is pulling together. there are a lot of variables but the one thing that is certain is 27 includingting countries that have had pretty hungaryrsial disputes, and poland and such, they have all been pretty fundamentally unified around the four freedoms. i think that will continue. merkel is a pragmatist and wants to deal with the u.k. but it will be a deal on the terms of the basic fundamental principles of the european union. let's get to the other extreme scenario.
the march last saturday, the largest march in recent history, although it's worth pointing out that the last largest march was against the iraq war and that didn't work. nevertheless, 700,000 people. to that scenario you areond referendum, going to need one of the leaders of the two main parties to support it. you are going to need jeremy corbyn to have a road to damascus moment or in some scenario be ousted and replaced by someone else which i think is even less likely at this point than having a second referendum. what are the chances in your view that pro-europeans in the , people like yourself still in politics, ken points to corbyn and say three
out of four people want britain to remain in europe. these are your people. to put it crudely, there are 1.6 million more young voters in the british electorate than there were two years ago and the young tend to be more pro-europe. crudely, 750,000 fewer old voters because of mortality. opinion polls show it would probably win. opinion polls can't be trusted but there's a strong apartment you can make to corbyn that you have got to get with the tide here. what chance does that argument have to make headway in the coming weeks? i don't think it would come as news to jeremy corbyn. the position that was carefully negotiated the labour party conference was that the option
of a second vote was kept on the table but only in circumstances where first there had been deadlocked in parliament and then the option of a general election had been rejected. those 750,000 people on the streets of london, that actually is the only credible root by which the aspiration would be fulfilled which would be that we do see all the possible alternatives, even the deal negotiated, voted down in the house of commons and the labour party, the party of opposition at that point, calls for a general election. unsuccessful in starting a general election. i find it personally very hard to believe that conservatives would argue with theresa may over the deal she comes back if the result is
to put them in front of the british people anytime soon. they are deeply fearful of losing a general election to jeremy corbyn and this parliament will probably last a bit longer than the heated commentary suggests. the question is as much for theresa may as jeremy corbyn. if her proposals have been rejected and parliament is start aed, she won't general election. are there circumstances which you would say she had their -- tried her best and said she would have to take it back to the people? that would require the support of the eu 27 in terms of an unanimous commitment to extend the timetable which i think would be forthcoming in those circumstances but that's a huge if. ,n a parliamentary democracy you need the principal opposition or the principal party of government to move to
create circumstances in which a second referendum could take place and right now neither the leader of the labour party or the conservative party is particularly minded to go down that route. >> the other question is what the referendum is. is it a take or leave the negotiated deal or whether you want to go forward on brexit? >> i presume an evil remainder, a machiavellian remainder, ramona as they're called, with sort of arranged circumstances where parliament does this. the prime minister can't have a general election. ok, we will put it back to the people. in which case -- what with the question be? >> the only circumstance when you get to that question is a profound constitutional crisis. you can imagine where the prime
minister says let's give my deal to the people with the alternative being no deal. i would be surprised if the european council at that point was prepared to extend the article 50 process if it was only to ratify the deal that has been done rather than remain. that may be a scenario. there would be a lot of voices agitating within the labour party to avoid that choice. labour party will have already rejected theresa may's deal and does not want to see no deal. given leave the labour party in a dilemma if that referendum came to pass. you can see the circumstances as a choice between hard deal in no -- and no deal, and a labour party politician leading the opposition arguing for remain versus the prime minister's deal. >> in the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world it would be difficult for the prime
minister to take a deal that has been rejected and to put it to the people. it would be a bizarre scenario. much more likely -- if this plays out and the deal is rejected in parliament, there would be a vote of no confidence in theresa may. that is my prediction. >> in which case i will predict there will be 1.4 million people on the left march, not 750,000 -- 750,000. >> i think there is every possibility theresa may will not be the prime minister in the next few weeks and months, but i don't think that means there will be a change of government and the general election. there is a critical scenario where we see a change of prime minister, but both the upn the conservative party are resisting the option of going to the country at that point. >> the up has expressed the opinion and preference for the next leader of the conservative party. >> this gets deeper into the
populist pro -- problem. deeply boris johnson-type government. they are not socially progressive to put it mildly. it has been described as the political arm of the 17th century. it's positions on various issues are not in tune with the larger public. that kind of scenario is also a constitutional breakdown scenario, isn't it? isn't that in support -- >> i think it's an overstatement to say we are in uncharted waters. we will be in even more uncharted waters and -- in circumstances where parliament rejects all of the options. every one of the scenarios we are describing, one is left slightly scratching one's head thinking educated people cannot get to that place, but we could be exactly at that place. theresa may's
ultimate trump card with the brexiteers, -- the we could have a general election and it could be corbyn who is the next prime minister. that is a more persuasive dep -- du pn the short-lived coalition. the threat of the false one, -- >> they will be able to vote down the deal and not vote for a parliament act to be revoked. that is certainly a threat made by the whips, but they will call their bluff at that point. it's important to recognize, this is a psychodrama and a civil war in the conservative party. rationality only has a small part to play in the drama unfolding within the conservative party right now. >> is important to understand the fear of the hardline brexiteers. their greatest fear is theresa may's concession or proposal at the european council to extend
the transition period. that is the absolute disaster scenario for them. they don't particularly want the deal and are happy to end up with no deal because it is better than the alternative which could be a prolonged transition that ultimately might lead to a soft brexit, staying in the single customs union, and that to them is not brexit. they are totally ideologically opposed to that. i think it is fairly predictable they would rather a no deal scenario than a scenario that allows for potentially an election in a couple of years that would lead to another referendum or soft brexit. >> there was a survey they came out saying 87% of the people of northern ireland who supported remain said the peace process was a price to pay to make sure brexit happened. >> a cheerful thought.
i want to get to questions, but very quickly a couple of questions. one for you, ken. you do a wonderful job putting the best face on what britain is up to. would it be fair to say it is more difficult now than it did earlier in your career? two ways do you have managed the cottage of dissonance of the demands on your role? >> do i look like an aging -- like i am aging faster? [laughter] >> you are doing well. >> thank you. this is a privilege to be the british ambassador to the united states. i think it is the best job in our system. i am delighted to be here. a fascinating time to be in america. the story back in the u.k. has added an extra layer of complexity to the job, but thank you for your concern but i'm fine. [laughter]
>> good answer. let's go to questions. i have a couple more of mine and then we will open it up to the audience. no speeches or life histories. gentleman two thirds of the way back there. just a straight question. >> i grew up in austria and i know intimately. i know what people across europe know of it. the assassin or will know that there was never stability in northern ireland until the irish agreement came. britain itself is no stability during your youthful career because it impinges constantly on london in britain. as the prime minister and foreign minister of austria told theresa may, they know there is no stability in modern europe without stability on the
periphery. so, i want to ask the question which i asked nine months ago to the irish finance minister in a similar session on brexit. where and how are the views and preferences and needs of the people of northern ireland who voted in the majority despite amanda's dire statistic, which i question, for the majority of people in northern ireland and the vast majority on the island of ireland see their economic and political stability in future in the context of a modern europe? the one thing that appalls me is i have not heard almost nothing apart a little from lucinda as to the reality on the ground on the border counties that can sustain stability and whatever arrangement comes out. can you, ambassador, please inform us as to what deliberations have taken place
to consult and bring on board the needs and views of the people of northern ireland in whatever political arrangements you are moving towards? >> first thing to say the good , friday agreement was one of the highlights and the great pieces of statesmanship of recent years. this government is determined to maintain the peace process that resulted from that and what -- and that has brought such stability and peace to northern ireland. through the first half of my career, i lived through the troubles and had the task of explaining what was going on in northern ireland and all mainland britain when i was posted overseas. personally, it is just a huge transformation.
now to be talking about the difficult politics from the position where the troubles have ceased. prime minister's in the whole of the civil service are really committed to preserving this agreement. the prime of visitors taking big political risks and going to the wall over the issue of maintaining an open border between northern ireland and the republic of ireland. she has taken a lot of criticism from the backbench colleagues, and she has remained committed to it. the reason we are in these difficult negotiations is because she is so committed to this objective, trying to find a way to honor it. in terms of what we are doing to keep the people of northern ireland -- there are endless debates in the house of commons where mp's from northern ireland are participating.
there is a process under which the government is consulting the administrations, and they have next a double-figure number of times and in those meetings a couple of ministers explained where we have got those negotiations and who they are talking to. that's a formal process that goes on in parliament. beyond that there is a lively media and public debate about the whole process. i think the prime minister has demonstrated publicly how committed she is to preserving life in northern ireland on the open border as clearly as possible and that is where we are going to deliver. >> everybody actually wants to answer the question area of -- question. >> thank you. i think maybe because i'm so immersed in this debate at home in ireland the views of people
from northern ireland from both sides of the divide and particularly the border counties are absolutely alive and part of the consciousness in political debate. one thing i would say is the people of northern ireland are without the school representation. executive ine an northern ireland and i think it is shameful, frankly. 500 days with no representation and at the same time one of the main parties is refusing to take their seats in westminster and represent the views of the people of northern ireland. there is a huge vacuum in terms of representation in belfast and london on behalf of the people of northern ireland, which is an absolute disgrace. in terms of how the represented -- they are being represented at
every step and taken into deep consideration by political representatives in dublin, i genuinely believe they absolutely are being represented and that the nuance and sensitivity of the position across the divide is very much understood and appreciated and a -- and of huge concern in dublin. and i have to say in brussels. that is why everywhere i go in other eu member states and capitals across the european union, the first question they ask when they hear i am irish is what about the peace process? what about the good friday agreement? what about the border? there is a huge consciousness of the impact and potential catastrophe that brexit may bring to bear on northern ireland.
>> i was last week at a meeting with northern irish, chamber of commerce manufacturing northern ireland and other organizations. the real concern i would say is fear in northern ireland, what lies ahead is a genuine sense of foreboding. while i concur absolutely with what can said about the commitment of the british government to the peace process and absence of a hard border, it is an inescapable truth that brexit reintroduced the border question in a way that it was otherwise absent. let's not forget what are the architects of the good friday agreement talked about europe changing the geometry of the conversation in northern ireland. it created the space in which people itself identify as irish, self identify as british, and find common ground after years of sectarian conflict. and in that sense, i am deeply troubled to the effect that brexit is going to have on the goodwill and seriousness with which both governments want to find a way forward, but the reality is there are difficult days ahead.
>> the statistic was from the british social latitude survey. 87% of the 45% devoted to -- who voted to remain, a small percentage of that. i appreciate your comments. i lived in northern ireland for three years. i moved there a week before 9/11 so i feel emotionally attached to everything happening there. when i was back in may i was struck as to what they were talking about, by how destabilizing every thing has become. when i there there's three years -- when i moved there, it was three years after the good friday agreement. i lived with a woman who just joined the police service who had to move out of our that because they were close to an ira stronghold. it had been encouraging to see how far everything had come in the subsequent 20 years. i was struck when i was there by how destabilizing things were. douglas made reference to the question of the border. it has raised questions of
identity,. of the constitution the northern ireland assembly collapsed in january of 2017 over a domestic political dispute. it is very unlikely it will be reconstituted until brexit. is resolved the westminster parliament is looking at legislation to give civil servants more authorities to be able to make decisions in the absence of this. in addition to the identity and constitution questions raised, there is practically no governance on the ground in northern ireland. the dup does not control any constituencies. a lot of the instability is being questioned by people. that paper i have written outlined a lot of the practical questions that brings it is raising, both in terms of agriculture, business and the increase in all island services that developed since the good friday agreement. one in particular is health services.
there was a decision the dup supported to close the one children's cancer hospital in belfast. and centralize all children's cardiology in dublin. there is now a question if you have a hard brexit estimate the access of medical services for people will be to people in the republic. this has a huge raft of consequences on all areas of people's daily lives in northern ireland. >> thank you. the gentleman at the back and then you, within the lady in -- and then the lady in front of you sitting there. >> very brief. david charles from the london times. a countryman of sir kim. you are very confidently stating the free trade agreement will solve the border issue. i did not hear any dissent from
the panel. i wonder if you agree with that. i would like to expand on how that works. you may say it requires very close regulatory alignment, but surely, the greater the regulation, the deeper the alignment, the less opportunity or possibility for britain to strike its own free-trade agreements. they simply would not be able to vary that deal today international trade agreements, would they? >> very briefly i think you are right. the reports in today's paper is another version of a customs arrangement which is purportedly now in draft text for the exit agreement. i think potentially placing huge restrictions and potentially makes the striking of bilateral free trade agreements to the
u.k. and other countries is pretty much impossible. from an actual technical and practical point of view it is not clear how this will actually work in practice. the points which douglas may -- made quite eloquently earlier around the desire of other countries to strike free-trade agreements with the u.k., particularly the u.s. which is the one held up as the obvious example, it is hard to see how either a customs or free trade arrangement, which keeps the u.k. in very close alignment if not full alignment from a regulatory point of view with the rest of the eu, how that will work with president trump's desire for much greater regulatory divergence from the eu.
and ultimately his america first policy. >> how do you stop that foreign aid chicken going from belfast to dublin. >> i think it was a danish commentator who observed britain seems to be going from a country that was in the once opt out that is a country that is out there wants to opt in. your basic premise of the question is right. the greater the degree of regulatory alignment, the easier the frictionless character of the trade. one of the difficulties is knowing what brexiteer ministers want. do they want all the divergence they have making speeches about for years or free trade? we want a super canada plus deal. let's take a second on the canada deal. stretches the 1600 pages. it took seven years to negotiate. it excludes services that
constitute 79% of the present british economy. the idea that it alone resolves the economic challenges of brexit are misplaced and it doesn't resolve this pacific issue of the irish border we spent quite a lot of time discussing today. >> thank you. firstly, what do you think will happen if parliament does not vote for this deal? the u.k. parliament? all the 27 member countries, their parliaments also have to vote for this. >> on the second, it is just the european parliament that needs to ratify. >> and the council. what happens of parliament does not vote? with anybody like to add about what they said earlier? we have been painting the
halloween scenarios for a while. no? gentleman in the front row, and then you. >> you mentioned various scenarios with scotland and that kind of hypothetical case. is there some sort of scenario in which northern ireland has a referendum on reuniting with the republic of ireland as a way to stay in the eu? is that completely outside of possibility? thank you. >> that's a good question. the first question about paying attention to the situation on the ground in northern ireland. this province which voted quite strongly to remain gets more and
more remain, and more and more protestants begin to realize the benefit is changed. you can get a united ireland referendum in the next five to 10 years. is that realistic? >> me? certainly not in the next five to 10 years in my opinion. there has been a lot of -- the first thing that happened in my consciousness after the u.k. voted in favor of leaving the european union was sinn fein demanded a border. that was predictable the following day. i think it is really unhelpful having this conversation right now. it alienates the unionist population. we tend to think about the dup exclusively in the context of this discussion. there is a tendency to dismiss the dup. they are a relic and hardliners -- you know what i mean.
it is propagated in the media and discourse in the south of ireland. it completely ignores the fact there is a unionist population who do not vote for the dup and don't support the dup necessarily, that are unionists and believe in the union and i really threatened by this talk of the border poll, united ireland and increasingly believe that the position of the european union or in dublin is somehow designed to propel that and accelerate that process. we really need to be mindful of the views and sensitive acid of -- and sensitive to the views in northern ireland, and we need to understand the good friday agreement, the peace process and everything that underpins that process is based on consent.
consent of both communities. there is a real risk we lose sight of that. i can quote the deputy prime minister who says he expects that there is a prospect of united ireland in his lifetime, and that may be the case, he's a few years older than me, battle -- but i think it's helpful to be talking about that at this point in time. it is way too politically sensitive. we have to deal with this really difficult hand we haven't dealt and respect both communities. it may very well be -- is probably the case that if you read the paper about the constitutional implications and devolution applications of -- implications of brexit the u.k. as a whole, you probably have to conclude it has accelerated this discussion. my view is the responsible thing to do the moment is to
de-dramatized the discussion and focus on the challenge at hand and keep all communities, north and south of the border, catholics, protestants, comfortable with this process to achieve the best outcome for everybody. >> i agree with that. i don't think it is likely in the near term but it is a possibility. i also agree that the fact we are even having a discussion is so destabilizing in northern ireland. that beauty of the good friday agreement was that it largely took the constitutional question of the table for the near term. you have the u.k. and irish government in the eu, and admit this was almost a nonissue. the unionists could stay. they could feel unionist. nationalists were able to operate without borders, without restrictions. the damaging effects of brexit on the psyche in northern ireland is the fact this is becoming a live question again.
opinion polls are showing there is a desire to remain due to the contested nature of these conversations. the demographics don't necessarily support that and you don't have all nationalists, aside from sinn fein falling for it, supporting moving in that direction. >> we have three or four minutes left. time for a couple of a fishing questions. the woman in the middle on the -- time for a couple of efficient questions. the woman in the middle on the right. >> hi. given what you talked about with the u.s. and u.k. one and a free-trade deal being one of the key priorities of both countries and especially brexiteers, and given right after brexit they will be that two-your custom -- two-year custom union, what would they be able to -- not be able to implement? what would they be able to negotiate given the u.k. will not be deciding how closely it
will be aligned with the eu? what are the areas where they could be negotiating? >> it depends on how long it takes to negotiate the legal texts that will turn into a proper treaty. the political deal we expect to do as part of the overall package about future relationships between the eu and the u.k. if there is a good deal of detail and the political tax, -- political text, they need to be some detail to have a meaningful vote in the house of commons which has been promised. then you should have a reasonable idea of the direction of travel for the u.k.-eu agreement as we kick off the negotiations with the u.s. on free trade deals. this is all highly speculative. we will see how it unfolds.
you can imagine for a while the negotiations were running in parallel. we do the deal with the eu are quickly than we can finish the negotiations with the u.s. that will make the u.s. deal much easier to complete. it is speculative. we have actually already used the working group. we established who will negotiate this free trade deal that will strengthen cooperation between the communities and to look at issues around financial services, regulation where there may be quick wins and low hanging fruit. it is consistent with eu continuing their participation in the customs union. the stuff we can do from the outset and as the british and eu become clear in its detail, that will help us conclude the eu --
the u.k.-u.s. element. been up a longs time. the gentleman in the middle. >> the elephant in the room seems to be the european union. what should the eu do to keep the u.k. in and really wants the u.k. to reconsider the referendum? what should the eu do now if the papers are correct and the customs union is in the deal and they find whatever solution to the back stuff, doesn't get to a soft brexit? may, gete eu sabotage a deal in parliament? does that trigger a no-confidence vote?
>> there were a lot of questions. we need really efficient answers from volunteers. kim? >> i think the eu should give us what we're asking for. [laughter] >> that has been the british negotiating position. [laughter] >> that is why were having this conversation. i would make a couple of points. one of the tragedies of brexit is that i think in the next 10 years we will see eu-wide reform of free movement of labor. the only issue that is big enough that could have caused the british people to rethink the vote they made would have been a significant eu offer on the free movement of labor. that moment has passed. given president macron's in reimagining europe as a series of concentric circles, there is no reason why in the future
britain could not see itself in at least one of the circles. i fear the urgent and important task of resolving the difficulties we have been discussing today will crowd out all the longer-term conversations in the next few weeks. >> i don't think we have fulfilled the goal of de-dramatizing this, but we have detoxified it. thank you very much to the panel. [applause]