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Brexit Deal Dead; U.S., Longest Government Shutdown in History; Prime Minister Theresa May Faces a No Confidence Vote. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 16, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here`s what`s coming up.
Chaos begets chaos. The British government faces a no confidence vote after the most crushing defeat ever dealt as sitting prime minister. Her
Brexit deal is dead. Will she survive and what of the future of the 66 million Brits? We count down to the vote which takes from Westminster to
Welcome to the program, everyone. I`m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Government dysfunction is reaching new heights on both sides of the Atlantic at this hour, paralysis centered around a wall in the United
States and around a watery war over here, the English Channel that separates the U.K. from the E.U.
In the United States, the White House has been forced to admit that the longest government shutdown in history is having a real and serious impact
on the economy. And here in the U.K., Prime Minister Theresa May faces a no confidence vote over her handling of Brexit and the border with the
European Union. We expect the results from that vote in less than an hour.
And while in the U.S., the shutdown will inevitably end and politicians are term limited, Brexit is a decision that will determine the future of this
country for generations to come.
The prime minister negotiated an exit agreement with the E.U. but last night, she suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat in modern times, 432
to 202. Hardline Brexiters said, it keeps too many E.U. ties. Remainers would prefer to call the whole thing off and stay in Europe.
Here`s what May the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had to say about the no confidence motion table by the Labour leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Mr. Speaker, this government cannot govern and cannot command the support of Parliament on the most
important issue facing our country. Every single previous prime minister in this situation would have resigned and called an election.
It is the duty of this House to show the lead where this government has failed and pass the motion of no confidence so that the people of this
country can decide who their MPs are on who their government is and who will deal with the crucial issues facing the people of this country. I
commend my motion to the House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is, this House has no confidence in her majesty`s government, the prime minister.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, Last night, the House rejected the deal the government has negotiated with the European Union.
Today, it is asked a simpler question, should the next step be a general election? I believe that is the worst thing we could do. It would deepen
division when we meet unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty and it would bring delay when we meet to move forward. So, I believe this
House should reject this motion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Whether here over Brexit or in the United States over that wall and the government shutdown, both sides, in each of these political
quarrels, are playing a game of political chicken, hoping the other surrenders. And there`s precious little evidence yet of any willingness to
Amid these games of political chicken, security crisis, real life ones are happening overseas. Two major terrorist attacks in the last 24 hours. In
Northern Syria, ISIS has claimed responsibility for a major suicide attack, killing several American service members and others. While in Kenya, at
least 14 are dead after suspected Islamic extremist attacked an upmarket cluster of shops and a hotel.
Tobias Ellwood is a Conservative MP and a Minister of Defence in Prime Minister May`s government. He voted to support her deal last night but
fundamentally believes the U.K. should remain in the European Union. He is also a reserve colonel. He served in Kenya and he`s had major brushes with
Tobias Ellwood, on this really monumental day in Parliament behind you, just let`s talk a little bit about the other real issues that are
happening, issues that affect our citizens all over, this suicide attack by ISIS in Syria, several American service people have been killed. What do
you make of that?
TOBIAS ELLWOOD, BRITISH DEFENCE MINISTER: Well, we`re responding to a democratic process in the referendum that took place a couple of years ago.
But you rightly point out, the world is changing, it`s getting more dangerous, terrorist attacks continue. And whilst we are focused on
Brexit, United States is focused on the shutdown, France has got their Gilet jaune issues as well, the West needs to recognize that the world is
We have reserves and nations pushing the -- checking the boundaries of the World Order that we`ve assumed after the Second World War, migration issues
as well. It`s so important that we recognize that we must wake up to our global responsibilities. And that means ensuring that we move forward with
Brexit as quickly as possible because we have a job to do.
AMANPOUR: You know, you are very well-known for your military experience, for your own brushes with terrorism, your own brother was killed by, then,
al-Qaeda offshoot in the Bali bombings in the early 2000. And you yourself raised famously to try to survive and revive a policeman who had been
eventually fatally stabbed when ISIS motivated terrorists drove over the sidewalk, and we`re looking at the picture now, right outside Parliament
where you are now. This is something, you know, very, very much about.
So, when President Trump said that ISIS had been defeated and that`s why they were pulling out of Syria and of course, you know, the Brits have
their own issues, I wonder what you make of that. I`m going to play President Trump`s soundbite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We have one against ISIS. We have beaten them and we`ve beaten them badly. We have taken back the land. And now,
it`s time for our troops to come back home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Tobias Ellwood, I mean, did he speak too soon?
ELLWOOD: Well, I`m pleased to say that since he`s made those comments, John Bolton has visited the area. We have continued our underlined -- our
commitment. You can`t simply walk away because you think you`ve defeated the enemy. I think General Petraeus famously said, "It`s no longer enough
to do that, you must enable the local. You must stay there for the cause and make sure that you`re able to rebuild and work with the new
communities," and that`s exactly what Britain is doing. And I hope America will stay the course as well.
We blinked back in August 2013 when we actually gave up and handed responsibility of the future of this area to Russia. We must make sure
that we stay the course and defeat terrorism. It doesn`t just mean those who actually brandishing the weapons, but those who might be enticed, might
be indoctrinated to believe that they`re going to get a fast track to paradise if they turn themselves into a terrorist, and that takes time.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, I mentioned, you know, the story overnight was that, you know, at least 14 or so people had been killed in Kenya by al-
Qaeda related al-Shabaab terrorists. But I`m very interested thing you pick up on this issue, "We blinked when we handed the territory in Syria
and the battle in Syria to Russia in 2013."
So, I want to ask you, do you believe that Russia is one of the big benefiters, the big winners in this political chaos that we see here in the
U.K. right now, that we see certainly in the United States? We know that Russia interfered in the Brexit vote just as it did in the 2016 U.S.
ELLWOOD: Well, you raise a number of very interesting aspects that -- how our world is changing fast. We`ve not dealt with the growth of extremism,
it remains that. In fact, you could argue, it`s even increasing further.
We`re not at war but we`re certainly not at peace. The art of conflict has changed. And the interference that we`re seeing through cyber
technologist, parliament building itself, our national health service has been interfered with through cyber capabilities.
There are no Geneva Conventions to prohibit any country, state or non-state actors from doing that. There is work to be done on upgrading the rules-
based order that we`ve actually has kept the relative peace over the last few decades, but we`re distracted, the western nations are distracted. We
need to get back to the table and recognize how quickly our world is changing.
AMANPOUR: So, I know that you are very in tune and attuned to what the world thinks of Britain. I mean, Britain is often and for its long history
punched above its weight. Do you think to follow on to what you`re saying that this sort of political dysfunction is emboldening those who would do
this nation harm?
ELLWOOD: I can`t agree more with that. Today has been a massive distraction. This wasn`t a debate about confidence in the prime minister,
this was a debate about whether you wanted Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn. I`ll say that again, Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn.
This is somebody that would take us out of NATO, he would get rid of our nuclear deterrent, he would actually nationalize our industries and he
would also make friends with some dictators in Latin America and he has no position on Brexit. So, we`ll get today out the way and then we`ll get
back to Brexit.
And it`s important the prime minister does reach across the House now, Parliament is now in charge of this, to see whether there is consensus.
Because we were defeated yesterday not because there`s one idea but because a series of ideas couldn`t rationalize, they joined together as a coalition
of convenience to defeat the prime minister.
So, she has to reach out. Everybody has to take step forward and see if there`s some common ground there or compromise. That is the duty of every
single member of Parliament.
AMANPOUR: So, I`m interested when you say Parliament in charge now. What you mean exactly and how will that change what has being a deadlock
situation where there is no majority anywhere for any solution except, it seems, Parliament not to fall off a cliff edge, in other words, not to exit
the E.U. without a deal?
ELLWOOD: This has been the toughest challenge for any prime minister in a minority government. We have to be in a coalition with the very party that
represents a corner of Britain that has a land border with the E.U. But now, we have the speaker of the House of Commons changing the goalposts,
altering the rules a little bit as we saw last week.
And that means that, yes, power has been given to Parliament itself in the sense that government wasn`t able to get this across the line but is there
a consensus with other groups in Parliament for this to be discussed, and that`s exactly what the prime minister intends to do over the next few
days, begin those discussions to see if there is a consensus.
If there isn`t, we run out of time. And we either spiral into no deal, which I would not support, that would be damaging for Britain`s reputation
or you end up having to extend Article 50 beyond March the 29th.
AMANPOUR: Do you think, given all the, you know, indications to the contrary over the last two years since the -- two-and-a-half years since
the Brexit vote, there has been none of this kind of consensus and compromise and sort of talking that you were describing should happen now,
the last, last furlong. If that doesn`t happen, is there any bandwidth, is there any preparations for a second vote, no matter what you call it and
what questions you put there?
ELLWOOD: I think that is something that is gaining great attraction certainly. But the first port of call is to see whether that consensus is.
Let`s go back to the original question, what does leave mean? Even today in my district in Bournemouth, I get advice telling me to support no deal,
to support a Norway option, to support a second referendum. There isn`t an answer to what leave actually means because there was no manifesto to say
that what it means.
The prime minister had to pick up the pieces and say -- and recognize that this probably was calling for greater control over our borders, greater
control over our money and greater control over our laws.
Ironically, the deal that she proposed provided that. But the ultra Brexiteers who wanted this project in the first place have kicked that out.
So, wherever you go, we can end up with a softer Brexit than where we are at the moment.
And as you imply, it`s very unclear where this goes. It goes beyond March the 29th. And yes, you`re right, that is one possibility.
AMANPOUR: So, I`m really, again, fascinated to hear you say a softer Brexit because, of course, much of the oxygen is taken out by the
hardliners, John Redwood, for instance. Who famously supports a group, belongs to a group that not so long ago issued its own into a party vote of
no confidence against the prime minister and they lost, she won that into a party vote. And yet, they`re behaving as if they won. They tell us and
anybody who will listen, "Actually, we need to drop out of the E.U. without a deal." And the prime minister doesn`t seem to be taking them on. Does
her style need to change? She won for heaven`s sake.
ELLWOOD: Well, taking them on, this is where Parliament now plays a greater role. You are right to say that this group, with ultra Brexiteers,
played a role in the defeat. But they want us -- as I say to, take us towards no deal.
This would be huge and irresponsible, it would be an act of self-harm to Britain of us reneging on a close allies, on a working relationship with
Europe, one that we`ve developed over many, many decades itself and then going away from honoring the 39 billion pound bill. Who would want to work
with Britain in a situation like that?
We`re supposed to be involved, as I mentioned earlier, of playing a role on the international stages, a force for good. Our reputation would suffer if
we just ran away and our W. Chair rules. And nobody during the referendum, the cell spoke about that.
So, what the prime minister now needs to do is say, you`ve got these people, if they`re going to fix their views there, then what she needs to
do is throw the net wider across Parliament to those people along willing to provide a compromise, who are willing to look at a different kind of
Brexit and that`s the discussions that will unfold now.
AMANPOUR: All right. And the countdown is on. I mean, I said just around 72 days.
Tobias Ellwood, thank you so much for joining us and I know that you`ve soon going to go when that bell rings to make your vote.
So, as members of Parliament bicker over the path forward, a common theme is setting in among the British public, just figure it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s all a bit of a waste of time. I don`t understand the point of this vote in the first place because as a country,
we haven`t got what we voted for. We voted it out and it`s not going to happen. So, what was the point in voting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, yes, a second referendum, definitely. I think that`s the way to do it. And people should decide. In 2016, we didn`t
know about all those problems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All fed up because everyone`s in it for themselves. They`re not worried about the working classman like me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the fear for my children, if you`re (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Acting like children or not, they are the ones who have to sort all of this out. That is the clear message from the European Union today.
Frans Timmermans is First Vice President of the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the European Union which has led talks with
Britain. He tells me that after a year-and-a-half of negotiations, the E.U. has done its part. And now, it`s Britain`s turn to figure out just
what it wants to do.
Frans Timmermans, welcome to the program.
FRANS TIMMERMANS, FIRST VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Thank you very much for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, can I just ask you first for your human and political reaction to a defeat that was even bigger than predicted? What do you make
of it as E.U. negotiators?
TIMMERMANS: Well, I think what we did, honestly, is negotiate a withdrawal agreement that we thought would be very good because it would limit the
damage both to the United Kingdom and the E.U. because there`s going to be damage by -- as a consequence of Brexit.
So, to see it defeated in Parliament was not really a surprise because we - - you know, the indications were already clear. But still a disappointment because we had hoped that this agreement would help us bring about Brexit
without too much damage.
AMANPOUR: I guess what everybody in Britain seems to think, and it seems to be the sort of conventional wisdom here, even in Downing Street, even
after this crashing defeat last night, is that -- and let me just quote what`s going around, you know, the gist of what Theresa May`s government
now wants is the E.U. to "start getting serious," start understanding that it needs to give something more in exchange for an orderly separation.
How does that sit with you?
TIMMERMANS: Well, frankly, we`ve been negotiating for a year-and-a-half in a very serious way. Taking into account the red lines defined by Prime
Minister May but also taking into account the interests of the 27 who will remain in the European Union. And I don`t think there`s anybody who wasn`t
serious about this, nobody at least on the E.U. side.
And I think when we came to a conclusion with the British government, we put on the table a withdrawal agreement that would serve the interests of
both E.U. and Britain. Well, now, it`s been voted down in the House of Commons. The onus is not on the E.U., the onus is on Britain and the
British government to tell us what they want.
AMANPOUR: They seem to be banking on the fact that this is going to hurt the E.U. as much or at least enough for the E.U. to now give more
concessions. Is that even a possibility?
TIMMERMANS: I don`t think that`s the way this is viewed by the governments in the member states. I think we have to be very clear that there`s no
willingness in any of the capitals to sort of throw Ireland under the bus. It is very clear that the backstop is a necessary element of the withdrawal
agreement. It`s very clear that to safeguard the importance of the Good Friday Agreement, we need to avoid at all costs a hard border in the Island
of Ireland. It is also very clear that you can`t pick and choose if you talk about the four freedoms of the European Union.
So, there are a number of things that apparently the British government or some British politicians want to talk about. But I think it is important
that at the E.U. side, we are very clear about what the limits are of our possibilities.
Of course, we will have a discussion. Of course, there is a strong willingness to reach an agreement but there are also limits to what we
could do. And I think we have to be crystal clear about that from the outset.
AMANPOUR: Let me just play a soundbite of what somebody, a very hardline Brexiteer told me last night, one of the Conservative Party hardliners,
that`s John Redwood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN REDWOOD, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: I want an independent country just as America is an independent country. Why can`t I have an independent
country, now the public voted for it? And we will be better off if we govern wisely, which I wish us to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How do you respond to a John Redwood who says that kind of very provocative thing which actually does not have a majority in the U.K.
TIMMERMANS: Well, I think, you know, as far as I`m concerned, I`ve heard everything in the last couple of years, also from Mr. Redwood and others.
It doesn`t really unsettle me in any way or form because it`s crystal clear that when he says that the majority want a hard Brexit, it`s simply not
true. There`s a clear position of the House of Commons where they say they don`t want a no deal breaks.
So, I would just -- you know, just wait calmly for this debate to evolve into a certain direction where we get some clarity of what Britain wants
and then we`ll start talking about that. But I just want to make sure that there`s no misunderstanding about the position of the European Commission
and the 27-member states.
AMANPOUR: In that, you will not reopen this current negotiation. Is that what you mean?
TIMMERMANS: Well, what I`m saying is that some of the elements of the withdrawal agreement that are now being challenged or questioned are
essential for us to have a withdrawal agreement also on the basis of the red lines defined by Prime Minister May.
Now, if there is a change in the British position, if there is a different direction taken, then, of course, this will be carefully assessed by the
European Commission and the 27-member states. But as things stand now, I do maintain, and this is also the position of all our member states, that
the withdrawal agreement is the best possible deal in the given circumstances.
AMANPOUR: So, what would -- and clearly people are now talking about this no deal. I realize there isn`t a majority for it in Parliament but who
knows. I mean, you know, one could blunder into it, it is the default option here.
AMANPOUR: And we`ve got 72 days as we stand right now until March 29th. First of all, you just said, you know, stay calm but it`s only 72 days and
it`s almost like they have to start from scratch. What would a no deal mean for Europe?
TIMMERMANS: Well, of course, we stay calm but that doesn`t mean we stay still. We`re working very hard on all possible scenarios, including, a no
deal Brexit so that Europe is prepared to face that possibility.
Now, nobody wants it. But as you say, and I say you`re absolutely right, even if you don`t want it, it might still happen. And that`s why we have a
strong responsibility to also prepare member states and prepare E.U. institutions for that eventuality, still hoping it would never happen but
it could be. You`re absolutely right.
I mean, European history is rife of events and things happening that nobody wanted but happened anyway. So, we can`t be naive about that but I think
we still should try and avoid it.
AMANPOUR: Now, in your speech today, in the Parliament there, you were standing alongside Michel Barnier, the main negotiator for the E.U, and you
concluded with the C.S. Lewis quote, "You can`t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending."
So, I want to know what you mean by that, what you envision as changing the ending. And as part of that, do you believe the E.U. would allow Britain
to unilaterally extend Article 50 to give itself more time to get this right?
TIMMERMANS: Well, what I meant to say is this, after the vote last night, the members of the House of Commons will have to come together to decide on
where they want to go with Brexit and what the next step should be, what kind of Brexit, et cetera, whether there is going to be another vote.
These are things that need to be decided in the United Kingdom.
And I think what I was trying to say is, they have to, you know, take the present situation after the vote last night as a given and start from there
and then they can map out the future the way they want and then they can come and talk to the rest of Europe about this, and nothing is excluded.
And I think the attitude of the European Union should also be nothing is excluded and neither a no deal Brexit nor the possibility of the British
people talking about this and coming to the conclusion that there might be a second vote.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just as ask you to respond to Paul Krugman who writes, obviously, a lot about this, Nobel Prize winning economist for the
"New York Times." After this vote defeat yesterday, he talked about the European Commission, he said, "If they are given even an inch pre the 2016
vote, Brexit would never have happened. If they had thrown May a few crumbs today might have looked very different. The arrogance of the E.C.
completely untampered by the disasters of austerity is very much part of the British story." He has a point, right?
TIMMERMANS: No, he hasn`t. I`m sorry. He hasn`t. And I`m never very much impressed with iffy history, if this would have happened, if this
would have been said, et cetera, et cetera. I think this was a, I think, long time coming. I think this is happened in the U.K. This is David
Cameron`s responsibility, he called for the referendum.
I think if you look over the last couple of years, we tried our best bending over backwards to accommodate the requests of the British
government, pre-Brexit, working with David Cameron in seeing what we could do but also after Brexit and working with Theresa May to get a good deal
for both sides. So, I don`t think Krugman is right when he criticizes the European Commission on this.
AMANPOUR: All right. Frans Timmermans, thank you so much. Vice president of the European Commission. Thank you for joining us.
TIMMERMANS: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And those are important words from such a senior E.U. official, "We tried our best. We bent over backwards to try to give Britain what
they were looking for." And now, the clock ticks on. We`re expecting the results of that no confidence vote very shortly. My colleagues at
Westminster pick up our live Brexit coverage after this short break. Stay with us.