Return to Transcripts main page


CNN International: Interview with David Morris, Conservative MP, on Brexit Chaos; British Prime Minister Theresa May Addresses Parliament. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired March 25, 2019 - 11:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That number saves lives. Please take it out and share it as widely as you can. And thanks to you so much for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" with my colleague, Kate Bolduan, starts right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN HOST (voice-over): In the next 30 minutes, the British prime minister is due to face Parliament to lay out the next steps of her Brexit plan. Theresa May has spent the day locked in meetings with top lawmakers.

A major talking point was whether or not to hold a third vote on the Brexit deal as early as Tuesday. We're still awaiting confirmation or any off word on that.

Now to developments: the E.U. is warning of the risk of British crashing out of the E.U. without a deal is looking, quote, "increasingly likely" on April the 12th. This comes along increasing speculation about Parliament taking over the Brexit process and voting on a series of alternative options.

For the very latest, Bianca Nobilo is here with me.

The chaos continues. So speculation that Theresa May may bring her deal back to Parliament for a third vote.

The likelihood of that at this stage?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to what the E.U. have said, in order to enable Britain to leave at the later date of the extension, she needs to pass her deal this week.

However, Number 10 have said as well as cabinet ministers that they will only do so if they feel assured of the support, from the DUP, the Brexiteer backbenches who have made the prime minister's life very difficult.

And then it would probably require some Labour support as well. Until they're assured of that, it is a dangerous move to bring it back.

So that means that conversation is crystallizing at the moment around the prospect of indicative votes in ways that Parliament could take control. We don't know exactly when the prime minister is going to bring back a meaningful vote.

CHATTERLEY: I don't want to go to all those options yet. I want to talk through some of the scenarios in light of what we've seen in the last 24 hours, meeting at Chequers with some of the arch Brexiteers, some of Theresa May's own backers, talks with the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party that backs the government right now, those votes are essential.

What are we hearing about the prospect, in light of the timeline, the pressure now being steep on all sides, those votes coming on board?

NOBILO: The Chequers meeting was significant. We saw speculation across all of the newspapers on the weekend that the prime minister was being ousted, that there were all these discussions and coups afoot. She hasn't been free of that kind of speculation since she bungled the 2017 election and lost her majority.

This meeting at Chequers took place, which was essentially some of her loyalists from cabinet with some arch Eurosceptics like Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Moog, 13 of them in all, essentially to try and avert some sort of Tory civil war and keep the party together and understand what they need to get the deal across the line.

It's hugely significant, of course, because the prime minister needs their backing. It's been discussed for some weeks now that the prime minister could potentially bargain her position as prime minister in order to get the support that she needs to get her deal across the line.

The Conservative MPs that I speak to, A, aren't sure she would even get the numbers if she did that and, B, you can just imagine what they think, what the public thinks of this notion -- and this was confirmed to be by an MP I just spoke to that they feel it, too -- that now leadership ambitions are inextricably bound up in whether or not people are going to support the prime minister's deal.

CHATTERLEY: That is insane. Among weeks and months of insanity, the idea there would be some kind of tradeoff; if you step down, we'll vote for this deal.

Is that in the best interests of the U.K.?

That makes no sense to me.

How can we have got to this point?

NOBILO: That is the question that everybody is asking. This is supposed to be the week Britain was leaving the E.U. There is complete confusion about if it will leave the E.U., when it will leave the E.U., in what form. None of these questions are answered. It depends who you ask as to who they blame. People who want to see

the prime minister go blame her approach, blame her personality and the fact that she doesn't consult widely, the fact that MPs don't feel listened to, that she didn't check where the majority was in Parliament before she negotiated the deal.

CHATTERLEY: You make a great point that there could be some negotiation so they -- we can perhaps understand if you don't want this prime minister to be the person that negotiates the future relationship with the E.U., because that's the bit still to come, let's remember here. So there's some suggestion perhaps that you don't want the prime minister to be that person.

But the idea that you say you --


CHATTERLEY: -- have to step down at this stage, she's simply not going to do that without getting her deal passed because leadership change at this point in time gets us nowhere.

NOBILO: One of my sources in government said to me as well that the absolute worst thing that could happen in terms of trying to stabilize the country and stabilize the government would be for the prime minister to say that she was going to resign. Let's say that she was up for that -- and then for her not to get the votes for her deal.

She needs to be -- even if that were an option, she has to be absolutely certain that decision will get her deal across the line. She can't be at this point.

CHATTERLEY: There's so many games of chicken going on. Just to remind our viewers, we are waiting for Theresa May to speak in Parliament. The question is, amid what was discussed here, for we're still waiting. We will bring that to you when it comes.

If we take a step back to what you mentioned, you suggested we could see other votes in Parliament.

They could decide ultimately to get a sense of what Parliament is willing to get here. That steeps further pressure on this government and steeps further pressure on the Brexiteers if this is the hardest form of Brexit they're going to get.

NOBILO: Well, this is the point that people try and make to Brexiteers. You want to get Theresa May's deal across the line, that if you don't support the deal, Parliament has expressed opposition to a no-deal situation. The E.U. have already granted an extension.

But actually, if you don't want Brexit to soften, you need to back Theresa May's deal. That's the only way that you can do it.

But it just shows the situation that we're in, the fact that there's such a kaleidoscope of opinion in the Conservative Party. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, yesterday saying that he wouldn't oppose a second referendum. We have Mark Field, who is a minister in the foreign office, saying that he would support revoking Article 50.

Then you have Andrea Leadsom, another Brexiteer, saying a no-deal shouldn't be taken off the table. This is so unusual for government to have a collective responsibility and have the collective responsibility of cabinet to share such different opinions on the subject.

That shows you why the pressure would be heaped on the prime minister even more in the event of indicative votes.

CHATTERLEY: I love the point you make about the chancellor Phillip Hammond. A second referendum deserves to be considered -- and that was pounced on by the U.K. press this weekend.

If you throw in there noises from the Labour Party, suggesting that perhaps they might vote for Theresa May's deal if she's willing to put it back to the people and have some kind of vote on this deal, does that get us anywhere?

NOBILO: This idea of a vote should confirm the result of all the wranglings in Parliament on the prime minister's deal. You can understand why the Labour Party is taking that position. The chancellor said it was a Pyrrhic (ph) proposition to put it back to the people.

Those that advocate say the Brexit that's now coming into vision, whether it is the prime minister's deal, whether it is a softer Brexit, is quite far from what the Leave campaign were outlining during the referendum. So the argument being it would only be fair to take it back to the people and say, do you still want this, those of you who voted leave.

But then the Brexiteers would argue, you're not delivering, you're not really trying to deliver on the results of the referendum that you were asked to by the British people.

CHATTERLEY: One of the big frustrations I think in the E.U. -- and we saw that at the summit last week -- was that Theresa May couldn't talk about plan B.

What is plan B if your deal doesn't ultimately go through?

They've given her to the end of this week with that two-week extension to get something done.

What about the plan B options here?

Walk me through what some of the other options could be here. As you've already said, it is a softer form of Brexit here if Brexit at all. But talk about some other option, because none of these are what the Brexiteers ultimately wanted.

NOBILO: Unless there is a plan B that somebody close to the prime minister outlined, that plan B could be deciding to take Britain out of the E.U. without a deal. Yes, there is a majority in Parliament against that but there is a gray area how Parliament can change the course.

But the prime minister could make that argument and could decide that delivering on the results of the referendum takes precedence through all the nightmare scenarios that have been outlined about no deal.

Does she think democracy and delivering on the result of the direct democratic referendum is more important than trying to safeguard against all of the economic shocks and uncertainty which would result from no deal?

Those who know her aren't sure which one of those things she'll choose.

CHATTERLEY: The ultimate brinkmanship, going for a no-deal Brexit right at the last minute. That's kind of what the E.U. is warning here as well. I just mentioned the E.U. is saying the likelihood of a no-deal exit is increasing here. So they're kind of trying to suggest that they don't know what the game plan might be here.

NOBILO: Well, if you just look at the empirical evidence, how many other directions can it be taken?


NOBILO: That's obviously the technical default but Parliament will do everything it can in the majority to stop that from happening.

Also you mentioned that the E.U. have been talking about their preparations and being ready for a no-deal scenario as far as they can be. In the U.K. the privy council met today, which is essentially a large group of members of Parliament who get to see documents and get to become privy to information which others can't.

So it's guarded very secretly because it's to do with national security and national interest.

The leader of the Scottish National Party said he found it incredibly sobering and very scary, what he was told today. There is a ramping- up of no-deal discussions and preparations because of where we are in this process and time running out.

CHATTERLEY: We had arch Brexiteer Boris Johnson writing in an op-ed that it's a bad deal, we dislike it but perhaps this might be the better deal, the only deal available to us.

When you start to hear noises from the likes of Boris Johnson, does that not suggest that they think the other way?

That actually there is more likelihood of Theresa May caving and going for some softer Brexit option and perhaps the nuclear option, let's call it, of a no-deal exit?

Particularly in Parliament; they've said they don't want that.

NOBILO: This is the prime minister's strategy, it seems, it's very difficult to tell which way she is going to go, even at that fractious cabinet meeting that was held last week. Cabinet left without having an idea of what type of extension the prime minister is going to ask for. She keeps her cards incredibly close to her chest.

In terms of Boris Johnson, he is a key figure in winning over ERG support. This comes back to the point that this Conservative member of Parliament made to me in the last hour, the fact that leadership ambitions are tied up with conditional support of the prime minister's deal.

So the question becomes, do Brexiteer contenders for future leader, such as Boris Johnson, think that their personal brand is going to be damaged in terms of their purity supporting Brexit if they back the prime minister's deal?

Or do they think we need to get this across the line and we have a shot at the top job?

Let's get the deal across the line and go with the prime minister.

CHATTERLEY: When I look at the bookmakers here in the U.K., the most likely next prime minister is Jeremy Corbyn.

It's known that the Conservative Party candidates that are perhaps looking to hedge and not do damage to their future leadership prospects, is that not a reality check for the Conservative Party if ever I saw one?

But when you have people out here complaining about the handling of this, you've got a real challenge in the way to go forward.

NOBILO: Yes, you do, but the country is so polarized on the issue of Brexit. If you are a Brexiteer, you know you're never going to win over people who voted to remain and that's one of their key priorities in terms of what they're looking for from a government. That's just not going to happen.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you for talking me through this.

More questions and discussion to come. We'll get back to Brexit.

Let me give you an update on other news.

Israel has closed the border crossings with Gaza after a rocket hit a home in a village of Mishmeret. The building was set on fire, wounding seven people, including two infants.

It was military who say Hamas is behind the attack. The rocket landed around 25 kilometers north of Tel Aviv, making this the farthest a rocket has been fired into Israel since 2014. The rocket attack comes during the Israeli prime minister's visit to the United States.

Right now Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with president Donald Trump at the White House but says he's cutting his trip short so he can manage the situation back home. The prime minister vowed to respond forcefully to the attack. Armed men have killed 134 people during an attack on a rural village in Central Mali. The U.N. say the victims are members of the Fulani ethnic group, which is frequently targeted and accused of having ties to jihadist organizations in the area. CNN's David McKenzie has more.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The French ambassador to the United Nations is calling it "an unspeakable act." Early Saturday in Central Mali in West Africa, ethnic militia attacking a village, say the United Nations, killing at least 134 people, including mothers, women, young children even.

They were able to evacuate some of those casualties in what can only be described as a massacre and the worst killing of its kind in recent times.

A spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general, saying, "The secretary-general condemns the act and calls on Malian authorities to swiftly investigate it and bring the perpetrators to justice."

Mali's president on Sunday dissolved the so-called self-defense unit that has been accused of similar attacks in the past. Human Rights Watch says that these attacks are increasing and they've been --


MCKENZIE: -- exploited by jihadi groups linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda.

The U.S. has significant boots on the ground in Mali and the region and there is a U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali but it's one of the deadliest on the globe. The difficulty here is, say experts, with ISIS losing its territory in the Middle East, that future battlegrounds against groups linked to it will be forged potentially in West Africa -- David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


CHATTERLEY: The number of people dead in South Africa from cyclone Idai has topped 750. The number dead in Southern Africa is more than 100,000 people remaining in camps, their communities washed away by the storm but there are some signs of some recovery.

Some telephone and electrical service has been restored in the hardest-hit parts of Mozambique.

The outcome of Thailand's elections is still unclear as voters continue to be counted following Sunday's contest. It was the first election since the army staged a coup and seized power in 2014. Right now the main opposition party linked to the former ousted prime minister has fought ahead at the pro-military party. The election commission say the official results will be announced on May the 9th.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials say the number of people infected with the deadly Ebola virus have risen to more than 1,000. The health ministry say around 600 have died. The outbreak is the second largest ever recorded.

We are live here outside the U.K. Houses of Parliament as you can see. Plenty more discussion on Brexit to come as we count down to Theresa May's speech in front of the House of Commons.

What will she say about her Brexit plan and is there a plan B?

We shall see. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.




CHATTERLEY: Hello and welcome to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Julia Chatterley, outside the U.K. Houses of Parliament here in London. I just want to quickly bring you up to speed with our top story.

We are waiting for the British prime minister Theresa May to speak in a matter of moments, where she'll lay out her proposed next steps on Brexit. This after key cabinet meetings this morning.

I'm joined now by David Morris. He's a Conservative MP who voted to remain but now backs --


CHATTERLEY: -- Theresa May's Brexit deal.

David, once again, welcome.


CHATTERLEY: Yes. Great to have you here.

MORRIS: Thank you.

CHATTERLEY: What do you expect Theresa May to say today?

Is she going to try and push her Brexit deal through Parliament one more time?

MORRIS: There is a conundrum here. From what I can gather, even if the Brexiteers do decide to come on board, we'll still be a number of short. Then there the tensions of the supply and demand coalition. Anything can happen.

I don't know what the statement will entail, what's going to be in it. I have no idea. But one thing I do know is that we're sailing through the icebergs.

CHATTERLEY: Your point about the Democratic Unionist Party, this is the party that backs the government. Without their votes, she simply doesn't have enough to pass this deal without going across the aisle to the Labour and saying, will somebody please back this deal.

MORRIS: That's right. They're our partners in government. They're our coalition, if you like. I don't blame the DUP for their stunts as they've taken it. I understand Northern Irish politics. It's a hard sell back home to be in a backstop and the threat of being in a backstop indefinitely. So I get exactly where the DUP are coming from.

That has always been the problem. I heard last week if Geoffrey Cox hadn't said his legal position remained unchanged, the DUP and the ERG would have voted through and they would have the vote through by now. We will have been moving on with our live.

CHATTERLEY: But he had to act in the way he did ultimately and as he sees fit. Where we are now is without a deal. A timeline has been extended beyond Friday. The risk here is for the government, for Theresa May herself, that actually it gets taken out of her hands and we go to a case of indicative votes and we decide what Parliament can agree on here.

What do you believe ultimately Parliament can agree on here?

MORRIS: Well, this is a problem. Parliament, you've seen the indicative votes. It's been all over the place. Case in point is to extend the deadline. I voted against it. It was a free vote. I just want to come out on the 29th.

Steve Barclay, the deputy secretary stood at my side as he was voting and he put this proposition before the House.


CHATTERLEY: Jumbled (ph).

MORRIS: Yes -- how it sent out mixed messages. The reality is this. The people voted to come out. We know a lot of people want us to stay in. This is splitting the British public and more that Parliament procrastinates on this issue the worse it is for them out there

CHATTERLEY: In terms of sequencing would it be better for Theresa May to hold the series of votes?

They're not binding -- and then hold her meaningful vote. If you get a sense of what Parliament will vote for, a softer version of Brexit or something else, perhaps that galvanizes Brexiteers in Parliament to sit up, take a listen and vote for her deal.

MORRIS: This is another problem. I know before the first meaningful vote I said maybe we should have a series of unmeaningful meaningful votes --


MORRIS: -- ironically we've had two of them already. We're approaching our third. We don't seem to be clear of this impasse. CHATTERLEY: We were talking earlier about Bianca about the idea the Labour Party suggested over the weekend that perhaps they would vote for this deal, Theresa May's Brexit deal, if it was put to the people to get sign off.

MORRIS: I also think it's just political machineering (sic). The opposition don't have very much to say about Brexit. It's full of criticism but no solution. Talking about we want a Canada model, a Norway model, a second referendum. First of all, we're leaving the E.U., we're not joining it, which is what the other two models did have in the first place.

A second referendum?

No. You can't do that. You can't do that to the British public. There would be civil unrest. I actually believe that.

CHATTERLEY: At some point I think the public are going to turn around and they're already furious and exhausted, saying, stop giving me problems and give me solutions. I think that for the Conservative Party right now, you do hold power at this moment. This government, they have to come up with a solution here rather than a whole host of problems.

MORRIS: I totally agree. The deal is a good deal. You can hear to the RG, some of them want a proper, full-on hard Brexit. If we have a full-on hard Brexit, there will be prices for us to pay as a nation. Will we get through it?

I actually think we will. But we don't want to go through unstable money markets. We don't want to see any of the return to the austerity period. We're actually coming out of it.


MORRIS: We've got to be grown up and say look, this deal is a good deal. We've got to find out what we can do to the backstop, make sure the DUP can support it. Get off the high horse and actually start doing what they're elected to do, which is be part of the government of the day.

Vote for this deal. Then we can start moving forward because the negotiations don't end there. They just start.

CHATTERLEY: We've not even agreed to negotiate the future arrangement. The question is, what will Theresa May say.

We shall see. David Morris there.

Coming up, Theresa May about to take her speech to British Parliament with her latest statement on Brexit.

Will she put her deal before lawmakers for a third time?

We shall see. We're live in Westminster for you. That's coming up next. (MUSIC PLAYING)



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CHATTERLEY: You're watching CNN. This is a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Julia Chatterley. Welcome back.

Let me bring you up to speed with what's happening in Westminster as the chaos caused by Brexit continues. British prime minister Theresa May is about to address Parliament. This after a morning of meetings with her cabinet and a call with the leader of the party she relies on to get things passed in Parliament, Northern Ireland's DUP. We're waiting to see if lawmakers will vote for a third time on her deal after a two comprehensive defeats.

Later Parliament will vote on a whole range of alternatives to prime minister's withdrawal plans.

Joining me now --


CHATTERLEY: -- CNN political contributor, Robin Oakley.

Something tells me this will be a fascinating two hours.

What are we expecting Theresa May to say?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fascinating two days. We're on a mystery train. Talking general elections, talking of the prime minister being cast aside by coups in her cabinet. All these alternative votes. Let's look at the alternative vote question, these indicative votes on different possibilities.

Back in 2003, they did indicative votes in the House of Commons to reform the upper house and how it was going to be composed in future. They had five indicative votes and they turned out all five of them. There's no reason why we can't have a situation like that again.

We aren't necessarily going to get an answer by the indicative votes. Even if there is something that, for once, the House MPs in the House can actually agree on as opposed to opposing, it's not binding if it goes to the government.

Of course, it's an indication to the government here is a possible deal. But we've already got the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, saying this country is similar to the Conservative Party manifesto, we'd probably have to have a general election before we do it. So it opens up all sorts of things.

CHATTERLEY: Unpack that. All we've seen Parliament agree on is they want to rule out a no-deal exit. One of the things that's sort of filtering, bubbling beneath the surface, is ultimately Theresa May turning around and going, you know what, I've had enough, we are ready, we're going to no-deal exit here despite what Parliament voted for.

OAKLEY: Every time she's been faced with a dilemma she's given best to the hardline Eurosceptics. They would be happy to settle for no deal. I suspect Theresa May may be happy to settle for no deal and I think there are more MPs in that building behind us who are worried that she could do something at the last minute, which would land Britain with a no-deal scenario. Her own Chancellor of the Exchequer has warned it would be an economic catastrophe.

Intriguingly, of the various amendments put down for the debate, starting tonight, at least two of those are to remove the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.


OAKLEY: Again. We've already had one vote and 413 votes to 202 MPs decided they didn't want no deal.

CHATTERLEY: I believe Theresa May is now speaking in Parliament. We've been waiting for this. Let's go listen in to her now.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: -- for the legally binding assurances on the Northern Ireland backstop and alternative arrangements agreed in Strasbourg on the 11th of March.

I reported your statement, Mr. Speaker, which made clear for a further meaningful vote to take place, the deal would have to be fundamentally different, not different in terms of wording but in substance. I explained that some of the right honorable members were seeking further change to withdraw agreement and I requested a short extension to the Article 50 process to the 30th of June.

I regret having to do so; I wanted to deliver Brexit on the 29th of March but I'm conscious of my duties as prime minister to all parts of our United Kingdom and of the damage to that union leaving without a deal could do when one part of it is without devolved government and unable therefore to prepare properly.

The House will formally endorse the legal instrument relating to the withdrawal agreement and for joint statements supplementing the political declaration. This should increase the confidence of the House that the backstop is unlikely ever to be used and would only be temporary if it is.

But the council also reiterated once again its longstanding position that there could be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement. So however the House decides to proceed this week, everyone should be absolutely clear that changing withdrawal agreement is simply not an option.

Turning to extending Article 50 this has always required the unanimous agreement of other 27 member states. As I made clear before, it was never guaranteed the E.U. would agree to an extension or the terms which we requested it and they did not.

Instead the council agrees if the House approves a withdrawal agreement, our departure will be extended to 11:00 pm on the 22nd of May. This will allow time for Parliament to pass a withdrawal agreement bill, which is legally necessary for the deal to be ratified.

But if the House does not approve the withdrawal agreement this week, our departure will instead be extended only to 11:00 pm on the 12th of April. At this point, we would either leave with no deal or we would indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council.

If this involved a further extension, it would certainly mean participation in the European parliamentary elections. The council's conclusions were subsequently turned into a legal decision, with which the U.K. agreed and which came into force last Friday. So while the government has laid a statutory instrument --


MAY: -- which will be debated later this week to reflect in this our domestic legislation, the date for our departure from the E.U. has now changed in international law.

Were the House not to pass the statutory instrument, it would cause legal confusion and damaging uncertainty but it would not have any effect on the date and it would not have any effect on the date of our exit.

Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that the right path forward is for the United Kingdom to leave the E.U. as soon as possible with a deal now on the 22nd of May. But it is with great regret that I have had to conclude that, as things stand, there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote.

I continue -- I continue to have discussions with colleagues across the House to build support so that we can bring the vote forward this week to this and guarantee Brexit. If we cannot, the government made a commitment that we would work across the House to find a majority on a way forward.

The amendment in the name of my right honorable friend, the member from West Dorset, seeks to provide for this process by taking control of the paper. I continue to believe doing so would be an unwelcome precedent to set, which would -- which would overturn -- which would overturn the balance of our democratic institutions.

So the government will oppose this amendment this evening. But in order to fulfill our commitments to this house, would seek to provide government time in order for this process to proceed. It will be for this house to put forward options for consideration and to determine the procedure by which they wish to do so.

But I must confess that I am skeptical about such a process of indicative votes. When we've tried this kind of thing in the past, it's produced contradictory outcomes or no outcome at all.

There is -- there is a further risk when it comes to Brexit as the U.K. is only one-half of the equation and the vote could lead to an outcome that is not negotiable with the E.U. No government could give -- no government could give a blank check to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is. So I cannot commit the government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this house.

But I do commit -- but I do commit to engaging constructively with this process. There are many -- there are many different views on the way forward. There are many different views on the way forward but I wanted to explain the options as I understand them.

The default outcome continues to be to leave with no deal. But this house has previously expressed its opposition to that path and may very well do so again this week.

The alternative is to pursue a different form of Brexit or a second referendum. But the bottom line remains, if the House does not approve the withdrawal agreement this week and is not prepared to countenance leaving without a deal, we would have to seek a longer extension.

This would entail the U.K. having to hold European elections and it would mean that we will not have been able to guarantee Brexit.

These are now choices the House will have the opportunity to express its view on.

Mr. Speaker, this is the first chance I've had to address the House since my remarks last Wednesday evening.

JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER, BRITISH HOUSE OF COMMONS: The House must calm itself. The prime minister is addressing the House and must be heard. Colleagues know from the record that they have a full opportunity to question the prime minister.

The prime minister.

MAY: I expressed my frustration with our collective failure to take a decision but I know that -- but I know that many members across this house are frustrated, too. We all have difficult jobs to do. People on all sides of the debate hold passionate views and I respect those differences.

I would also like to thank those colleagues, all of those colleagues who have supported the deal so far and those that have taken the time to meet with me to discuss their concerns. I hope we can all agree we are now at the moment of decision.

And in doing so, we must confront the reality of the hard choices before us. Unless this house agrees to it, no deal will not happen. No Brexit must not happen. And a slow Brexit, which extends Article 50 beyond the 22nd of May, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade, is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together.

I know that the deal I've put forward is a compromise. It seeks to deliver on the referendum and retain trust in our democracy while also respecting the concerns of those who voted to remain. But if this house can back it --


MAY: -- we could be out of the European Union in less than two months. There will be no further extensions, no threat to Brexit and no risk of a no-deal. That I believe is the way to deliver the Brexit the British people voted for and I commend this statement to the House.



I would like to thank the prime minister for an advance copy of the statement and for the meetings she has agreed to in recent days.

Mr. Speaker, the government's approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment. After two years of failure - broken promises after broken promise - the prime minister finally accepted the inevitable last week and voted to extend Article 50 and went to Brussels to negotiate.

Last week's summit represented another negotiating failure for the prime minister. Her proposals were rejected and new terms were imposed on her. We now have an extension until mid-April or May 22nd and despite the clearly expressed will of this House, we will still face the prospect of a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

This is even more remarkable, given that the minister for the cabinet office told this very chamber, and I quote, "Seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension would be," in his word, "downright reckless."

Mr. Speaker, this failure has been compounded by the prime minister's attempts last week to pin the blame for this debacle on others. It was wholly inappropriate last Wednesday for the prime minister to try and pit the people against MPs elected here, doing their duty to hold the government of the day to account.

That is what Parliament exists for. And in a climate of heightened emotions, where MPs on all sides have received threats and intimidation, I hope the prime minister will further reflect and think again about making what I believe to be such dangerous and irresponsible statements.

Every step of the way along this process the government has refused to reach out, refused to listen and refused to find a consensus that can represent the views of the whole of the country not just the Conservative Party.

Large parts of our country continue to be ignored by this government. No wonder so many people felt compelled to march on the streets or sign petitions over the weekend. Even the most ardent of Leavers, even, Mr. Speaker, the most ardent of Leavers think this the government has failed.

It is easy to understand the frustration at this chaos. It exists in this House, in Brussels and across the country. The government has no plan; for them it's all about putting the Conservative Party before the country.

Given the prime minister admitted she does not have the numbers for her deal, will she accept today that her deal is dead and that the House should not have its time wasted, giving the same answer for a third time?

But the prime minister has succeeded in unifying two sides against her deal. The CBI and the TUC's unprecedented joint statement last week demanded a plan B, which protects jobs, workers, industry and communities.

Has the prime minister got a plan B?

The government has failed and let the people down whether they voted leave or remain. The country cannot afford to continue a Tory crisis. It's time, Mr. Speaker, for Parliament to take control.

And that's why later today we will be backing the amendment in the name of the right honorable member for West Dorset. You made it clear last week, Mr. Speaker, that for the prime minister to bring a deal back, there must be significant changes. There are none.

Rather than trying to engineer a way to bring back the same twice- rejected deal, will the prime minister instead allow rather than fight plans for indicative votes?

She cannot both accept her deal does not have the numbers and stand in the way of finding an alternative that may have the numbers. It is ridiculous to suggest that Parliament taking control is overturning democratic institutions. It is rather, Mr. Speaker, it's Parliament doing its democratic job, holding government to account.

So, Mr. Speaker, is -- and so will she agree to abide by the outcome of these indicative votes if they take place on Wednesday?

On behalf of the Labour Party, we will continue with cross-party discussions to find a way forward and I thank those members who met with colleagues of mine and myself to have these discussions.


CORBYN: I believe there is support in this House for a deal based on an alternative that protects jobs and the economy through a customs union and full single market access and allows us to continue to benefit from participation in vital agencies and security measures.

If the government refuses to accept this, we will support measures for a public vote to stop a no deal or chaotic Tory deal. The government has had over two years to find a solution and has failed. It's time, Mr. Speaker, we put an end to this move on from the chaos and failure and begin to clean up the mess.

It's time for Parliament to work together and agree on a Plan B. If she is brave, the prime minister would help facilitate this. If not, Parliament must send a clear message in the coming days. Mr. Speaker, I hope where, the government has failed, this House can and will succeed.

BERCOW: Prime Minister.

MAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Once again the right honorable gentleman indicates that we still face -- he said we still face the prospect of no deal. The House has rejected no deal.

As I said earlier the House has rejected it. It's rejected it twice now and could very well continue to reject it. But the only way of actually putting that into practice is to support a deal.

Now he talks about reaching out. I have reached out to party leaders across this house and to other members of this house. My right honorable friend, the chancellor (INAUDIBLE) of Lancaster and my right honorable friend, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union, both held a number of meetings with members across this house and with party leaders.

The right honorable gentleman ended by saying it is now time for the House to decide but the point is that, up until now, the House has not decided. The House has had -- yet again, honorable members on the opposition benches, say they haven't had a chance. The House has had many chances (INAUDIBLE). The House has voted twice on the right honorable gentlemen's plans for the future and rejected them.

It has voted to reject no deal. It has also voted to reject a second referendum. He asked whether I was going to -- whether the government would commit to abide by the indicative votes. I did, as the right honorable member suggested, give him advanced copy -- advanced notice of my statement.

I then read the statement. It did clearly say I cannot commit the government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this house.

And, honorable members, well, the shadow foreign secretary shouts that's not good enough. She just thinks about this. She just thinks about this for a moment.

Just think about this, first of all, we don't know what the options are going to be that will be tabled. Secondly, we don't know what will be selected. But there's another point.

I think it is important that no one, no one would want to support an option which contradicted the manifesto on which they stood for elections in this house. And the chancellor -- the chancellor (INAUDIBLE) Lancaster obviously will be -- the chancellor (INAUDIBLE) will opening the debate this afternoon and will refer to the processes that are involved in the House.

But the right honorable gentleman said it was important that MPs were elected. MPs were elected here to make decisions. Yes, to take responsibility and to make decisions. But the MPs elected here to this house at this time have a duty to respect the result of the referendum that took place in 2016.

And attempts to stop that result of that referendum being put into place or attempts to change that result of that referendum are not respecting the voters and not respecting our democracy.

And then finally, the right honorable gentleman mentioned the fact that a number of people had marched on the question of a second referendum.

Indeed --

BERCOW: Order. Order. The House is in a very agitated state but it's an early stage in the proceedings. Calm.

Prime Minister.

MAY: The right honorable gentleman referred to the fact that a march for a second referendum took place. It is in fact the right honorable gentleman's policy. I notice that his deputy went on the march. I thought the right honorable gentleman normally jumped at any opportunity to go on a march but on this occasion he wasn't actually there. I can only assume on this occasion he was involved but not present.


BERCOW: Sir John Redwood (ph).

JOHN REDWOOD (PH), MP: for the prime minister say to a Leave voter who wants us to leave on the 29th of March and thinks that indicative votes are a waste of time because, as she rightly says the options on offer have already been rejected --


REDWOOD (PH): -- once or twice in this Parliament.

MAY: My right honorable friend is absolutely right. The options that appear in the offer have already been rejected by this Parliament. I would have to point out, for reasons I explained in my statement in relation to the governance of part of the United Kingdom, I would have requested the extension to Article 50 so that 29th March date is no longer there.

But I would say to a Leave voter, we can guarantee Brexit. We can guarantee Brexit leaving on the 22nd of May by supporting, as the conclusions, by supporting the deal that's been put forward. That is the way to guarantee Brexit. Anything else does not guarantee Brexit.

BERCOW: Ian Blackford. IAN BLACKFORD, MP: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

And can I thank the prime minister for the advance copy of her statement.

Mr. Speaker, we are in a crisis, one of the prime minister's own making. Her ill-judged speech before she departed for Brussels concluded that everyone was to blame but herself, trying to put herself on the side of the people and blaming parliamentarians.

Mr. Speaker, it was Trumpesque. We don't need such raw populism at a time like this. It is truly flabbergasting.

Will she never apologize?

(INAUDIBLE) parliamentarians the way that (INAUDIBLE). The prime minister needs to be reminded she's supposed to be leading our country. None on these benches thinks she can deliver. Her backbenchers don't think she can deliver. People right across the United Kingdom don't think she can deliver.

Prime minister, time is up.

Mr. Speaker, today is about parliamentarians taking back control. People at home are watching and they are ashamed of this Parliament, ashamed of this government, ashamed of the embarrassment that British politics have become.

Parliament today must move to find a consensus. We must come together and protect the interests of citizens across Scotland and all other parts of the United Kingdom.

Members, we still have a choice.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the prime minister, with all sincerity, will she respect the will of Parliament and reject no deal?

When the prime minister is telling us that our votes don't count, at the same time privy council (INAUDIBLE) as being given briefings by her government and those briefings are talking about the catastrophe and the real risks that there are to the United Kingdom and it's the prime minister that is threatening the people of the United Kingdom with a no-deal and a no-deal that this Parliament has already rejected.

Mr. Speaker, what is the point of all of us sitting in this chamber and voting on debates and the prime minister thinks she can ignore parliamentary sovereignty?

What a disgrace. What an insult to this place. Because if our votes don't count, then frankly, we may as well just go home.

(INAUDIBLE). Well, I'll tell you something, Mr. Speaker. As this prime minister is telling the people of Scotland our votes don't count, when we voted to remain, well, we know what the answer is and the day is coming that the people of Scotland will vote for independence and we will be an independent country in the European Union.

So will the prime minister tell us, do our votes count?

Are they binding on the government or is this just a puppet show?

If that is the case, this is the greatest assault on democracy inflicted by any prime minister. And if the members of Parliament are prepared to tolerate that, then shame on them. Shame on them.

Mr. Speaker, Scotland will not be dragged out of the European Union by this prime minister. From the very beginning of this process, Scotland has been ignored. And now we know that Parliament will once again be ignored.

Mr. Speaker, In the weekend, I was proud and privileged to take part in a historic march in London. I was proud to stand with the people alongside Scotland's first minister and demand that the government listen to the people.

And let me tell the prime minister this. She said that no deal is the alternative. We on these benches will move revoke, because Scottish parliamentarians have made sure we have that power and we will stop the prime minister (INAUDIBLE). Over 1 million people marched to have the chance to vote again to stop this deal.

Prime Minister, why are you not listening?

Mr. Speaker, the PM must end this madness. Put it to the people. Let's have a people's vote.

MAY: To the right honorable gentleman, he was --


MAY: -- putting forward a number of proposals for the way forward in the -- in a speech, a speech that he has just given in response to my statement.

He talked -- there was one point at which he talked about Scotland voting to be an independent -- would vote to become an independent country in the European Union. Of course, what was perfectly clear in the independence referendum in 2014, where Scotland rejected independence and decided to stay.

The right honorable gentleman says give it a rest. He stands up here, stands up here, proclaiming the benefits of democracy and yet tells me to give it a rest when I point out that the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

And he talks -- he talks about -- he talks about coming together. This house has a duty to deliver Brexit. That means -- that means I believe delivering a Brexit with a deal that enables that smooth and orderly exit.

And when he asks the question, when he asks the question about whether his vote counts and votes in this house count, then, of course, votes in this house count. But so do the votes of 17.4 million people, who voted to leave the European Union.

BERCOW: Bill Cash (ph).

BILL CASH (PH), MP: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The (INAUDIBLE) for an extension of time was made one hour ago. There is grave concern that there was no lawful U.K. authority for the decision on March the 22nd to extend the exit date.

Did the prime minister seek the attorney general's advice beforehand as clearly required by both the ministerial code and the cabinet manual and will she publish that advice?

And why did she not invoke the commencement order for Section One of the Withdrawal Act, repeating the European Commission's Act of 1972?

MAY: The right honorable gentleman talks about the decision to extend Article 50. This house had supported an extension of Article 50. Yes, the council took a different decision in relation to the length of time that extension could take place for.

But it was clear from this house -- and people are saying to me listen to this house and respect the House. The House was clear that an extension of Article 50 should be sought and an extension was agreed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, indeed, Mr. Speaker.

The prime minister has told the House that if her withdrawal agreement is not approved by this Friday then the extension we have been granted will only last until the 12th of April.

If the prime minister currently does not intend to bring her deal back for another vote, she will then be faced with only two choices: either doing nothing, in which case we will leave with no deal on the 12th of April, or applying for a further extension.

Given the crisis that is facing our country, the public have a right to know which of those two options the prime minister intends to choose.

Prime minister, could you please tell us?

MAY: The right honorable gentleman is right, that I said, as things stand, I did not believe there was support for a meaningful vote but I did also indicate, as I was continuing to talk to colleagues across this house -- and I would hope to be able to bring back a vote in this house that enables us to guarantee Brexit, because the one way of guaranteeing Brexit is to abide by the decision that was taken last week and ensure that we leave on the 22nd of May.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prime minister welcomed the comments of the Taoiseach over the weekend that he believes that there are special arrangements that could be put in place to maintain an invisible border on the island of Ireland even in the event the U.K. leaves without a deal.

MAY: Have the -- we have, as my right honorable friend knows -- and she's been involved in some of these discussions -- been looking at the alternative arrangements that could be put in place and further work is required. But I'd also draw my right honorable friend's attention to, I believe, a release by the European Commission today, in which they made clear that, in all circumstances, all E.U. laws would have to be abided by.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those of us who were among the million on Saturday naturally regret both she and the leader of the opposition were too busy to join us.

But can I ask, does she agree with the observation of her chancellor, that such a referendum would be a perfectly coherent proposition?

MAY: Well, gentleman, I think that every time he stands up in either a statement or a speech at a debate where I'm opening a debate here in this house on this subject, tends to ask me about a second referendum. My view about a second referendum is very simple.

I was not on the march because I was too busy, as he said, but because he and I hold a different opinion about a second referendum. I do believe -- I believe it's important for this house, rather than talking about and wanting to pass the decision back to the British people again.