U.K. Prime Minister Defends Brexit Plan Amid Political Chaos; Saudis Seek Death Penalty for 5 Suspects in Khashoggi Murder; Theresa May’s
<Show: CONNECT THE WORLD>
<Date: November 15, 2018>
<Head: U.K. Prime Minister Defends Brexit Plan Amid Political Chaos;
Saudis Seek Death Penalty for 5 Suspects in Khashoggi Murder; Theresa May’s
Future in Doubt Amid Resignations; Financial Markets React to Brexit
Turmoil; Two Ministers Call for Early Elections in Israel. Aired 10-11a ET - Part 1>
<Sect: News; International>
<Byline: Hannah Vaughn Jones, Max Foster, Bianca Nobilo, Nic Robertson,
Erin McLaughlin, Jomana Karadsheh, Sam Kiley, Hala Gorani, Anna Stewart,
<Guest: Owen Smith, Ben Bradshaw>
<High: The British Prime Minister fighting for her political survival
after divisions over her draft Brexit deal made itself brutally clear in
Parliament. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to stave
off a political crisis after the resignation of his defense minister. >
<Spec: Europe; United Kingdom; Politics; Brexit; Theresa May; Middle East;
[10:00:00] HANNAH VAUGHN JONES, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD, with me Hannah Vaughan Jones. I’m live in London.
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Also, outside the U.K., Houses of Parliament, on an incredible day in British politics, and we continue to bring you the latest here at Abington Green this hour. My colleague Hala will be here a bit later on in the show for you.
But in the early hours of this morning, we began reporting this story with the words Theresa May faces a long and difficult day ahead. But never, we nor her, expected the day to play out quite like this. The British Prime Minister fighting for her political survival. After divisions over her draft the Brexit deal made itself brutally clear in Parliament, Mrs. May has defended her plan.
But try telling that to leading Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister. That followed a series of shock resignations today, the biggest being the man who might have expected to be at her side in all of this, that’s the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab.
We’re covering all sides of the story for you. Will get the reaction from Brussels in a moment. First our Nic Robertson at Downing Street and Bianca who is here with me outside Parliament. You were here late into the night talking about the cabinet meeting, were you expecting that raft of resignations. There were four junior ministers and then two senior ones.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two senior ones, exactly. Well, it didn’t come as a surprise given that the two cabinet ministers that spoke to journalists or smiled as they left that marathon cabinet session of five hours and were both Remainers. So, both of them said yes, very, very good meeting and all of the Brexiteers that left looked incredibly dour and sullen. And then we were expecting that resignations might follow. Bearing in mind that when the Prime Minister first proposed this plan at Chequers, there were no resignations in the immediate aftermath. And she said we’re united on this we’re bringing forward this agreement. And then what happened within the week, we had the Brexit Secretary, David Davis and the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, both resigning.
So, I think everybody was aware that they need to be on resignation watch and just because the Prime Minister has said we’ve agreed didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be fallout. And it was notable, too, that the language the Prime Minister chose, she said we have come to a collective agreement, not a unanimous agreement. And it definitely implied that there were tense moments in that cabinet meeting, and I heard afterwards as well that there were very argumentative sections particularly from Esther McVey who resigned this morning and Dominic Raab.
FOSTER: But there are others. Aren’t there? There are other Brexiteers at that level who were also concerned in the meeting. Are we expecting them to go too then?
NOBILO: The Brexiteers within the cabinet are split, if you like, into sub groups. So, you have the Brexiteers who have always been very passionate about their cause. And we were expecting those to resign, like Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt, who has yet to resign. Then you have more pragmatic Brexiteers, who are of the opinion that this isn’t the Brexit that they wanted. But better to actually leave the European Union in some way on the 29th of March 2019 and then to try and harden that relationship at the later date. Those like Michael Gove. Then have the born again Brexiteers if you would like with an eye on leadership, that voted remain in the initial referendum, like Jeremy Hunt or Sajid Javid. But now, are championing the cause of Brexit. So, it was those extreme Brexiteers that she needed to keep an eye on and that’s what we’ve seen today.
FOSTER: And then she headed to Parliament and it became pretty clear that getting this deal -- if it was hard to get it through the cabinet, then it’s going to be virtually impossible to get it through Parliament.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: And that was the message she kept hearing in Parliament. She kept being told by MP, after MP, that see what is happening around you. See that you’re not going to be able to get this vote through. Indeed, it went as far as some MPs to call for her to stand down right then and there. So, this was a very, very tough test of Theresa May’s character, and showed her in her very clear vision that she was going to deliver, that she came in with a plan, and even though while she was in there, another minister announced resignation.
This was Theresa May battling, battling, battling. She took an absolute mauling. I can’t remember a time when we last saw a Prime Minister really be given such a tough time. She answered the same question multiple, multiple times. She answered the question, can there be another referendum, no, she said. And indeed, in the end she said I refer my honorable, the honorable gentleman of the honorable lady as she kept saying to my last answer. She was asked if there could be an extension to the leaving date of Brexit, the 29th of March next year. And she just persisted, with her message. And in fact, she was very clear and what was on offer.
[10:05:00] And in many ways, the way she articulated this, was clear that this was a message to both ends of the spectrum. The hard Brexiteers, and those who would perhaps not support the government, but not also at the same time, not want there to be a second referendum. This is how she put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: So, Mr. Speaker, the choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the problem.
MAY: Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated. This deal, a deal which ends free movement, takes back control of our borders, laws, and money, delivers a free trade area for goods, with zero tariffs, leaves the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, delivers an independent foreign and defense policy, while retaining the continued security cooperation to keep our people safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Well, I lost track there, the number of times she actually articulated those very points she has said, again, and again, and again. But although the Prime Minister says it is clear what the choices are, the situation now is anything but clear. It really isn’t clear what the next steps are for her. We can understand that if she continues to push down this line, that she has said she will continue to push down, then the immediate step must be to replace her Brexit secretary. However, it is not clear that she is going to be able to do that. Because of the potential challenges for her leadership. We really does feel, Max, as if we’re in unchartered territory here.
FOSTER: OK, Nic, thank you. And some breaking news, another resignation - - Bianca.
NOBILO: Another resignation just in this space from when you started the show, when Nic finished talking. We’ve had a resignation of Raymond Chishti who is the vice chairman of the Conservative Party. So, they have an important role of keeping the morale of the party up and in good spirits and it is a supportive role to the Prime Minister. So, now by my count that makes four minister, two ministerial aide, and now this vice chairman.
FOSTER: So, eight resignations in total, I think, I’m reading. Erin, in Brussels, they’re having to make sense of all of this as well. But I they are really looking ahead to this deal, this deal, this meeting, on the 25th of November, right, where the deal is going to be ratified but is there a sense it might not get that far?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think at this point, Max, that’s an open question, not a smile to be seen today here in Brussels, at any of the press points, talking about Brexit. Also, no smiles to be seen in Strasburg at the European Parliament either. We heard from Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, basically say that the EU is preparing for all eventualities. Noting that Brexit at this point is the biggest story in the world, while declining to comment on the specifics of the politics playing out there in London. Take a listen to what he had to say at the EU South Africa summit in Brussels, earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL: It is not for me to comment on the latest developments in London. All I can say is that the EU is prepared for a final deal with the United Kingdom in November. We are also prepared for a no deal scenario. But of course, we are best prepared for a no Brexit scenario.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Now, for now, it is still full steam ahead for that November 25th summit in which the EU ministers are expected to sign off at the political level on the draft text that Theresa May’s cabinet signed off on last night. Worth noting, that this still needs to be negotiated from the standpoint of the future declaration. There are two things on the table here, the withdrawal agreement, which ostensibly was completed and signed off by Theresa May’s cabinet last night. And then there is the declaration on the future relationship, a political declaration, between the EU, and the U.K. that still supposedly is being negotiated at this point. Just this morning, saying that he had hoped that that process would be complete by Tuesday paving the way for the Sunday summit. That process now of course sort of in question -- Max.
FOSTER: Erin, thank you. Going to check on the markets now. The pound has been falling against the dollar today, in the wake of this deal. But particularly, the Dominic Raab resignation, as you can see, it is down.
[10:10:00] It stabilized somewhat against the dollar, but there were some falls earlier on. Major political and economic turmoil then over this deal. But what’s in the deal anyway? The draft withdrawal agreement is quite long, 500 pages long and very complex. We got through it and picked out some of the key points that we think that are there for you. The U.K. will stay in the EU single market until the end of 2020. Putting no hard border between North Ireland and Ireland, at least in the short term. U.K. and EU nationals will not need visas when crossing borders in the block and the U.K. will honor all existing joint commitments to EU programs until the end of 2020. That divorce bill has been estimated at around 50 billion pounds. I want to bring in Owen Smith (INAUDIBLE) for Northern Ireland. What was it like in Parliament today?
OWEN SMITH, BRITISH LABOUR MP: Strangely muted. It almost felt as there was a valedictory address being made by the Prime Minister. As you can see the back benches on her side gearing up to attack, gearing up to threaten to do her in, as it were. And on our side, I think there is no great joy that this government is listing under the weight of an impossible Brexit dream that cannot be delivered and most importantly we’re concerned that it cannot drag the country down with it.
FOSTER: We’re now in a situation, where she needs Labour members of Parliament to support her deal, to get it through. Can she get that?
FOSTER: To what extent can she get any support from Labour?
SMITH: No, I think this deal, the 585 pages you were just citing, it was dead before it was read by most people. The truth is that there is no prospect of the Labour Party supporting it because it is a bad deal that will be bad for our constituents and bad for our country. But nor is there support for it in her own party and though she’s succeeded in doing the impossible in uniting the right wing and the left wing of the Conservative Party in opposition to her plan. And she’s also, of course, got the opposition of the Democratic Unionist Party, from North Ireland, and she gave them a billion pounds to try to secure their support not so long ago.
FOSTER: Yes, she granted it to North Ireland, lots of projects in North Irelands.
SMITH: Projects is what? I’m sorry, for many of us, it felt pretty much as though she was writing a check for their support. There we go.
FOSTER: In terms of what technically happens now, then, so you say the deal won’t get through Parliament, we’ve got this meeting, this European meeting on the 25th of November, for our viewers don’t understand what this mean, technically what happens from now then?
SMITH: I think it is all incredibly unclear. I mean there are some people who are suggesting that she brought this deal to Parliament without a vote in order to demonstrate to Brussels that she couldn’t get it through to strengthen her hand in order to try and get further concessions from the EU. I think that isn’t right. But if it were right, it is an extraordinary miscalculation on her part, because it has resulted in there clearly being a leadership challenge.
FOSTER: That is the other dynamic we have now, Jacob Rees-Mogg who is a very influential member of the Conservative Party on the back benches. Right? He’s a Brexiteer, he’s sent in his letter. We’ll have to see what comes of that. But if there is a leadership challenge, doesn’t that just cause more problems for your constituents, because this is going to delay Brexit even more? And therefore, they are going to have more uncertainty? And therefore, more distrust really of the Parliamentary system. This is not sorting things out for them.
SMITH: Yes, I fear that’s true. But the reality is, let’s not forget that the only reason we are in this mess, the only reason we have Brexit is because of this is the outplay of 30 years of civil war in the Tory Party about Europe. They have been at each other’s throats about Europe since 1975. And they are still at each other’s throats.
FOSTER: With the splits as well, to be fair.
SMITH: With some of the same extension and the reason we have the referendum was so, as to allow David Cameron to get the right wingers like Jacob Rees-Mogg off his back then. The reason Mrs. May has had to pursue what she doesn’t believe in, because she knows that staying in the European Union is better for Britain than exiting. The reason she’s had the tact toward those people because she is hanging over the sort of Damocles that Jacob Rees-Mogg is now wielding. But the country cannot frankly be subject to the same threats. The country has to be saved from this sort of cataclysmic no deal Brexit. And Parliament will do that. Parliament will not allow Mrs. May to crash Britain out of the EU. And it certainly won’t allow Jacob Rees-Mogg to do it.
FOSTER: It’s all very depressing though. Isn’t it? No one seems to know what is going to happen. Whoever I speak to, no one seems to know.
SMITH: It is a period of volatility in British politics that we have not seen in many, many generations.
FOSTER: Thank you very much, indeed. Owen Smith, the Labour MP, former Shadow Secretary of State, as well, for North Ireland.
[10:15:00] Let’s get now more from Hannah, because there’s lots else going on in the world and we will bring any more resignations as they come in during the show.
JONES: Max, thanks very much, indeed. Obviously, a very fast-moving sequence of events in Westminster. But we do have some other stories. And in particular, more information on another big story breaking just in the last few hours here at CNN.
Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged with the killing -- charged with killing the journalist Jamal Khashoggi as they confirmed some fresh disturbing details of his murder. Stay tuned for the details on that.
JONES: Welcome back. You’re watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I’m Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London. You have been watching our special Brexit coverage as my colleague Max Foster who’s live in the thick of it in Westminster. We will be getting back to that coverage in around ten minutes or so or of course as soon as we get any news of further resignations and the like from Parliament.
But now, an update on another major story that CNN has been following and has been following for some six weeks now. Saudi prosecutors are revealing grisly details of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi as they vow to seek the death penalty against five of the 11 suspects. They say the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, that’s Mohammad bin Salman, had no role in the murder.
Now, Turkey calls the prosecutors’ statements, and I quote, unsatisfactory, suggesting Saudi Arabia is still withholding key information. We will be crossing over to our Sam Kiley who is following all of the Saudi developments from Abu Dhabi tonight. But first, Jomana Karadsheh is outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where, of course, Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Jomana, we’re hearing disturbing new information from the Saudi prosecutors about the nature, the way in which Jamal Khashoggi died, the way he was killed. How are the Turkish authorities responding to that, because they have been putting quite a lot of pressure on the Saudis for some time, haven’t they?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Hannah, the feeling amongst Turkish officials is that you’re seeing this flip-flopping, as they put it, from Saudi Arabia, saying that initially, it all started with denials, more than 40 days ago, as you recall, and then, you know, a narrative that has changed so many times since. Now, in reaction to this latest statement that we’re hearing from the prosecution in Saudi Arabia.
[10:20:00] We’ve heard from the foreign minister, in Turkey, reacting to that, saying that it was still unsatisfactory. Saying it was a good positive first step that some people are being charged when it comes to this case, but it is still not enough for Turkey. Basically, saying that the statements they’ve heard do not make sense really, and do answer some of the key questions that remain outstanding, that Turkey has put forward, they say, to the Saudis, several times. And they have not (INAUDIBLE).
JONES: We just lost the connection there to Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul. But I’m hoping we have Sam Kiley on the line for us now, from Abu Dhabi who’s been reporting on the Saudi side of this whole sorted affair the last six weeks or. Sam, we were detailing earlier these new bits of information coming from the Saudi prosecutors about the nature in which Jamal Khashoggi died. Interestingly, though, as well, they are trying to deflect any attention or responsibility away from the Saudi Crown Prince.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that that is the principle issue to have emerge from this, really, Hannah, is that. And if I can run over the narrative, as laid out by the Saudi chief prosecutor, you will see where we’re going with this.
So, in the first instance, as suggested by the foreign minister, there is no -- absolutely no finger blame pointing towards Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince. What they say happened is that the head of intelligence ordered an operation to go to a number of operatives, to go to Istanbul, to interview and negotiate with Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent “Washington Post” columnist and much more widely respected around the world as a journalist and critic of the regime. Persuade him to come home. If that was not going to be successful, then the mission was to make him go home.
Then what the prosecutor says that happened is that on the ground, the man in charge of this negotiation, an unknown individual, none of those five charged with murder have been named, but this individual elected of his own back, to kill Khashoggi if it was not possible to persuade him to go home, on the grounds that it was going to be difficult to move him to a safe house.
Then there was a scuffle, during which Mr. Khashoggi was injected with a fatal dose of some kind of sedative. His body was cut up. And then handed over to a quote-unquote collaborator. The collaborator has only been identified by sketch -- Hannah.
JONES: And Sam, how plausible is it, in the Saudi structure, in the hierarchy, that the Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman would not have ordered this killing, and that it was in fact, as, currently stated, the responsibility of a Saudi intelligence officer? How plausible is it that MBS knew nothing about it?
KILEY: Well, I think that certainly from the Turkish perspective and I think even friends and allies of Saudi Arabia, there has been a position all along that the orders to carry out such a complex and problematic operation in a foreign country must have come from the quote-unquote highest levels. Now, how far up the food chain those orders were given? According to the Saudi prosecutor, it’s pretty high up, it was the deputy head of intelligence.
Nonetheless, that was the order to conduct the operation, to render him, or persuade him to go home. Not to kill him. It seems unlikely, I think many people in the Saudi system, and students of the Saudi system, would think that somebody on the ground would elect to murder somebody ahead of the operation, or while on the ground, rather than attempt to move them to a safe house. That’s the first hole I think that the Turks would have in the whole narrative here. And indeed, many of the allies around the world have made this point clear to the Saudis.
And then on top of that, to hand over a body to an as yet unnamed collaborator, the only identifying elements that the Saudis have come up with is a sketch, which really does beg of the belief that one would hand over the results of a murder of an unknown individual, somebody for whom it would appear the Saudi operatives on the ground didn’t know his name or a code name, but have given the police -- the description to a police sketch man, to come up with a sketch. That I think really does stretch credibility to the extreme levels.
But in terms of where the political blame for such a decision lie, the Saudis have been insisting all along that it was a standard operational procedure or standing orders that dissidents and critics from the kingdom should be persuaded to return home, but there is definitely no indication that there was any official policy to kill them.
JONES: OK, let’s get back to Jomana Karadsheh. Jomana, I believe you’re standing by, still outside the Saudi consulate there in Istanbul. Apologies we lost you a little bit earlier on.
[10:25:00] With the talk of sanctions that has been talked about for a long time, really, ever since Jamal Khashoggi was killed, would the Turkish authority, would the Turkish government be content with individual Saudis being sanctioned as opposed to the Saudi state?
KARADSHEH: Look, the position, Hannah, of the Turkish government, they say they want one thing. They want those who carried out the killing, and not only the ones who carried it out, but also who ordered it, to be held accountable. They say they feel there is a coverup that is going on. That is why they do not think a transparent and a credible investigation can take place in Saudi Arabia. So, their position has been clear, saying that the perpetrators of the crime. The suspects that Saudi Arabia have detained, must be extradited to the place where the crime took place, and that is here, to Turkey, to face justice here. And this is of course something that the Saudis are not even entertaining at this point.
Whether, you know, what kind of punishment, what kind of reaction is the international community going to have, Turkey has not really gone into this. They say their top priority is to solve this crime. And there are two key questions they say that have remained unanswered. And he had said they have put them forward to the Saudis several times and it is the key questions of where is the body of Jamal Khashoggi? Something that they have also put forward to the Saudi chief prosecutor, when he visited here, and did not get the answers. Saying we heard the foreign minister again, repeated today, saying if it was burned, if it was destroyed, if it was buried, where is it?
And then they say this whole local collaborator thing that Saudi Arabia keeps talking about is something that they changed the narrative on, flip- flopped a few times, saying he didn’t exist and now saying again there is a local collaborator and they say it is a sim question. If they know who it, tell the Turkish authorities.
And the other key question is, who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? They are absolutely not convinced that this was a rogue operation as Sam mentioned earlier. They believe it was ordered by the highest levels of the Saudi government. And therefore, I think they’re getting to a point, Hannah, where they feel they’re not getting anywhere with the Saudi authorities, something that has gone on now for more than 40 days. They feel it is a tactic of stalling, hoping that the world is going to move on. And that is why we’ve heard the foreign minister yesterday saying it looks like we’re at that point, where Turkey believes it might be a necessity to move this into an international investigation -- Hannah.
JONES: And of course, the long another body is found, the longer Jamal Khashoggi’s family has to wait before they can bury him, of course. My thanks to both of you, to Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul, also to Sam Kiley in Abu Dhabi. Thank you.
Live from London, you’re watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We will get you back to the houses of Parliament after the break. With all of the latest on the ongoing political drama unfolding here in Britain today. That is all coming up, in the next few minutes. Stay tuned.
[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: You’re watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I’m Hannah Vaughan Jones live in London for you.
All day you have been watching special coverage of Brexit and the fallout from that deal that Theresa May, the Prime Minister, managed to secure. Will she still be in the job by the end of the day? Well my colleague Hala Gorani is outside the U.K. Houses of Parliament right now for you. Hala, over to you.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are learning that the Prime Minister has called a press conference for 5:00 p.m. local time, which is in an hour and a half. We are going to learn then from the Prime Minister what her decision might be going forward. Is her position untenable? That is the big question. It doesn’t appear as though the numbers are in her favor when it comes to Parliament backing this draft Brexit deal, which is one of the things that certainly are crucial going forward, in terms of the next hurdle.
She got her cabinet yesterday, in what seemed like a victory for her, to back this deal and then it was one resignation after the other, including the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, who resigned saying he could not back this draft proposal. Joining me now is Ben Bradshaw. He’s a Labour MP. Thanks very much for joining us.