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Vote of No-Confidence Underway in Britain; Terror Attack in France Killed Three and Injured Dozens; Huawei’s CFO Out with a Hefty

December 12, 2018

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<Date: December 12, 2018>

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<Head: Vote of No-Confidence Underway in Britain; Terror Attack in

France Killed Three and Injured Dozens; Huawei’s CFO Out with a Hefty

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<Time: 03:00>

<End: 03:59>

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. This is Rosemary Church.

Following this breaking news. Word coming in to CNN that a vote of no- confidence in British Prime Minister Theresa May has been triggered. The threshold of letters from members of her conservative party has been exceeded. The ballots will be held later Wednesday with the results to be announced Wednesday night.

Now this comes on the heels of Mrs. May’s day of Brexit diplomacy with European Union leaders Tuesday. The E.U.’s message was clarifications where possible but renegotiations were out of the question.

Hadas Gold is outside parliament and Nic Robertson is at 10 Downing Street. Welcome to you both. Nic, let’s start with you there at 10 Downing Street. I mean, we were talking last hour of course, that this isn’t a surprise that this is happening but maybe the timing of it has surprised a few people.

Let’s talk about whether someone has done the numbers here. Because we’ve seen many times before that Theresa May has survived the threats on her leadership. What might occur at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there are two people right now who are going to be principally of numbers, if you like. The chairman of the 1922 committee that received those 48 letters. And that was the number of letters of no confidence in the prime minister, it required 15 percent of the conservative party M.P.s required to trigger the vote.

The other number that he’ll be looking for later this evening and the other person also whose key job it is to get the numbers right, the conservative party chief whip number 10 in the last hour or so.

The key number there would be 158. And it’s a simple majority, a 158 M.P.s, conservative M.P.s that Theresa May needs to get a simple majority of her party of her conservative M.P.s in parliament is what she’ll required to survive this vote.

And I think there’s a degree of belief that she may survive it. She has certainly believed that before she certainly said that she will continue and fight a leadership challenge, so as you say, not unexpected. And it has been in the air for some time until perhaps -- the weekend it was believed that there were perhaps as many as 26 of those 48 letters that have been handed over to the chairman of the 1922 committee this backbench committee that will be a significant part in the determining who should Theresa May lose the vote who would become the next party leader and the prime minister.

So, this is going to be the challenge. Now what we’re expecting today is that the vote will take place between 6 p.m. local time and 8 p.m. local time this evening. Those -- that would have been the time that Theresa May was due to be in Dublin meeting with the Irish prime minister to discuss what she described as reassurances on the backstop part of the Brexit deal. Not clear where she’ll be at that time now.

But of course, the focus and attention is going to be here on the counting of those ballots and the secret ballot among conservative M.P.s, 158 as simple majority is what she requires, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Right. Nic, just stand by for a moment because I do want to read a tweet that was posted by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. This is what he said. “I am backing Theresa May tonight, being prime minister is the most difficult job imaginable right now and the last thing the country needs is a damaging and long leadership contest. Brexit was never going to be easy but she is the best person to make sure we actually leave the E.U. on March 29.

So, Hadas Gold, let me go to you. Because this is the problem, we’ve all been talking about that whoever replaces Theresa May, should she lose the no confidence vote and we can’t be sure that would happen, but if that were the outcome, whoever replaces her, confronts exactly the same problem as she has been.

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: And we are seeing more and more cabinet members like Jeremy Hunt throwing their support behind Theresa May. Amber Rudd just tweeted, Sajid Javid somebody who is actually been suggested as somebody who could become the next leader said, “the last thing our country need right now is a conservative party leadership election and will be seen itself indulgent and wrung.”

[03:05:00] I mean, if you think about the timing of this it couldn’t be worse. We are approaching closer and closer to that March deadline of Brexit. And for a lot of these cabinet ministers as they’re tweeting, this timing issues is just the worst possible for a leadership election right now.

But in another sense, this is almost has been long coming. And some might say that it’s good to have this now. Because if she wins as some people think that she would be able to reach that simple majority, then she is safe for a year. She is safe to sort of see this Brexit process through.

But obviously, this adds a lot of drama to what is already been an incredibly dramatic week as Theresa May has been trying to meet with European leaders and trying to get some more concessions on that Brexit deal. We are supposed to be hearing from Sir Graham Brady right now more on these letters that have come in. But clearly, this is just an incredible time in British politics right now, both internally and externally with the European Union. And we’ll find out tonight what that vote will mean for Theresa May’s future as prime minister.

CHURCH: And Nic, if I can just go back to you. When you look at this situation and how it does put the country in a very difficult place, the people who were triggering this no confidence vote, it is going to backfire on them in a big way if they don’t win this, if Theresa May remains as leader, it makes them look very foolish, because then she is safe for another year, is that correct.

ROBERTSON: Well, it may make them look foolish, but of course, the majority who haven’t said publicly what they’ve done. We may not know all who they are. But it does seem to be those. And we heard overnight from Owen Paterson the former minister state for Northern Ireland, he was former agriculture secretary as well. A very senior figure, a former government minister, a senior figure declaring that he was putting his letter to the 1922 committee forward.

But if this is the sort of nature of the senior people that are putting -- that are pushing for this vote of no confidence then it’s going to be, you know, a potential -- potentially difficult for them going forward as you rightly say.

But the point being and Hadas makes it very well is that if she survives this, then she survives for another year.

But Owen Patterson and most of the others that we understand have put their letters forward to the 1922 committee have been those who wanted a harder Brexit than the one that she has been able to deliver. And then it might be now if their voices effectively become neutralize than this, that, you know, it might strengthen Theresa May’s hand.

Of course, the big vote that she needs to that she really needs to get through after this or any prime minister will need to get through is a meaningful vote to pass the support in parliament for the Brexit deal as it is now.

So, that’s going to be a challenge. Those 48 may not choose to vote for it, but they will be neutralized as a challenge against the prime minister. There is so many variables here and so much in flux here at the moment. There is -- there are no sort of simple pieces of things -- of piece details that one can sort of clutch on to here, Rosemary. There are many, many variables.

CHURCH: And Hadas Gold, let’s go back to you outside parliament. As we were talking earlier, this is no surprise. It has come a little earlier than what we expected. But what about Theresa May, because she was really right in the middle of fighting for her Brexit deal. She’d been to Europe and she was planning to go to Ireland. So, she would now be hobbled looking at how to deal with this. Talk to us what would be happening right now regarding that.

GOLD: Right. Well, we’re still waiting for some sort of official statement from Downing Street. Obviously, Theresa May is aware of what is going down and she was supposed to go to Ireland and meet with the prime minister there and talk about this Brexit deal. It’s not clear whether that will still be happening.

As you said, she’s in the middle of negotiating or trying to sort of renegotiate some small aspects of this Brexit deal and this is obviously going to be a huge distraction for her over here. She also has prime minister’s question coming up. We need to see how this all plays out.

I do want to read to you a little bit about Owen Paterson’s letter that Nic mentioned earlier. Because it gets to the frustrations of why some of these people brought this about wanting a hard Brexit. He wrote, “These mistakes have eroded trust in the current government to the point where I and many others can no longer take the prime minister at her word, and that the conclusion is now inescapable that the prime minister is the blockage to what they wanted out of this Brexit deal.”

But as you noted earlier, it’s not clear that even getting somebody else in would somehow change the calculations here. They are going to be facing the same challenges that they’ve been facing for the past two years.

CHURCH: And Nic Robertson, let’s go back to you there at 10 Downing Street and talk about the Brexit deal.

[03:09:58] Because this is -- this is what has triggered this situation there in Britain and it has been difficult, political gymnastics have been performed by Theresa May still haven’t been able to move in any particular positive way forward, have they?

ROBERTSON: Well, she said she was going to Europe for reassurances specifically about the backstop agreement for Northern Ireland. And the reason she’d had so much pushback is that there are elements within that backstop agreement that she says would only be triggered if they can’t make an agreement.

But I think the expectation is that the issue of keeping an open border, a frictionless border between the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which would be the principal land border between the European Union and Britain going forward would mean that Northern Ireland would end up being treated slightly differently from mainland U.K.

And that’s an anathema, that’s not something that the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, those 10 M.P.s that prop up Theresa May’s majority in government here, that they would countenance.

So, that’s an issue about how long that -- how long that backstop agreement would be in place. And the British government wouldn’t be able to unilaterally pull out of it. But from a European perspective the viewers that concessions have made on this, you know, giving Britain some elements of being in the single market without actually -- without actually, you know, meeting the full standards that other E.U. members meet on it which is the free movement of people, amongst four points.

But that has been the biggest stumbling block. And that she was trying to get reassurances on, and it was that Jean Claude Juncker, the E.U. Commission president was indicating that maybe there was a little room for understanding, different understanding on that. But it’s not, it was never going to be sufficient for the hard liners in her party to swallow it.

And I think it was really being able to see that play out that has precipitated the rest of this letters of no confidence in the prime minister. But it’s not going to change, this equation is not going to change for a new prime minister.

And that Northern Ireland backstop issue, that border issue, this frictionless border issue that Britain is caught on the need to uphold the 1998 agreement, the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland which the aspiration of both sides to keep that border frictionless and open was a key part of bringing peace to Northern Ireland keep that in tact as well.

At the same time, as essentially have a land border with the European Union and different customs agreements and arrangements on both sides. So, and freedom of movement also being an issue across that border.

So, there was an inconsistency there from the beginning that it has to be said that the -- that Theresa May and many in her party didn’t address, begin to address until very late in the process. And it has become a huge stumbling block.

In essence, it’s been very much like trying to feed a round peg in a square hole, and as yet there is still no solution. That doesn’t change for any new prime minister.

CHURCH: All right. Our Nic Robertson joining us there live from 10 Downing Street. Hadas Gold outside parliament. Many thanks to both of you for bringing us up to date on the situation playing out there in Britain.

I want to go to Steven Erlanger now who joins us from Brussels. He is chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for the New York Times. Thank you so much for being with us.

And of course, you know, we want to get your opinion on what is playing out in British politics right now. Because this is very problematic for Theresa May. But she could still surprise everyone and get the numbers and get through this no confidence vote.

STEVEN ERLANGER, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, she certainly can. I mean, this is the working of the great British psycho drama. It would, you know, like any fever, it had come to some kind of breaking point. It feels like that will be tonight.

She only needs to win, though, one vote among Tory M.P.′ and many believe this is the wrong time to change the leaders but even if she wins by only a few votes, she’ll be under quite a lot of pressure to resign. The problem is as always there’s been this division in the Tory Party. Nobody can view it’s been going on for decades and the Brexiters in the party see Britain heading toward a kind of very soft Brexit that isn’t really a complete Brexit and that keeps Britain tied into the E.U. rules and customs rules for a very long time.

[03:14:56] But as Nic Robertson said, the problem is you can’t have no border in Ireland than you would have a border. And no one has been quite sure how to figure that out, without staying in the group making it unnecessary to have that border.

And that is exactly what the Brexiters cannot stand about the backstop idea.

CHURCH: Yes. That is the very point that has confounded all of them. And of course, when we talk about the leadership of Theresa May and she may -- and she may survive this but she may not. If she doesn’t, whoever replaces her confronts exactly the same sort of challenges. How would it be any different?

ERLANGER: Well, you know, they could simply throw the cards up into the air quite honestly. I mean, this March 29th is still three months away or more, right. And you know, they could say, look, we don’t like this deal, let’s talk about something else.

Or they could say, you know, for the moment let’s just go into an off the shelf package like the one Norway has, while we spend the next transition period which was the always the point, which was going to be another 20 months or even more to negotiate the real future relationship between the Britain and the E.U.

We’re just arguing about the divorce deal now. And I think many Tories will say, look, let’s keep our eye on the prize which is the future relationship. That’s the key. So, you know, we obviously don’t know what’s going to happen. She could -- the problem is Theresa May has never been the Tories real choice for prime minister.

She was an accidental prime minister when David Cameron suddenly resigned. The real Brexiters got cold feet and fell away. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. And she was kind of considered a dull safe pair of hands until she lost the election. She had a majority which have made all of this unnecessary, and yet, she lost them.

So, she has a lot to be blamed for I think and the Tories will never forgive her for throwing that majority even more than, you know, this weird deal on Brexit that she’s tried to do.

CHURCH: And now of course with her confronting this no confidence vote, where does that leave all the chatter and negotiation and the possibility of a second referendum on Brexit.

ERLANGER: Well, you know, we just don’t, it’s like Brexit is the grinch that is stealing Christmas, I mean, stealing New Year’s too. It makes a second referendum more possible. It certainly does. Because if parliament is going to seize control of this whole deal. They don’t want a no deal Brexit so they could have, they could just say look, we’re divided, we can’t decide. Let’s go back to the people. That becomes more possible. But how you structure the vote and who is allowed to vote and what questions make sense and what questions are considered fair and you have a three-question referendum, all these things are really unclear. But I would say the chances of a second referendum have gone up though they are considerably less than 50 percent.

CHURCH: And Steven, while I have you there, we do want to just bring out the markets. Because what is very interesting is that they’re in positive territory. What did you make of that? They haven’t digested the news yet or what do you think that makes?

(CROSSTALK)

ERLANGER: I don’t know. I think the markets are irrational. I mean, the markets move because the markets want to make money, right, as they’re saying. And you know, I think they see it as a kind of answer to some of this great uncertainty which has been hurting the pound quite a lot in the last day or two ever since she postponed this parliamentary vote. But, you know, making sense of the markets is done by people with higher salaries even than you and me.

CHURCH: I’m sure. Steven Erlanger, always a pleasure to get your analysis. We appreciate it. Thank you.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And we’ll take a very short break here. We’ll be back in just a moment.

[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: Hello, everyone. I’m Rosemary Church. Following breaking news. Word coming in to CNN that a vote of no confidence in British Prime Minister Theresa May has been triggered.

Now the thresholds of letters from members of her conservative party has been exceeded, the ballot is to be held later Wednesday with the results announced Wednesday night.

And this comes on the heels of the U.K. prime minister’s day of Brexit diplomacy with European Union leaders but the E.U.’s message was clear, clarifications are possible but renegotiation of Brexit is out of the question.

We’ll continue to follow that story.

But let’s move on to this one. A massive manhunt underway in France for a gunman who killed at least three people at a Christmas market. The attack happened Tuesday in Strasbourg near the German border.

The shooter is known to police. He is a 29-year-old man on the terror watchlist with a criminal past. Witnesses say shoppers at the market were rushed into nearby stores and restaurants when the shooting began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISSAM FARES, SHOOTING WITNESS (through translator): I thought maybe it’s firecrackers that they’re attacking the store. I saw a lot of people running scared, crying kids and all. They said it was shooting right next door, so I ran away. I went to hide in a restaurant not far from Gutenberg (Ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: France is now on its higher security alert level. The Christmas market will be closed on Wednesday as well as some schools.

So, let’s turn now to our Melissa Bell, she joins us from Strasbourg with more on this. So, Melissa, what are you learning about this manhunt across the country?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this manhunt, which continues here in Strasburg continues. Of course, the search for the man that has been as you said, Rosemary, identified and we know this, wounded which you would have thought would made have it relatively easier for authorities to get their hands on him.

What we’ve learned this morning from no less than the junior interior minister here in France speaking on French radio is that the man could have left the country already. As you mentioned here, Strasbourg is on the border with Germany. It is possible already that he’s left.

This is the street down which he came last night about with 8 p.m. and headed into this little side street. This Christmas market, just as he was facing down just as the security measures which are so tight at this time of year, and especially around Christmas market like the ones here in Strasberg, one of Europe’s biggest, one of its oldest it’s been here since medieval times. And as those security measures were lessening as the market was closing that is when this man went on the rampage.

What we have learned also, Rosemary, is that the very day that he went on his rampage yesterday in the morning he had been due to be taken in for questioning. Authorities try to find him at his hometown that he wasn’t there was that link to his decision to go on the rampage, that hasn’t yet been confirmed, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Melissa, what more are we learning about the suspect himself?

[03:24:56] BELL: Well, we know that he has a very heavy judicial history. This is a man who was in and out of prison. He served time here in France and across the border in Germany.

We also understand that he was on the French Fiche “S” list, that means that he was under active surveillance for being considered a threat to national security.

Now the question of his radicalization of course, is one that poses itself. This is a man who was known who had been charged with crimes and done for times that were common law crimes. He had not done any time or been charged with any crime linked to radicalization.

But what we had confirmed from the junior interior minister was that the authorities had placed him on that watch list because he was understood to become radicalize in prison. That his religious fervor in a sense had indicated to authorities that there was a radicalization underway and that he needed to be kept an eye on.

Clearly, not an eye that was kept close enough since he was able to carry out the rampage that we saw yesterday. As you said, Rosemary, three people have been killed. But bear in mind that there are 12 -- 13, I beg your pardon, in hospital and of those about eight are in a critical condition.

So, sadly, that is a death toll that could rise. Of course, the man remains out on the street. We don’t know at this stage if he’s still in France or whether he’s crossed the border into Germany. France has gone on to this highest level of alert which means that the borders are now under stricter surveillance as are all the Christmas markets and sensitive places around France.

CHURCH: Melissa Bell bringing us the latest on that manhunt from Strasbourg. Many thanks to you.

Well, the chief financial officer of Huawei, one of the largest telecom companies in the world is free on bail in Canada. Meng Wanzhou is wanted in the United States accused of helping the Chinese company dodge sanctions on Iran. And nearly $7.5 million bail is meant to Canada ahead of an extradition hearing in February.

And we want to get more on this from CNN’s Andrew Stevens. He is live for us from Hong Kong. So, what do -- what more are you learning about the release of this tech executive and what it could mean as far as a bargaining chip with the United States?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that bargaining chip you talk about certainly been thrown into the equation in the last 12 hours or so with Donald Trump has been extraordinary. Words coming from him during an interview with the Reuters news agency, basically saying that if it would help Donald Trump secure a deal with China on trade and he describes his trade deal as the biggest trade deal ever, he would not hesitate to use Meng in that negotiations.

So, it’s black-and-white that it is a bargaining chip that he is prepared to use. Now remember, this comes just a couple days after his own trade representative, Bob Lighthizer said that the arrest was not link in trade in any way.

He said it was a criminal justice issue and that no one on his team was looking at Meng in any way at all as regards to those trade talks with China. So, you’ve got to sort of see this in context that this is Donald Trump being Donald Trump in a way that he is transactional, he likes to think himself as a deal maker.

This is another part of the ammunition that he can use to get the deal that he wants done. Meng on the other hand now is a pawn in the game which, it goes badly for her if she’s found guilty first that she’s extradited to the U.S. to face these charges of basically fraudulently using this company in to get to telecoms equipment sold into Iran. If she is found guilty of that she could be facing 30 or so years in prison.

At the moment, though, she’s in, she’s been released on bail as you say. She’s in one of her homes in Vancouver. She has a GPS ankle bracelet on, she’s got 24-hour security and she’s waiting to February 6, when we’ll get an idea of when the extradition hearing will be held, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to our Andrew Stevens joining us live from Hong Kong.

We’ll take a short break. But I do want to let you know we’ve been following this breaking news of a no-confidence vote to confronting British Prime Minister Theresa may. We understand that this how we can expect a statement from Theresa May’s office, and we will of course bring you that as soon as it’s made available to us.

Back in a moment.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I’m Rosemary Church, following this breaking news. Word coming into CNN, that a vote of no confidence in British Prime Minister Theresa May has been triggered. Now expect to hear from the Prime Minister any minute now. The threshold of letters from members of her conservative party saying they had no confidence in her was exceeded. The ballots used to be held later Wednesday with the results announced Wednesday night. Now this comes on the heels of the U.K. Prime Minister’s day of Brexit diplomacy with European Union leaders that the E.U.’s message, very clear clarifications of possible, but renegotiation of Brexit is out of the question.

So for more on all of this, let’s bring in CNN’s international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, joining us again from 10th Downing Street. So they are getting ready there for Theresa May to come out and actually make a statement. What are you hearing about, what she may say?

NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we can expect her to say, as we heard her say all along that if it was a leadership challenge, she would fight it. I mean, I think that would be in keeping with everything that we had heard from her so far. Of course, this statement has only been announced in the last 10 or 15 minutes. The podium literally carried out here in the last few minutes. So, it does appear that she does want to speak to the issue, that the fact that there are - there will be later today a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

She will be hoping to get the 158 votes, a simple majority with conservative party M.P. votes that she requires to continue and she will hope to be able to continue. One would expect with a negotiation or rather reassurances that she was seeking. She was expected to be seeing the Irish Prime Minister later this evening to discuss that. She did have meetings yesterday with European leaders. The Dutch prime minister, she met as well with a German Chancellor and she met with the E.U. leaders as well in Brussels later into the evening.

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