18/03/2017 Dateline London

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Foreign correspondents currently posted to London look at events in the UK through outsiders' eyes, and at how the issues of the week are being tackled around the world.

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Hello and welcome to Dateline London.


Could Theresa May be the prime minister who takes


the United Kingdom out of the European Union -


and unwittingly helps to break up the United Kingdom itself?


And six years of civil war in Syria - is there an end to this?


Mustapha Karkouti who is a Syrian writer,


in our Glasgow studio Kevin McKenna of the Guardian and The Herald,


Annalisa Piras who is an Italian journalist and film maker,


In a democracy people have the right to choose whether to leave a union


where the government seems remote and does not reflect


That was at the core of the argument against


the European Union and for Brexit - now it is the same argument


being used by nationalists in Scotland calling


Will Theresa May go down in history as the prime minister


Kevin, why did Nicola Sturgeon decide to call for a second


referendum? It is quite whiskey isn't it? Any decision to call for a


referendum carries a degree of risk. -- risky. This isn't just about


taking Scotland in three Europe away from the UK. I think the First


Minister lots patients with knocking consistently on Theresa May 's door


looking for Scotland's interest to be represented in any future Brexit


negotiations and having the door was slammed on her face. The First


Minister talked about the continuous intransigence of the UK Government


since June 23 last year. This is because Scotland voted 62% to 30% to


remain in Europe. The second thing I think that has alarmed the First


Minister and many other people in Scotland is the sense of chaos that


seems to have enveloped the UK Government with regard to Brexit.


Every week or so we have another Brexit minister spokesman being


dredged up. Seeing that we don't know how this will work out. There's


this disdainful attitude that some of these ministers seem to show for


the former European partners which makes one believe that the


negotiations are not going to be very beneficial for the UK. Scotland


will be left out and have to take whatever the UK and London decides


for it. And I think that Nicola Sturgeon said that we need to have a


voice ear and the only way we can have a voice is a referendum and to


seek our own relationship with Europe. She feels she has a mandate


because was an overwhelming victory for the SNP both in the UK election


the Scottish election. Let's be bringing Iain Martin. Kevin touches


on the resentment that many Scots feel that this is such an important


decision and we are being ignored but economically they could see the


case for leaving the United Kingdom is worse now. It is much worse and


this is a bit rich for Kevin Stockburger chaos when we'll see in


the SNP can't even answer basic questions about the economy such as


which currency Scotland were dues. I think it is key to remember the


Scottish people and the polls are very clear this do not want an early


referendum. Voters in Scotland, just as in England, a perfectly


reasonable and weather or not they voted for Brexit it is preposterous


the idea that you might in the middle of trying to negotiate this


difficult deal, difficult set of negotiations in late 2018 early 2019


that the UK Government would also have a referendum on breaking up the


UK. Nicola Sturgeon is made a point and maybe it suits everybody that


the Prime Minister is saying you can't have it just yet. Whatever


protestations are made in public maybe that is fine for Nicola


Sturgeon because she can point again to the arrogance of Westminster


telling us what to do. That is true. It may everybody gets a bit of what


they want but I think it is worth remembering that the SNP are


brilliant at politics but they are not perfect at it. They're


infallible. And they are not now pretty wanted to be are intended to


be after the Brexit referendum. By now Scottish anger about Brexit was


supposed to have led to a clamour for an instant referendum and move


into the European Union which incidentally the SNP are now backing


away from and no seems to favour some sort of Norway status because


so many SNP voters actually voted for Brexit. A third of SNP voters 42


leave the European Union. Sturgeon finds herself in a tricky position.


Alissa There are governments in Europe that are concerned such as


Spain concerned that of Scotland gets out the same will happen for


Catalonia. I think this was an old argument against independence of


Scotland in the eyes of the European Union but this has been surpassed by


events. -- Annalisa. Britain is sabotaging our union. There is a


reason for resentment out there. If people in favour Brexit were to be


punished by the break-up of the United Kingdom I guess a lot of


people would not be so displeased any more. We do not know what


relationship Scotland would want if it were to be independent but would


that make it easier? Would there be more of a welcome for the Scots? I


think so. It is understandable because it would be a validation of


the regional dimensions of the European Union which is very


important as well and the fact that the Scots would be ready to leave


the UK to rejoin the EU would be an encouragement and don't forget that


the European Union is changing very fast. All the convection prejudice


are changing as well. There is a lot of goodwill towards redesigning the


European Union. It is all up in air. Nobody has a solid and comprehensive


view on the matter. The battle of the two unions. The two are


interconnected. What ever happens to the first, pulling out from Europe


through Brexit, will certainly affect the United Kingdom. There are


noises now, certainly Scotland is started. Maybe you will hear that


from Northern Ireland as well. It is very interesting seeing how it will


be sorted out, the relationship between Northern Ireland and Ireland


which is part of the European Union. Today Gordon Brown, former Prime


Minister, came up with this new or third option. That is what is


calling it. Give Scotland the devolved authority and more power,


even to the extent that they can sign international treaties, and


also power to do their own agriculture policies. A lot of other


things as well. At the same time remain in the United Kingdom. So


Theresa May should really take a look into all of these things.


Kevin, I wanted to bring you on about some of the criticisms that


Iain may. You could say if that is another referendum in two or three


years fatigue of having the same party in power for Scotland my not


play into the interests of the SNP. As we know, you cover criticism


about how the NHS is working and the education system which any


Government gets but it is not a great platform for going to the


people in Singh should be independent. There were a couple


things that I would like to pick Iain up on. We're not talking about


referendum any time soon. We're talking at the earliest next autumn


and probably more towards spring which is two years away. That is


within Theresa May 's own timetable for the conclusion of Brexit talks.


We're not too far away. With regard to the economy or future predictions


of Scotland's future economy, any uncertainty is surely going to be


eclipsed by the economic apocalypse which could be visited upon the UK


as a result of a harder Brexit and a chaotic Brexit which is what we have


at the moment. To address that point about the internal workings of the


country, the SNP as a Government does have a responsibility to


improve for instance the attainment gap in Scotland in education and


that is one thing the Nicola Sturgeon this First Minister in


Scotland asked us and the country to judge a run at the next election in


2021. Yeah, it be host the SNP -- be holes -- behoves the SNP to do this.


Calling a referendum at any time is a risk. The Prime Minister believes


there has been an attack on the southern status of the Scottish


Parliament. That is yes majority there. Looking at how this is being


handled and the kind of things that are being said in Parliament and the


lack of scrutiny from the Labour opposition, it is not picture. In


terms of Brexit and also the budget. We have seen a complete U-turn on a


major part of policy within a couple of days and be seen the


interrogation of the Prime Minister at prime ministers question time but


the Leader of the Opposition which was not exactly forensics. What I'm


trying to say is that politics in Westminster does not inspire a great


deal of confidence that people actually know what they're doing.


I'm not sure it is restricted to Westminster. Talking about the


European Union having the prosperity of 20 countries does not really


applying grease. I always said it would be difficult. -- in Greece. I


do not agree with Kevin saying this is an apocalypse. This week Mr David


Davis said he does not even have a simulation of what the cost would


be. Can you imagine if he said I have run the numbers and would you


like a paper on the economic apocalypse which is coming? Key


thing which is not focused on that is focused on in Germany is that the


UK runs the Eurozone. It runs 75% of the debt markets. The Eurozone is a


giant gets machine and runs out of the City of London. This is why


Germany does not want to see disrupted. A deal, if everyone is


sensible, it's possible. But if you bought it for Brexit and use other


battle bus that said 350 million a week for the NHS if you bought for


us, which is a very specific figure which perhaps nobody believed, there


was great specifics about how it was going to be fantastic and know there


is no specifics. -- now. All the evidence so far is that the


overwhelming body of public opinion in the UK, people just really want


to get on with it. May is bowling extremely well because people think


a reasonable person who's going to try to try to get a deal. A deal is


possible but she is also preparing the ground in case it is not a deal.


Which is not the apocalypse. Go and tell the British farmers that 40%


tariffs slapped. Because of the deals that the UK would fall on


automatically if it crashes are the single murky. How on earth will be


cold protruding like the Americans and the Chinese? You would sell your


beef did Americans? You used to be a nation of shopkeepers and you you


what was the value of selling to 500 million people is on your doorstep.


Now you see will sell everything to New Zealand and Canada are America.


One thesis is that she would swap the single murky of 509 people with


this. It is not one of the other, it is both. France and Germany want to


trade with the UK and the UK wants to trade with France and Germany. If


everyone a sensible deal can be done. But Theresa May has said no


deal is better than a bad deal. Kevin, you wanted to come in. When I


talked about some of the enforcer rhetoric of some of the ministers


responsible for these negotiations, people like Liam Fox talking about


building another empire. No, he didn't. And saying that Britain


doesn't have anything to apologise for any of its history. We're


talking about 27 member states we have to with. I don't think anything


that they have seen the last eight months coming out of Westminster,


covering out of Britain, instils in them any confidence that they are


dealing with somebody who as you keep seeing a sensible about this.


Meanwhile in Scotland, Scotland has a history with Europe which predates


its history with England. We were dealing and trading with Europe at a


time when England and the rest of the UK was wanting to fight them


compete with them in Africa and Asia. Scotland has a longer history


of European involvement and multiculturalism than the rest of


the union. Kevin is a brilliant journalist and an old friend. I can


remember when there was an Irish nationalist and when he was a


British Unionist to stop know he is a Scottish Nationalists. It is


nonsense to say that Liam Fox said he was trying to invent the empire.


It is simply not the case. Perhaps that is influenced a lot of people


took it. That is what of the record one official said to a newspaper and


it is not the same thing. We are really watching that in the third


World. With great interest. The debate on Brexit and Scotland. We


also look at it with a great entry because we do not have such


diplomacy unfortunately. We can sort it out very quickly by using the


army and they put an end to it. I don't think that will happen here.


How interested people across Europe on this? I go to Germany and they


are interested in one thing which is mainly the German elections. France,


the same thing. The headlines in a lot of union papers this week were


about the stand-off with Turkey as they put it with Turkish


interference as they see it. The situation in the world is very


serious. We have a situation of chaos. All across the borders of the


European Union and North Africa and the Middle East. Ukraine. Today the


first contingent of 800 British troops are on the Estonian border to


try to deter the aggression of Russia. There are big things going


on in the world. What is not really clear in Britain is for the rest of


Europe Brexit is sorted. So now Britain has to get on with it. They


will say today in the German parliament we have understood that


it is going to take a very long time for the British to understand the


kind of self-inflicted pain that they have chosen so we just need to


wait and see. And that sums up the situation. That is a complete


misrepresentation. Why did the polls when it came to London just before


Christmas bring their entire cabinet? -- Poles. They are most


worried about Russian incursion. The UK is the second power in Nato and


the leading intelligence listening power. It is very strong relations


with the French but it is a key part of the European security system. We


do take our responsibility seriously. The Polish realise and


increased with the German I speak to realise that that is much more to


the European question than the narrow question of the European


Union. Britain is going to have to do more, France is going to have to


do more to defend its border. Because of Russia. There are very


serious issues that are much more important to the EU as an


institution. Let's move onto one of those very serious issues.


Six years ago this week the people of Syria rose up


Six years on an the dictator is still in place


Can anyone see an end to this war whose humanitarian


It doesn't seem that there's an end at the moment, not even really in


the foreseeable future. Unless the world attitude towards what is


happening in Syria changes. And that really means the involvement of the


West directly. With troops? Not necessarily only troops. Troops will


not sorted out. The West is used troops before in other conflicts.


The last of which was the former Yugoslavia. Troops were not enough.


We have to deal with the economy and sanctions and trade and


reconstruction as well. You're talking about hundreds of billions


of pounds. For reconstruction in the country. Over the country the


estimates by United Nations agencies and the World Bank and the rest of


them is huge. Unless the United States and the EU and the UK and


France and Germany, certainly, this should have come around and bring


over a vision to sort it out. Stop or contain Russia to start with. And


also put a limit to Iran interfering, not only in the country


but in the entire region itself. How do you see this, Annalisa? There are


those who say they didn't want to see it any more. I think we all have


that kind of sorry. It is a tragic situation. People have become used


to horror and they can take it any more. But it is also a huge


responsibility for political leaders and people in the media to actually


explain more clearly that not looking at it will not make it go


away. North Africa and the Middle East, they are on fire. There is a


very difficult situation they are that is not going to improve. We


have seen America disengaging from a lot of those kind of scenarios and


Russia is increasingly belligerent. We cannot pretend that this is not


happening and look only at at our naval and think about Brexit. What


is danger just this -- the world is dangerous and we need to do


something. Kevin, there is a sense that some people have compassion


fatigue and there is much worse ahead. It is not just humanity doing


terrible things to other human beings, it is Somalia and the


drought and people are on the move and the migration question. This


will be the story of at least the next decade and it seems to be


getting worse. You can never overestimate the common humanity and


humanity of ugly people. Who responded to these crises in many


countries and the charitable giving and taking refugees and asylum


seekers into homes. You can't overestimate that. But that is a


pretty going on because whenever that are these humanitarian crises


in what we have previous to call the third World and parts of the Middle


East, and Africa, we put up our hands and we express horror at it


and then we move on. But Syria is going to be with us for another


generation at least. And the West, if they are going to make any


movement, they have two face up to their responsibilities in the region


and face up to the part it played in quite a lot of that instability. I


want to bring in Iain. I agree with that. It is shaming and shameful. I


think it is also understandable. A lot of it is down to the position


that President Obama took. That came after the Iraq experiment and


Afghanistan and the financial crisis. There was no appetite in the


West to engage properly with these problems. The result is a human


catastrophe and I think it is really down to a failure of leadership in


the west across parties and across the country is. To then vacate that


space and responsibility and allow the Russians to fill the vacuum of


thing will be a catastrophe. It will not work. People are being killed


daily. Human life means nothing nowadays and fortunately. The people


of the region are paying the price of the failed policy of the West. In


Iraq and Afghanistan. And Libya. And everywhere else.


That's it for Dateline London for this week.


I'm leaving the BBC in a week's time and so Dateline London next week


I hope you can join me and my guests.


The rest of this week will bring a mild and breezy weather for the vast


majority that cloud amounts and rainfall amounts will vary. Aberdeen


Shire started fairly bright.