13/10/2016 Newsnight


Covering the story of the Syrian refugee accused of sexual assault in Newcastle, the prospect of a new referendum for Scotland, the Marmite economy, and Margaret Atwood.

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They escaped Syria's civil war only to find themselves centre


Three refugees are accused of sexual assault in Newcastle.


They say false claims were the product of


Newsnight has followed the family of one of those accused over


We were with them as the verdict came through.


Did you ever think, this is worse than what we left behind?


They're using the result as a cover for a hard Brexit for which they


But which they intend to impose regardless.


Sturgeon pulls no punches as she tells the Prime Minister


to listen to her on Brexit or face the consequences of a second


We'll hear live from former Scottish Europe Minister and leader


of the SNP's In campaign, Humza Yousaf.


Mortify my flesh that I may be multiplied.


The Handmaid's Tale is only one of the politically inspired novels


that today won Margaret Atwood the 2016 Pinter Prize.


She tells me why her dystopic novel of female enslavement feels even


Unfortunately, at the time I wrote it, there were people


who were saying this could never happen in America.


I don't think people are saying that much any more.


What should rich countries like ours be doing to help


the millions of people trying to escape Syria's


It's a question that has paralysed Europe for much


After argument and agonising, Britain agreed to take 20,000


A tiny number compared to the million offered


But when one of the first to arrive in Britain was charged with sexually


assaulting a schoolgirl earlier this year, some feared even this


modest influx could create dangerous tensions.


Newsnight has been following the family at the heart of this


Today 18-year-old Omar Badreddin and two other Syrian refugees


were cleared of sexually assaulting a schoolgirl in a park in Newcastle.


Katie Razzall and producer Maria Polachowska chart one family's


journey from a war-ravaged Syrian town to the steps


The film contains some disturbing images.


Relief for a family that has suffered so much. For the past three


weeks, Omar Badreddin has been on trial at Newcastle Crown Court,


charged with sexual assault. Today he was found not guilty.


The Badreddins came from Syria, looking for respite after years of


war. But this family quickly found that in taking up the offer of


century, they had replaced a war zone with a different kind of hell.


Did you ever think this was worse than what you had left behind?


Newsnight has been filming this family for 11 months. What began as


a story of escape from war became a window on the isolation of beginning


a new life. In a country where not everybody wants you, where a sexual


assault charge provokes a far right demonstration. Faced off by


antiracism campaigners. A 14-year-old girl had accused Omar


Badreddin along with two other Syrians of working together to grope


and kiss her behind a pavilion in this local park. Her friends said


they had done the same to her. The jury unanimously found all the man


not guilty. At a time when we are navigating how


to help people in desperate need, plenty are suspicious of newcomers,


with their different customs and traditions. And that, believes Omar


Badreddin, was at the heart of the case against them.


Their nightmare began on May the tenth this year, the first the


family knew of their son Omar's arrest was when he didn't come home.


Omar and one of his co-accused spent a month in Durham prison before


getting bail. Jordan is where I first met Omar's


family in November last year, just before they moved to the UK and the


next extraordinary chapter in their lives began. Like many Syrians, they


were renting a flat in the capital. I mother, father and four children


who had fled Syria two years before, leaving one son, their eldest,


Abdul, behind. There are 670,000 Syrian refugees


living in Jordan. With their father blind in one eye and suffering


various health conditions, only Omar, who was then 17 Thommo could


earn money. He worked 14 hour days in a shoe shop. After paying for


water, food and rent, there was no money left for schooling. The


children had lost years of formal education, though they tried to keep


up. They are from Muthana, near Damascus. At our first meeting, they


told me they had gone on peaceful demonstrations against the


Government when the uprising began. The army cracks down.


We can't verify the truth of these claims, but the family and their


testimonies have been vetted by UNHCR to get into Britain, because


unlike most Syrian refugees, they were lucky, deemed vulnerable enough


by UNHCR to require resettlement. Last November, Britain took them in.


What was your first thought when you were told you were going to Britain?


This family never planned to leave their home, never conceived of


moving to Britain, but when they boarded that plane, they could not


have envisaged what lay ahead. This is your house? The first time


we met in Britain, they were settling into their new life, full


of hope. They have a council flat in


Newcastle. The council asked us not to identify where exactly.


Omar and Mohammed? Like around 3000 Syrians so far, they have been


brought to the UK on the Government's vulnerable persons


relocation scheme, expanded by David Cameron last year. The family are


3000 miles from Syria, but the front line is never far away.


Now you are sitting here watching the news from here, further away


from Syria, do you think the West should be doing more? What do you


think should be happening? As new arrivals, apart from school


and English classes, the family mainly stayed at home. Omar at this


stage didn't appear to have friends or a social life, and his father


poured over the so-called Caesar files, more than 50,000 images


smuggled out of Syria, many of which apparently document people who have


died in government detention, his friends amongst them. Who is this


man? How did you know him? Bashar al-Assad was asked about


these, and he said, you say this is torture, but anybody could have done


it, the Syrian government hasn't done this.


Marwan claims to speak from experience. Torture is one of the


criteria listened as qualifying Syrians for the resettlement are


grand that brought the family to Britain he was tortured either


regime. What did they do to you? For this family, things were about


to get a lot worse. Their first ever trip to the beach was perhaps the


last time Maymouna would smile before their lives would implode


again. This conservative family stood out a bit in ten white, even


on the beach, for some members, paddling on the beach is done fully


clothed. Less than two months after this day


trip, Omar was arrested. But one of his sons on remand in a British


prison, only a few days later, another misfortune struck the


family. They talked to me about their eldest son, who they said got


stuck in Syria when they fled. In May they heard he had died.


Like much that happens in civil War, the truth is Liz McColgan kidded and


we later learned that for the past year, he was fighting for an


Islamist group. All of this father denied that made him an extremist.


A sexual assault in this park would have put their second son behind


bars. Face of it the case involves three older men preying on two


underage girls but the court heard one of the girls had told lies in


the past. The defence wanted it to run out and damning statements made


by the men in police interviews turned out to have been


mistranslated. As the evidence emerged, Syrian men appeared less


sexually experienced than the girls who they were supposed to have


attacked. Another defendant revealed he had never even seen two people


kissing. 18-year-old Omar told me he never had a sexual encounter of any


kind. The reaction by far right groups to


the impending trial was not surprising. But others, particularly


since the six attacks in Cologne, were ready to blame cultural


differences by the way the Syrians were alleged to have behaved. His


parents never accepted that. Do you think it is possible that boys like


Omar see women in the West, girls in the West, they view them differently


from how they view and the respect they have for women from their own


culture? No. No. Britain has promised 20,000 Syrians


will be resettled in the UK by 2020 on the same scheme as a family. I


asked local council had offered new arrivals, 73 in Newcastle, any


classes on attitudes to in Britain. Did you talk to Omar and other


children about what the council said in that cultural talk?


With the trial hanging over them, they have tried to make these


difficult times happier for their other children. They have been


introduced to the cultures and traditions of the strange new land,


learning more about a country they will likely never call home.


Especially after what has happened. This visit to the beach feels like


an age ago, A time of optimism when Britain felt like it was offering a


new start. Now they are grateful that justice can beat me to died


fairly but for them, indication has come too late to repair the


reputational damage a family with so little prizes so very much. --


vindication. Scotland's First Minister has fired


a warning shot to Theresa May that she must listen


to the SNP on Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon told her party


conference today that if the Conservative government


was not prepared to listen, she'd demand a second


Independence Referendum. She confirmed to the surprise


of many supporters that she would publish a referendum


bill for consultation next week. Or a step on the way


to a second vote? Nick Watt is at the conference


for us. Well, this was the week when the


harsh reality of Brexit across the UK struck home. First it was


turning, then the supermarkets and today Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon


caused some surprise when she said she wanted to create the possibility


of an independent Scotland being ready to join the EU before those


Brexit negotiations have concluded. If it is a hard Brexit. I will be


joined by the Scottish transport minister but first, here is my take


on the events of today. It's wild expanses can make Scotland feel


remote from the rest of the UK. But today, this semi-detached corner of


Britain showed that it can shape events across our island. I can


confirm... APPLAUSE


I can confirm today that the independence Referendum Bill will be


published for consultation next week.


APPLAUSE Nicola Sturgeon has been treading


carefully since the EU referendum after the people of Scotland took a


different view to the rest of the UK and voted to remain. Unexpected


spike in support for independence failed to materialise but today the


Scottish first Minister warns Theresa May that she might formally


demand a second independence referendum before the end of the EU


negotiations if the Prime Minister negotiates a hard Brexit. The SNP's


new Deputy Leader says his party does mean business. Perhaps what is


happening at the conference is a wake-up call and there needs to be a


realisation in Downing Street and in the Labour Party that there is a


strong mandate in Scotland to protect our place in Europe and if


our friends site of the border do not get that, we are going to get on


with it ourselves. It was a big moment when the first minister but a


second independence referendum on the table, delegates who feared she


was going soft on the defining issue for their party left to their feet


but Nicola Sturgeon is no gambler and she made clear she would only


take this momentous step if she fails in her first girl to build up


a cross-party Alliance to campaign against a hard Brexit for the whole


of the UK. But events might move more quickly than the SNP had


expected. Donald Tusk, European Council president, said in Brussels


today there is only one way to leave the EU- are hard Brexit. In my


opinion, the only real alternative to a hard Brexit is no Brexit.


APPLAUSE Even if today, hardly anyone


believes in such a possibility. Angus Robertson made clear that a


referendum will be held if that is the only way to preserve Scotland's


membership. Unless you realise that remain means remain, we will take


the power into our own hands as a nation whether people are sovereign,


having voted 62% to remain, and will do whatever it takes be sure we


protect our place in Europe. Scotland's most eminent historian,


who supports independence, warns that an early second referendum


would be a risk. It would be counter-productive for the current


government to go again to the country until, as they previously


said, something like 60% of April independence vote in the opinion


polls over a period of time. One of the things that concerned me about


this is the Canadian situation. Quebec. When they left it for too


long to go for the other boat and the constitutional position in


Canada is more or less stable. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives


agrees. I think Nicola Sturgeon is trying to ride two horses, half of


the members want another referendum tomorrow and she is trying to keep


them happy and she also has the opinion polls telling her we don't


want another referendum, we want to move on and it was another one


tomorrow she would lose, she knows then she would have to go and the


SNP independence project would be defeated. Ruth Davidson warns that


Scots might not be wildly enamoured of the EU. Very few people who go to


sleep underneath European flag... That is a hard sell. I would not


underestimate that one was not a proxy vote from the other. The


largest block of supporters of any political party that voted to leave


the European Union and Scotland were SNP voters, around 400,000, if it


was not a proxy for others... I want to stay part of the UK but I've


ordered to remain so the SNP cannot co-opt my vote to mean something


else. The warnings from north of the border were given short shrift in


London, which believes Nicola Sturgeon might be bluffing. Theresa


May will hope she only has to battle over one union. I am joined by Hamza


Yousuf, the Scottish transport minister. Nicola Sturgeon outlined a


two point plan, forming a coalition of the willing across the UK to keep


Britain in the single market but that does not work she talks about a


referendum on independence before the end of those negotiations. If it


is a hard Brexit but today Donald Tusk said there is only one form of


Brexit and it is hard. Why not hold that referendum right now? The first


Minister is doing what she said she would do in the run-up to the


Scottish election but the European referendum, that would be that we


maintain our place in the EU if Scots wanted that and they did. We


will put together a proposal which will hopefully not just give


Scotland and the single market, I want to see the whole of the UK


remaining within the single market and the ball would be in the Court


of Theresa May, if she can secure those proposals, secure those


interests for Scotland then that would be great, we will stay within


the EU and will have access to the single market. If not, we reserve


the right to have that referendum and that option is on the table. It


is not the first resort. Do not have a problem? You thought there would


be a surge of support for independence if the UK voted out of


the EU. That has not happened and also, your fiscal prospectus you put


before Scotland in 2014 has disappeared with collapse in the oil


price? Let's take those points one by one.


On the financial and fiscal case the independence, we put together a


report by various economists, I think we could have done better on


the economic case for independence, but we need to go through those


arguments and put together a stronger case for the economy. But


before we get to that point, we are not saying we will hold an


independence referendum immediately. Every poll has shown an increase in


independence, but let's argue for Scotland's interests and make sure


that we can protect Scotland's lace within the European Union, access to


the single market, but if that is not able to be secured, then we


reserve the right to hold another referendum.


But here we are talking about Scotland and the Constitution, but


you failed to get a majority in the Holyrood election earlier this year.


Don't you need to be talking about bread-and-butter issues? I don't


think it is one or the other. The two I linked. We achieved a historic


third term that no other political party has achieved in the Scottish


Parliament, so that is a huge mandate for us to move forward.


Literacy and numerous erects are falling, you should be defined on


that not the Constitution. NHS waiting list are going down, record


investment in our transport system, we're doing incredible things in the


third term like free prescriptions, three education, concessionary


travel. We are getting on with the job, but we shouldn't say that we


won't be protected Scotland's interests. If we don't get access to


the single market, that will affect businesses. There was a widespread


knowledge report today that that could reduce wages by ?2000 for


workers. That is people's real life, so we have to protect Scotland's


interests as best we can. And indeed, as you say, get on with the


bread-and-butter job of Government. If we weren't doing that, we


wouldn't have been elected for a third term. OK, Humza Yousaf, thank


you very much. MLA, back to you in the studio.


Marmite, it seems, will live to see another day on UK


This evening, Unilever confirmed the price dispute was over.


Last night Tesco halted sales of many Unilever brands


after the supplier threatened to raise prices due to a fall


Last night on this programme, former Northern Foods Chairman Lord Haskins


told me that Brexit had thrown what he called a "huge wobble"


Lord Simon Wolfson, the CEO of Next, who today announced the Wolfson


Economics Prize would be awarded to the best solution for overhauling


We are going to come onto roads and your prize in a moment. Thank you


for coming in. As a retailer, how do you make sense of a dispute that


seemed to be making such waves last night, and has gone today? I think


the reality is it is probably a very bad idea to have your negotiations


in public, but underlying all of this is the simple fact, if that


pound devalued by a lot, then prices of imported goods will go up, and


there isn't any way around that. I don't think they will go up by as


much as people think, and not as much as the pound has devalued,


because retailers will negotiate as hard as they can to keep prices


where they are. And it will be the same on the high street? Is that


something you with your stores and others would expect a scene for the


consumer? Yes, it will flow eventually through to the economy,


but the thing to bear in mind is most of us have bought our currency


for next year already, so these changes will take time, and it


depends whether pound ends up, and that will depend on people's


confident in the British economy, which is where things like investing


in infrastructure is so important, because those things will get our


economy moving. I know you hate the term is hard and soft Brexit, but


you have warned against becoming isolationist as a country. What is


the direction you favour at the moment? Do we need to be in the


single market? Can only flourish out of the single market? What would be


best for you as a businessman? The hard and soft Brexit language is


very dangerous. What we need to say is do we want an open or closed


Brexit. If we are going to pull up the drawbridge and set up all sorts


of barriers, then our economy will fail. So it is important that we


remain in a customs union? Not necessarily. What is important is


that we remain an open economy, and that depends on our attitude to all


sorts of things like immigration, trade agreements with other


countries as well as the European Union, and our attitude of going


into negotiations with an open mind and wanting to get the best


Austevoll deal for Britain. And contributions? We have understood we


will probably be paying quite substantial amounts of money to get


access in some shape or form to the single market? Is that money worth


paying now? I think it depends on what we get in return, and


ultimately running any form of free trade organisation will involve some


cost. If those costs are reasonable than they are worth paying. But


ultimately we have to recognise that the more free trade we have in the


world the better. That doesn't mean we can't be an independent nation.


One of the things people got confused about is they assumed


Brexit is a vote isolation, but is about the independence. Whether we


become isolated or a free trading at Wood looking nation depends on what


the Government does in the next two or three years. And you are looking


specifically at roads and infrastructure around them with your


prize. Do you think more money should be going into that? It should


be going in the right way, and politicians love to talk about how


much they are spending, but it is whether it is spent well or badly.


Investment in bad infrastructure is wealth destruction, investment in


good infrastructure creates wealth. 90% of our journeys are on roads.


The taxpayer, the British road users, pay ?33 billion in taxes to


use the roads, mainly through fuel tax, and the Government only spends


?9 billion on roads. Do you think infrastructure has been ignored up


until now? We know there has been this shift of focus away from QE to


infrastructure. Do you think that is overdue? I think the emphasis has


been an wrong infrastructure, grand projects like HS2, Hinkley point.


Big projects that cost an enormous amount of money rather than the


myriad of small projects we need, things like the extra little mini


roundabout that will make someone's Jenny to work 20 minutes faster. So


you would get rid of HS2 and Hinkley point? I think we need to look at


the returns Government are getting on any type of investment, and that


should make money for Government, because it is all of our money that


they are investing. The road user gets a benefit with a better road,


and the Government should get the return from investing in it. If they


don't, and there is no return in HS2, there is a real risk that the


money will be wasted. If it is invested in the roads, it can get


people to work faster and home faster, there is a chance not only


of improved quality-of-life but also of boosting our economy. Thank you


very much for coming in. Thank you very much.


When Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale


more than 30 years ago, a dystopian novel of female


subjugation, many told her the world she created was too


Today, she won the Pen Pinter Prize, awarded for an "unflinching,


unswerving gaze upon the world" and says she believes today's


political climate in America means the work has more resonance


I went to meet her as she publishes her latest novel, Hagseed,


I began by asking her whether she ever imagined reality


would get anywhere close to the world she created


Probably writing The Handmaid's Tale, which Harold Pinter did the


screenplay for, that was when I first met him. So that, because I


used nothing in the book that hadn't been done at sometime somewhere. And


do you think with The Handmaid's Tale it feels like it belongs to an


era, or could you be writing the book today without it having dated?


Unfortunately, at the time I wrote it there were people who were saying


I don't think people are saying that much any more.


Because of the kinds of things we have seen coming out


Just recently the hashtag #RepealThe19th, which means take


So that comes dangerously close to the world of The Handmaid's Tale.


I doubt that you would get those exact same costumes!


But a lot of the diminishment, disempowerment, disenfranchisement


What is it that brings you to The Tempest?


And is it too simplistic to say you were inspired by the political


Because I started writing this several years ago but those themes


of revenge and power are, of course, in a lot


of Shakespeare's work and in a lot of work of all kinds.


Those are two very strong human themes.


Among other things, we see Trump already feeling that he should get


revenge on the Republican Party for not going along


I want to just get back to Felix and Hagseed, and getting back at people.


That seems to be how it is working in various parts of the world.


Except that people are being blamed for conditions that they have not in


fact created. Like what? Like what. Is it the fault of all Muslim


immigrants to the United States that there have been some terror attacks?


Like that. Let me just ask you about the Nobel Prize for Literature


awarded to Bob Dylan. What you think about that?


I think it is a very strategically placed win.


The US election and everything that is going on there.


A US countercultural figure from the '60s is selected.


You think it was intended to send a message


But these things are often political in the broad sense of the term.


So choosing a person from that time, that place, who had that message,


I would say is sending a very broad message, which is not


And in this scenario, Trump is the Nixon of


We don't know because I can't read people's minds.


Margaret Atwood talking to me earlier. That's all we have time for


this evening. Evan is back here tomorrow night. Good night.


Hello there. It was cold if you were caught in the wind and showers.


Probably colder in the south, although we have fewer showers here.


Bracing in the North, and there will still be showers


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Emily Maitlis. Covering the story of the Syrian refugee accused of sexual assault in Newcastle, the prospect of a new referendum for Scotland, the Marmite economy, and Margaret Atwood.