17/05/2017 Newsnight


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17/05/2017

A special programme from Northern Ireland on the general election. And Liberal Democrat Vince Cable discusses a referendum on the final EU exit deal. Kirsty Wark presents.


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Tonight we're live in Northern Ireland where the general

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election campaign is being dominated by the impending split

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from the European Union, which in turn is hardening

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You are in the Republic and I am in Northern Ireland,

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or the UK or whatever you like to call it.

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We'll be debating Northern Ireland's future at the edge of the EU,

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with senior figures from the main political parties here.

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And here in London, parts of the Conservative manifesto

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are emerging tonight ahead of its launch tomorrow,

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we'll hear about their new policy on social care.

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And, we'll look at the Lib Dem manifesto too.

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Vince Cable will tell us whether it is about more

:00:43.:00:45.

The general election has come at a time for Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland's political scene is entirely different

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from anywhere else in the UK, but right now devolution, Stormont,

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is suspended after a bust-up between the DUP and Sinn Fein,

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That in turn has huge implications for Northern Ireland's voice

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in the Brexit negotiations and the role of the 18 Westminster

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After Brexit, and Northern Ireland voted to remain, Northern Ireland

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will be the UK's only land frontier with the EU.

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There are few people here who believe a hard border

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would be anything other than disastrous, and the EU's chief

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negotiator Michel Barnier has said categorically that said the border

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issue was one of three priorities to be resolved before Britain can

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negotiate a trade deal, something disputed at the weekend

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Sinn Fein have used Brexit to ramp up their call

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for a referendum on unification, and the EU has agreed that

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in the event of a vote to unify, Northern Ireland would automatically

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be subsumed into the EU as part of Ireland.

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The DUP say a border poll would destabilise Northern Ireland

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Once again in Northern Ireland the divide comes down to unionists

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Before we debate the issues with senior figures in the main

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political parties here, the BBC's Ireland correspondent

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Chris Buckler explores the key issues at play in the election,

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against a divide that seems to be reasserting itself.

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Invisible lines in this land will soon mark where one union

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This will be the edge of both the EU and the UK.

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Davy Crockett is a descendant of his namesake, the famous

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His farm, which straddles the Irish border on the outskirts

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of Londonderry, makes him the king of a new frontier.

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This is the border, you are in the Republic and I am

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in Northern Ireland, or the UK, or whatever

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I can shake hands with you here, across the divide!

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But if this border was to go sometime in the future,

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the EU has made clear that Northern Ireland could be part

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Do you think that being part of the European Union would be

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an incentive for people to vote for a united Ireland?

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Agriculture would be better in Europe, but the vast majority

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of the people will be afraid of losing what they'd get

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from the British taxpayer, not what they'd get from Europe.

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But Republicans believe Brexit could strengthen their case,

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and support for their ultimate aim, a united Ireland.

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It's only three months since the last vote here,

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a bitter Assembly election that left the parties deeply divided,

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Sinn Fein say they won't go back into power-sharing with unionists

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unless some of their demands are met, including legislation that

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would give official status to the Irish language.

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If you feed a crocodile, they're going to keep coming back

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That was the Democratic Unionist leader's response to calls

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It fired Republican anger and helped Sinn Fein

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to its best election result, however, something they celebrated

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But Arlene Foster now appears to be trying to reach out,

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even speaking Irish when she visited this Catholic school in Newry.

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Irish is the first language of just a 0.25% of the population here,

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but it's important to the students who the DUP leader

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Whether you see yourself as Irish, whether you see yourself

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as Northern Irish, whether you see yourself as British,

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You feel more Irish than Northern Irish?

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Reinforcing an Irish identity is important in Sinn Fein's push

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for what's known as a border poll, a referendum vote on Irish unity.

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With the heart, it's the passion, it's the love of the Irish language,

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culture, and the hope one day of the reunification of Ireland.

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But I don't know if this is the time for it or not.

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The peace walls that divide much of Belfast mark out what are broadly

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seen as Catholic nationalist areas from Protestant unionist

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But there are population changes taking place here that

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could have an impact on any future border poll.

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When do you think the number of Catholics will outnumber

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Is there a danger in overplaying the number of Catholics actually

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Well, the census figures might overplay that,

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and here I'm just calling to mind evidence I remember seeing

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from public surveys, where I saw evidence that a quarter

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of Sinn Fein voters wouldn't vote for a united Ireland just then.

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Years of peace have changed places like Belfast, and that's not

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Many accept that the clash of cultures here is part

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One in five say they see themselves as Northern Irish.

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But Tina McKenzie, who was once part of a now defunct

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cross-community party called NI21, says the last election showed

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voters are motivated by conflict, not compromise.

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We had the biggest turnout since the Good Friday Agreement,

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ten percentage points up on last time.

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That's because people actually felt threatened.

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There was this call from Unionists to say we might get

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It pulls at the strings of people's core identity.

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Modern politics in Northern Ireland is still something of

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And that's not surprising, when you consider that many

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voters lived through years of horrendous violence.

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I was going in and out of consciousness.

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Jim Dixon was seriously injured in the Enniskillen bombing.

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My skull was smashed like an eggshell.

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I was split from here right up to here, and my jaw

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The IRA attack on a Remembrance Day service in that town 30

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years ago is an event that is impossible to forget.

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People today are being told a lot of garbage about "these

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Nobody's changed, to get to where they're going,

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If they never had started, there would have been a united

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Killing and murdering people doesn't unite people.

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How people see and want that troubled past to be

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remembered is something that divides communities.

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Legacy and issues of identity polarise with every vote here,

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and that will be true once again in this general election,

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with unionists appealing to their core base and nationalists

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theirs, all contributing to the many reasons why there's

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no strong nor stable government at Stormont.

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At election time, nationalists and unionists often seem to be

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But away from the heat of that battle for votes,

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they need to find ways of understanding each other,

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otherwise the past will continue to haunt future generations,

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be they British, Irish or Northern Irish.

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I'm joined now by Claire Hanna from the SDLP, Jeffrey Donaldson

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of the DUP, Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd, Naomi Long from the Alliance

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Party, and the Ulster Unionists' Steve Aiken.

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Thank you for joining us tonight. Jeffrey Donaldson, the implication

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of Brexit being at the heart of this election is that it reinforces the

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divide. The DUP was the only party that voted for Brexit. That's true

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but 45% of the people of Northern Ireland voted for Brexit and we get

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30% normally in an election. So we are fishing in a big pond as far as

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we are concerned. I sense it when I'm out canvassing, I think support

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for the DUP is going to increase as a result of Brexit, I think people

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are voting DUP dizzy Brexit delivered. John O'Dowd, Sinn Fein

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used the spectre of Brexit to push for unification but the figures

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don't add up. An opinion poll said only 22% support a united Ireland.

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Are you rolling back from the idea of a referendum on unification?

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Brexit is the biggest constitutional change on the island of Ireland

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since partition. The figures you quote are similar to the Scottish

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independence polls a year before the Scottish independence referendum. We

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do not fear a referendum on Irish unity, bring on the referendum. Do

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you really believe in the SDLP that there is any appetite for a vote on

:11:30.:11:34.

unification now? I think Brexit has undoubtedly put Irish unity further

:11:35.:11:38.

up the political agenda. All of the challenges that existed on the 22nd

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of June remain about reconciliation. If Brexit shows anything it's the

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division and damage of a massive constitutional question boiled down

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to a yes or no answer. And divisive it was, even in the UK. We think

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while we deal with a massive challenge, economic and political

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shocks of Brexit, polarising it and making it through a green and orange

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lenses and constructive. Steve Aiken, the UUP voted remain and are

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committed to making the best of Brexit... We are a Unionist party.

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You are pushing for special designation status for Northern

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Ireland, what is that? We are not looking for a special status. What

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we want is the best deal for Northern Ireland. We want to have

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Northern Ireland not being penalised by Brexit. More importantly, looking

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at the opportunities. We keep talking about the issues around

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borders. We shouldn't have any borders across these islands at all.

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We shouldn't have any hard borders. We should have free movement, we

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should have the ability to move trade and services across. One of

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the things we need to do is maintain the flow of over 1 billion euros a

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week... How would that work? Let's bring in the Alliance Party. You are

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a cross community party. How would there be no restrictions? That's not

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going to happen if you are outside a customs union. That's one of the

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real concerns. Despite the fact the country is quite divided over

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Brexit, but Scotland and Northern Ireland are unhappy, we have a

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government that seems to be hurtling towards the hardest of Brexit. We

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would expect that they would moderate its approach to Brexit and

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try and find a form of Brexit that would protect the best of what we

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have in the EU while living up to the demands of a democratic vote. We

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believe that we need to protect the freedom of movement we have in

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Northern Ireland, not a economically and socially but it's important

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politically in Northern Ireland. It's part of the expectation that

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phrase from the Good Friday Agreement. Do you really believe

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that the UUP's position is correct there will be no restrictions

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anywhere? It's impossible. We are talking about two separate economic

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units being forced on the people of the island of Ireland. And the north

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to remain within the EU. When we putting together to economic units

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pushed together against the will of the people bear is going to be

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barriers in place. We will bring you back into the light as soon as

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possible! Is a matter or LAUGHTER Coming back to you, Naomi, how do

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you squeeze in here? It is a polarised position and you will drop

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down a hole in the middle. Not at all. In the last election we polled

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our best vote in 40 years. Politics polarises but it motivates those of

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us who think that Brexit cannot be seen through an orange and green

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lens. It is much of a more general issue. It affects those on the

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national and Unionist sides. We need the best deal for Northern Ireland

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as a whole, that is good for the UK and good for Ireland. Claire? Going

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back on the special stat is, those of us that campaigned for Remainer

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has repeatedly how you could marry up the hard Brexiter is with the

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free movement that we need and enjoy, and we still have not had the

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answer. There is already specific circumstances here and we will need

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to be treated differently. One thing is for sure, the EU understands

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Northern Ireland better than the UK. Do you believe that Claire is right

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that there will have to be special designated status even though you

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were voting for Brexit and that was what he wanted? First of all, the

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idea that Brussels knows Northern Ireland better than London is just a

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nonsense. Let's knock out on the head. London noses plays very well.

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London funds this place. And has done for many years. The idea of a

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united Ireland, and being economically viable, that is just

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not sustainable. In terms of hard borders, no-one around this table is

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arguing for a hard border. The only people I hear talking the idea is

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not Steve and I, it is Sinn Fein. But what do you actually expect to

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happen? It is like the old days, Sinn Fein talking about and Ireland

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delete that united Ireland by blowing up the Dublin railway line.

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That is nonsensical. But did you expect that you would vote for

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Brexit and would be open borders and there would be no change, they would

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be free movement of people and tariffs? We have a common travel

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area on this Island, long before the EU existed. And we had a common

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immigration policy. And common customs policies. We will be able to

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work these issues through pragmatically. Elvis does not want a

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hard border. And we need a government. -- Belfast does not want

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a hard border. We need Belfast to function, to enable us to get a

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special deal. Right now you are denying the people of Northern

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Ireland a voice. Do you believe, without Stormont, that you will have

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a lesser voice in the negotiations? Do you believe that? In relation to

:17:22.:17:27.

the Brexit debate, the voice to listen to as the voice of the

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constitutional research Council which paid the DUP almost ?500,000

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to fund adverts, not here in the north but to influence your

:17:37.:17:40.

listeners in London, through the metro. Where did that money come

:17:41.:17:44.

from? Because it was a UK referendum, a referendum you did not

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take part in. You can shout me down... The lowest turnout was in

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nationalised west Belfast. Hang on, hang on. Let's not distract

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ourselves with this at the moment. What we want to talk about now is

:17:59.:18:01.

exactly what a border would look like and the impact for people on

:18:02.:18:05.

the border, what that would be. I want to ask you this, do you agree

:18:06.:18:13.

with Michel Barnier that without resolution on the border, they

:18:14.:18:16.

cannot be a trade deal? Here we are, at the beginning of the

:18:17.:18:20.

negotiations. There are all sorts of things to be negotiated. But do you

:18:21.:18:24.

agree? Let's talk about some of the wider issues. I was down in Dublin

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yesterday, listening to discussions about the Norway Sweden border,

:18:31.:18:33.

looking at the French Swiss model, and the fact that we are on islands,

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there are alternative approaches to make this happen. The UK has been a

:18:38.:18:41.

trading nation for 1000 years and we can make it work. But the problem is

:18:42.:18:46.

not going to be on the UK side of it, the problem is going to be the

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border posts that will be imposed by the EU and the Republic of Ireland.

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The Republic does not want that. The Republic and the United Kingdom want

:18:56.:18:58.

to work together to make it work and we can make it work. Do you believe

:18:59.:19:05.

that? I have to say that Steve's colleague was saying this week that

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Dublin should basically keep its nose out of Northern Ireland's

:19:09.:19:10.

business and now he is arguing that London and Dublin should be working

:19:11.:19:14.

closely together to make sure we get the best possible border. The

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reality is that if you have a customs differentiation, a

:19:19.:19:21.

differentiation in terms of duty, you will have to have some measure

:19:22.:19:24.

of being able to take a of that on the border. That may not result in

:19:25.:19:28.

the kind of borders that we had in the 1970s, which were there for

:19:29.:19:41.

security reasons, but no one has been able to take us to any location

:19:42.:19:43.

where there is a border between Europe and another nation and show

:19:44.:19:46.

us a seamless border that we should expect. It is right that we should

:19:47.:19:49.

be concerned about that. People are talking about a different kind of

:19:50.:19:51.

border, that what you would do is put in place essentially a land

:19:52.:19:54.

border, a border at the airports and ports. Is that impossible? Nothing

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is impossible in this day and age. We have electronic surveillance,

:19:57.:20:01.

and... But would you like that border? We have it already. We

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already have arrangements between the United Kingdom and the Republic

:20:07.:20:12.

of Ireland where there is a massive sharing of information. Every single

:20:13.:20:16.

day, Kirsty, people who come into Dublin, they have information fed

:20:17.:20:20.

through to London. That is happening already. Claire, do you fear the

:20:21.:20:25.

spectre of that hard and horrible border? I think not just for the

:20:26.:20:30.

economy but for the intangible benefits that came with the

:20:31.:20:33.

agreement and peace and free movement and access, to the rest of

:20:34.:20:38.

the Ireland, particularly for nationalists but also for the

:20:39.:20:41.

economy as well. If that is under threat, as you have outlined, a

:20:42.:20:45.

border around the island would be the only practical way that it would

:20:46.:20:49.

be unreasonable to expect Ireland enforce that. But hard Brexit leads

:20:50.:20:56.

to a hard border? I think the key question has to be, it is

:20:57.:21:01.

particularly things to do with business. It is not to do

:21:02.:21:05.

necessarily with tariffs, it is to do with regulation. Those are the

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important thing is that we need to sort out. Explain to me what would

:21:09.:21:16.

happen. If you have cross-border business is all the time,

:21:17.:21:21.

essentially one economy and two countries, so if you have a third of

:21:22.:21:24.

milk production from Northern Ireland existing in the Republic, is

:21:25.:21:28.

that a problem or is it not? Is it reciprocal? We are missing the point

:21:29.:21:32.

here, talking about soft or hard borders. It is an economic border

:21:33.:21:35.

and one that currently does not exist. Businesses who currently

:21:36.:21:39.

trade across the island of Ireland do not have to pay tariffs and

:21:40.:21:42.

customs, and they are going to have to pay those. How do you know that,

:21:43.:21:47.

John? The negotiations have not even begun. How do you know that will be

:21:48.:21:51.

the outcome? How are you going to get unimpeded access to the single

:21:52.:21:56.

market? We know what the current situation is. The DUP lead us down a

:21:57.:22:00.

pathway with their dark money and everything else, towards Brexit, but

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they could not answer those questions. They do not know what

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sort of customs union would be getting. But the do know that we are

:22:07.:22:12.

leaving the customs union. But we don't know that. We have no

:22:13.:22:16.

government, now executive. These two parties collapsed dead without

:22:17.:22:20.

getting any strategy in place, so at the moment nobody is shouting for

:22:21.:22:24.

Northern Ireland. Let's now absolutely turn to that and talk

:22:25.:22:28.

about Northern Ireland's influence in the negotiations. John O'Dowd, if

:22:29.:22:34.

there is no Stormont, then a vote for Sinn Fein is surely totally

:22:35.:22:39.

useless, when you do not take your seats at Westminster and you have no

:22:40.:22:44.

way to influence things. No voice, it is a wasted vote. Let me use my

:22:45.:22:48.

voice. We are proud Republicans. We will not take an oath of allegiance

:22:49.:22:53.

to the queen of allegiance to lean back England. No disrespect to the

:22:54.:22:57.

Queen but I am not taking an oath of allegiance. -- to the Queen of

:22:58.:23:03.

England. You said the same with Stormont and the council. But what I

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am saying at this situation, if you do not have a voice at Westminster,

:23:08.:23:11.

as you do not have, and you do not have a voice at Stormont because it

:23:12.:23:14.

does not exist and it does not look like it is coming back, where is

:23:15.:23:18.

your voice heard? Well, I think you will find that Sinn Fein's voice is

:23:19.:23:23.

heard loud and clear across the island of Ireland, it is heard loud

:23:24.:23:27.

and clear in London. I sat on the council with the Welsh executive and

:23:28.:23:30.

the Scottish executive in the British government, when we had an

:23:31.:23:33.

executive and not only were our views ignored but the views of the

:23:34.:23:37.

Welsh and the Scottish executive. I will put this challenge out to those

:23:38.:23:41.

parties, tell me which vote you have overturned in Westminster in

:23:42.:23:44.

relation to Brexit. Tell me which vote you overturned. I am a proud

:23:45.:23:50.

nationalist as well. Does John think he is a better Irishman than

:23:51.:23:53.

O'Connell and others who found it in them to represent their people. Are

:23:54.:23:57.

you better as a nationalist than SNP or Plaid Cymru? Do you think that

:23:58.:24:03.

Sinn Fein are letting down the people of Ireland by not...

:24:04.:24:08.

Entirely, particularly because they are making us all at sensualist from

:24:09.:24:14.

Stormont at the moment. The SNP desk they are making us all abstain from

:24:15.:24:18.

Stormont at the moment. But do you know what, we're going to have five

:24:19.:24:23.

years of press releases. Wait a minute. I would like to be clear

:24:24.:24:26.

that you actually think Stormont is useless. I am asking about

:24:27.:24:31.

Westminster. Which Brexit vote did they overturn. John believes that

:24:32.:24:40.

six MPs in Westminster could have no impact but four MEPs could change

:24:41.:24:46.

the world? We have one councillor, should they bother. I would like to

:24:47.:24:50.

bring the alliance in on this. Do you say a plague on both your

:24:51.:24:56.

houses, DUP and Sinn Fein, for not sorting out this business over

:24:57.:24:59.

Stormont? Because if this continues, if the negotiations at the end of

:25:00.:25:04.

June fail, then you are looking at direct rule again. We are and that

:25:05.:25:08.

is absolutely the worst thing that could happen in the context of

:25:09.:25:11.

Northern Ireland. If John believes that the current government is

:25:12.:25:14.

insensitive to Northern Ireland's needs and does not show respect,

:25:15.:25:19.

what better way to place an offer to the people that he represents and

:25:20.:25:24.

London than to have devolution operational. I have to say, I spent

:25:25.:25:27.

five years at Westminster and it is quite possible to change people's

:25:28.:25:31.

mines through persuasion and argument and voting. I changed the

:25:32.:25:35.

law as a single member of Parliament. You cannot do that by

:25:36.:25:39.

walking around talking to people in Westminster, by hiring rooms and

:25:40.:25:42.

tweeting and sending out press releases. But you can do it if you

:25:43.:25:48.

turn up and work with others on a cross-party basis. I changed the law

:25:49.:25:55.

about donations. One law. I influenced more law than your party

:25:56.:26:01.

has changed in all that time. The UUP position now on a return to

:26:02.:26:06.

Stormont. We want Stormont back up and running. And here is the

:26:07.:26:10.

interesting thing, in the talks that were going on just before, we were

:26:11.:26:14.

getting close to consensus of all the parties together on Brexit. We

:26:15.:26:18.

were working very closely. You were their job, clear was there, now only

:26:19.:26:22.

was there. We were getting very close to actually having a document

:26:23.:26:25.

and a policy that we could take forward. We need to get the Northern

:26:26.:26:29.

Ireland assembly back up and running as soon as this election is out of

:26:30.:26:32.

the way and get the executive up and running. You think that the glory

:26:33.:26:38.

days of Stormont might be over because when you had Martin

:26:39.:26:42.

McGuinness and Ian Paisley, who could command their communities, it

:26:43.:26:48.

was a completely different matter, and actually it worked. There was a

:26:49.:26:52.

magnet going like that, and it worked, but without them none of you

:26:53.:26:57.

here has the power to reinstate Stormont properly. I do not agree

:26:58.:27:02.

with that at all. I think four of the parties represented run this

:27:03.:27:06.

table are ready to get Stormont up and running today. There is only one

:27:07.:27:09.

party saying they are not prepared to go into government and are

:27:10.:27:13.

holding the whole of Northern Ireland to ransom. That party is

:27:14.:27:18.

Sinn Fein. Sorry, clear, let me be absolutely clear. The DUP has now,

:27:19.:27:23.

zero preconditions for going back into government. But he refused to

:27:24.:27:30.

make the progress required, by refusing to make the progress

:27:31.:27:33.

required to make it difficult. We are prepared to go into government

:27:34.:27:38.

tomorrow without any preconditions. Sinn Fein are blocking bad. And you

:27:39.:27:42.

are letting them off the hook. Do you think we are about to get a

:27:43.:27:48.

period of instability in Ireland? I hope we're not because if we are

:27:49.:27:51.

going into direct rule, we need strong voices in Westminster. But we

:27:52.:27:55.

have solved the bigger problems than this with the right attitude. Thank

:27:56.:27:59.

you all very much. Before we go back to London, I would like to apologise

:28:00.:28:02.

for the strange lighting. Thank you very much.

:28:03.:28:05.

Now this evening, various parts of the Tory manifesto

:28:06.:28:07.

The full document itself will come tomorrow, but we know

:28:08.:28:12.

the social care policy, among other things.

:28:13.:28:15.

Including significant changes for the winter fuel allowance. The

:28:16.:28:22.

papers are leading on its tomorrow and they are divided as to whether

:28:23.:28:26.

it is a middle class attack or a saving of people, as the mayor

:28:27.:28:31.

rooted, to stop you having to sell your home for your care.

:28:32.:28:32.

Our policy editor Chris Cook is with me.

:28:33.:28:35.

A man who always gives us consistent light. Tell us about the care

:28:36.:28:41.

proposals. The reason why the papers are split is because there are

:28:42.:28:44.

already two buckets of measures here. Some giveaways, some take

:28:45.:28:48.

aways. On the takeaway side, first of all, they are means testing the

:28:49.:28:54.

individual allowance, and some of that money will go into social care.

:28:55.:28:58.

Richer pensioners will not get that any more. The thing they are doing

:28:59.:29:01.

on the takeaway side, they are saying that if you currently receive

:29:02.:29:05.

care in your house, when you are means tested, to work out whether

:29:06.:29:09.

you should contribute or not, your house will not count towards your

:29:10.:29:12.

means testing, whereas previously did not because it was an asset you

:29:13.:29:16.

were using at the time. They have also given a guarantee that if you

:29:17.:29:20.

are living in your house or your partner is living in your house, you

:29:21.:29:24.

will not have to sell your house to pay for the social care, they will

:29:25.:29:28.

effectively do that by billing your estate when you or your partner

:29:29.:29:32.

dies. If you have not been living in your house, if you were living in a

:29:33.:29:35.

care home, the house has always counted as part of your assets and

:29:36.:29:38.

so it counts towards the means testing, if you are very rich or you

:29:39.:29:42.

have an expensive house. But now if you were living in that house, that

:29:43.:29:47.

counts. Quite. But there are limits. So importantly, at the moment the

:29:48.:29:52.

social care system can whittle away your possessions to ?23,000, that is

:29:53.:29:57.

where the means testing stops. Now that will be lifted up to around

:29:58.:30:01.

?100,000. The way to think of it, they want you to have ?100,000 to

:30:02.:30:05.

pass on to your family, that is the classical way of explaining that.

:30:06.:30:10.

This is quite a big package but we've also got some immigration News

:30:11.:30:17.

from the Conservative manifesto. It's a best of the last ten years in

:30:18.:30:25.

a sense. It's tens of thousands, under 100,000 again. Also there are

:30:26.:30:30.

a couple of specific measures on reducing immigration, one of which

:30:31.:30:33.

is a charge on employers of skilled migrants from outside the EU. They

:30:34.:30:38.

are effectively raising taxes on people who employ immigrants.

:30:39.:30:42.

It was the Lib Dems' turn to be centre of attention today,

:30:43.:30:45.

with their manifesto released this morning.

:30:46.:30:46.

A pitch explicitly aimed at not making the Lib Dems

:30:47.:30:49.

the governing party, but the opposition instead.

:30:50.:30:50.

They concede in the second paragraph that Theresa May will win.

:30:51.:30:53.

But the party is the centre of attention in another way too,

:30:54.:30:58.

because it is arguably the surprise of this campaign.

:30:59.:31:00.

One might have thought the clarity of their position on Brexit

:31:01.:31:03.

would have allowed them to suck up Remainer votes in large

:31:04.:31:06.

numbers, but not much sign of that in the polls.

:31:07.:31:08.

Maybe they can pick up particular seats, maybe the promise of a second

:31:09.:31:11.

Before we reflect on that with Vince Cable, David Grossman has

:31:12.:31:21.

been in Wells, in the south west, which was Lib Dem country.

:31:22.:31:29.

This is one of the wells that gives England's smallest city its name.

:31:30.:31:32.

The West Country was also the wellspring of much Lib Dem

:31:33.:31:34.

success in recent years, but the waters of

:31:35.:31:36.

Tim Farron desperately needs today's manifesto launch to get

:31:37.:31:43.

some of the magic back in places like this.

:31:44.:31:46.

The manifesto launch was in a nightclub in east London,

:31:47.:31:50.

Mr Farron promised that his dream of overturning Brexit

:31:51.:31:56.

In June last year, we voted for a departure but we did not

:31:57.:32:05.

So I want you to have your choice over your future.

:32:06.:32:08.

But the forecasts for his party are not sunny.

:32:09.:32:14.

Like this part of the Bishop's Palace in Wells, there's not much

:32:15.:32:16.

left now of the Lib Dems' once magnificent country edifice.

:32:17.:32:20.

In 2010, they won five of the six seats in Somerset and then

:32:21.:32:23.

the little yellow Lib Dem bird was sucked into the vacuum cleaner

:32:24.:32:26.

Tessa Munt was the Lib Dems' MP here up until 2015.

:32:27.:32:36.

Today, she's meeting clients at the Wells food bank.

:32:37.:32:43.

In this month's council elections, she bucked the national trend,

:32:44.:32:45.

winning a council seat from the Tories.

:32:46.:32:47.

Now she's standing on the party's national offer.

:32:48.:32:52.

The Lib Dems' manifesto promises a referendum on the final Brexit

:32:53.:32:55.

deal with an option to stay in the EU.

:32:56.:32:57.

There is help for home-buyers with a rent to own scheme,

:32:58.:33:00.

a promise to reverse ?9.7 billion worth of benefit cuts, and

:33:01.:33:02.

But what status does this manifesto have,

:33:03.:33:09.

given even the Lib Dems say they won't win the election?

:33:10.:33:13.

You absolutely need people like my colleagues and me to stand

:33:14.:33:16.

there and ask the sensible questions in what is a period where we have no

:33:17.:33:22.

idea what Brexit is going to look like on the May agenda.

:33:23.:33:26.

We're definitely going to have Mrs May as Prime Minister,

:33:27.:33:28.

I'm convinced, but it depends on the size of her majority.

:33:29.:33:35.

This is Penniless Porch in Wells where beggars would hold

:33:36.:33:37.

out their hands to worshippers on the way to the cathedral.

:33:38.:33:42.

For Labour, Wells is a distant prospect but they claim to be making

:33:43.:33:45.

Well, I'm out campaigning and I literally choose

:33:46.:33:54.

deliberately places, houses that have got

:33:55.:33:58.

And I go and challenge - why do you have a Lib Dem poster?

:33:59.:34:04.

And I have a stack of Labour ones to replace those once I've had that

:34:05.:34:07.

conversation and I have managed to persuade them that actually

:34:08.:34:10.

James Heappey is the Conservative candidate who deposed

:34:11.:34:15.

If he's looking relaxed, it may be because Ukip,

:34:16.:34:20.

who polled 5500 votes in Wells at the last election,

:34:21.:34:24.

are not fielding a candidate this time around.

:34:25.:34:28.

I'm not sure we've yet found anything that people are sort

:34:29.:34:31.

of uniting behind as a reason to switch across to vote Lib Dem.

:34:32.:34:36.

Their offer seems to be that they want to be in opposition

:34:37.:34:39.

and people seem to think that the general election

:34:40.:34:41.

And I agree with them and I'm not sure that their message

:34:42.:34:46.

is being particularly inspiring on the doorstep.

:34:47.:34:51.

Local support doesn't always show through in a national election.

:34:52.:34:59.

Roger Wilkins has spent 50 years perfecting the art

:35:00.:35:01.

He likes it like he likes his government - strong.

:35:02.:35:10.

I know Tessa very well and I said to her one day, I said, "Tessa,

:35:11.:35:13.

the only trouble is you are one of the best MPs we've

:35:14.:35:16.

ever had but," I said, "you want to get a new boss,"

:35:17.:35:19.

Does the fact that the Lib Dems are saying that we should have

:35:20.:35:25.

another chance to reconsider the Brexit vote...?

:35:26.:35:27.

As far as I'm concerned, we voted to come out,

:35:28.:35:29.

You can't have a vote and then go back.

:35:30.:35:36.

So, if you want loyalty in Wells, meet Bryn and Wyn,

:35:37.:35:40.

Voters, it seems, are somewhat more promiscuous.

:35:41.:35:49.

And here is a list of all the candidates running

:35:50.:35:52.

Sir Vince Cable was the Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham

:35:53.:36:02.

until 2015 and the secretary of state for business as part

:36:03.:36:04.

He's now fighting to regain his seat at this general election.

:36:05.:36:12.

Good evening. Can I ask about the Tory plans on social care which are

:36:13.:36:19.

causing quite a lot of excitement. Do you think they are going to work?

:36:20.:36:26.

They are a more generous means test, you'd be keeping up to ?100,000 of

:36:27.:36:31.

your house or other possessions. It doesn't deal with the immediate

:36:32.:36:36.

problem of social care, because of the cutback in local authority

:36:37.:36:39.

funding. That's why we've come up with our proposal of 1p on income

:36:40.:36:44.

tax. There's an immediate crisis and it doesn't address that. They are

:36:45.:36:47.

dealing with the long-term problem and is your analysis for some people

:36:48.:36:53.

they are going to lose out badly. Some people are taking care in their

:36:54.:36:57.

own home. I don't understand the basic thrust of their policy because

:36:58.:37:01.

they've held up for eight years in an attempt to get a cross-party

:37:02.:37:06.

agreement on the ground they were opposed to taking money from the

:37:07.:37:12.

property when people die. It seems to be a bit of a U-turn. Does it

:37:13.:37:17.

seem to you to be a death tax? It's your money, they are going to help

:37:18.:37:23.

you pay your bills by lending new money against that death tax...

:37:24.:37:32.

Lending new money against the health? You support it? We have done

:37:33.:37:37.

in the past. What their current policy seems to be missing is the

:37:38.:37:41.

element of personal insurance which was part of the original attempt to

:37:42.:37:46.

get a cross-party agreement under Andrew Dill not. That seems to be

:37:47.:37:50.

missing. They are means testing the winter fuel allowance and they will

:37:51.:37:56.

put that money into care. You are a party supporting the triple lock. In

:37:57.:38:01.

the past you, Nick Clegg and others have suggested it was an anomaly

:38:02.:38:04.

that it was there when pensioners were poor, and maybe it needs to be

:38:05.:38:12.

reviewed. Why are you sticking by the triple lock? Since the financial

:38:13.:38:16.

crisis, elderly people have done relatively well. I don't think you

:38:17.:38:22.

solve that problem by pushing pensioners back into poverty. Until

:38:23.:38:26.

the triple lock was introduced we had a problem that large numbers of

:38:27.:38:31.

people on the state pension were falling below the basic poverty

:38:32.:38:35.

line, getting into means tested benefits, were not claiming. We've

:38:36.:38:40.

dealt with that now because we put the pension up. You don't have to

:38:41.:38:44.

keep it up for ever and ever, do you? I don't quite see the problem

:38:45.:38:48.

with the triple lock. One element has been controversial which is the

:38:49.:38:52.

commitment to 2% minimum increase. Potentially that was a problem, if

:38:53.:38:57.

you have a world of no inflation. But we are moving away from that

:38:58.:39:02.

world now and inflation is expected to be above the Bank of England

:39:03.:39:08.

level. The idea of a pension guarantee seems to be civilised and

:39:09.:39:12.

sensible. One of the issues you have is that you are trying to face into

:39:13.:39:17.

slightly different directions to these south-western seats, quite

:39:18.:39:22.

elderly populations in some cases, and to a slightly younger

:39:23.:39:27.

democratic, more metropolitan and different kind of voters in other

:39:28.:39:32.

seats. Is that why you've got the triple locked in there, to make sure

:39:33.:39:37.

you've got something to pitch to the older voters? They are both

:39:38.:39:41.

legitimate interests and we have a large elderly population who in the

:39:42.:39:45.

past experienced significant problems of pensioner poverty. That

:39:46.:39:49.

problem was alleviated substantially by a reform that the Liberal

:39:50.:39:52.

Democrats pressed for in the coalition and we want to keep it.

:39:53.:39:59.

Let's talk about Brexit. I want to be clear. If I'm in favour of

:40:00.:40:03.

Brexit, and pretty strongly in favour, I shouldn't vote for the Lib

:40:04.:40:09.

Dems, should I? There are many other issues and there are many people who

:40:10.:40:15.

support Brexit but may not be happy with the Ukip style Brexit that the

:40:16.:40:19.

Prime Minister has committed us to. In other words, withdrawing from the

:40:20.:40:23.

single market and customs union. You can't have it both ways. You can't

:40:24.:40:28.

say you should vote for us if you for remain but also if you are for

:40:29.:40:34.

Brexit, it make sense. It's a different issue. People have had

:40:35.:40:39.

that vote, we've had the referendum. A decision has been made to leave

:40:40.:40:43.

and we respect that. We are now dealing with a separate problem

:40:44.:40:48.

which is what happens in two years' time. Why are you putting remain on

:40:49.:40:52.

the ballot when you have your second referendum on it? It doesn't sound

:40:53.:40:59.

like you've accepted it. It does. Tony Blair had a very nice metaphor.

:41:00.:41:05.

He said, look, we've made a decision collectively as a country by a

:41:06.:41:08.

narrow majority to move house but we don't know where we are going. We

:41:09.:41:12.

don't know what the new house looks like. If at the end of the day we

:41:13.:41:16.

are left with a dwelling which is appalling and full of dry rot and

:41:17.:41:20.

rising damp and uninhabitable, the option surely has to be of going

:41:21.:41:26.

back to where we started. We need to leave it there. Thank you.

:41:27.:41:29.

That's all we have time for this evening.

:41:30.:41:31.

Tomorrow it's the Conservatives' manifesto to look forward to.

:41:32.:41:36.

It's been a busy time in Washington too. It's being reported that former

:41:37.:41:45.

FBI director Robert Mueller has been appointed a special prosecuted to

:41:46.:41:50.

take over the investigation into alleged Russian influence on last

:41:51.:41:52.

year 's election. Good night. After soaking rain across a large

:41:53.:42:09.

part of England today, tomorrow will be drier and sunnier. These places

:42:10.:42:11.

beginning

:42:12.:42:12.