Andrew Neil with the latest news from Europe, including interviews with MEPs, reports from the European Parliament and a guide to the inner workings of the European Union.
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Not it's time for Politics Europe.
Hello and welcome to Politics Europe.
Theresa May's timetable for Brexit talks looks to be intact after MPs
at Westminster overwhelmingly vote to trigger Article 50.
With the start of Brexit talks just weeks away,
who will the UK Government be negotiating with?
We report from Brussels on the EU's Brexit negotiators.
The EU's Trade Commissioner warns Donald Trump against protectionist
measures and promises to push for fair trade.
We take a look at how the EU is responding to President Trump.
Do you think we should have new legislation for robots?
And, should we be worried about the rise of the robots?
Why members of the European Parliament are demanding
new regulations to protect humans from artificial intelligence.
So, all that to come and more in the next half-hour.
First, our guide to the latest from Europe in just 60 seconds.
MPs overwhelmingly agreed to let the Government begin the UK's
departure from the EU as they voted for the Brexit bill.
The ayes to the right, 494.
The noes to the left, 122.
Romania's Prime Minister insisted he won't resign,
despite mass protest calling for him and his Cabinet to step down over
a now abandoned corruption measure with many saying they have lost
trust in their leaders.
Following a surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine between Government
forces and Russian-backed separatists, EU foreign ministers
condemned the attacks on civilians.
23 of the 28 member states are breaching air-quality standards,
according to the European Commission.
It recommends phasing out environmentally damaging subsidies
such as tax breaks for privately used company cars.
And the idea to provide free inter-rail travel passes to all EU
citizens on their 18th birthday has hit the buffers.
The European Commission will instead soffer a cheaper plan awarding
a general travel budget to schools.
With us for the next 30 minutes I am joined by the Ukip MEP Gerard Batten
and Labour's Anneliese Dodds, welcome to you both.
Anneliese, what happens if the European Parliament
votes against this deal in a couple of years?
That is a very good question and there is the possibility of that.
It is just before European elections, not a great time
to have a rational debate on issues.
Any idea what the answer is?
I hope we can get away from the conflicting,
argumentative approach we have had.
You don't know?
I don't know.
If it is rejected, there is no deal, which our British leader said
she preferred to a bad deal, I properly wouldn't.
If there was no deal, that means exiting, just WTO rules,
no clear future relationship.
Not good for Europe either.
Bad for all sides.
What do you think?
An interesting point, perhaps the Council will do what it
does when the European Parliament votes for a directive it doesn't
want because it has been amended in such a way.
It then ignores that and does it anyway.
Whether it has the power to reject the vote of
Parliament, I'm not sure.
That would be nigh impossible if the European Parliament took
a vote against something as basic as the Brexit deal.
It could hardly ignore it.
What would happen is what Mrs May said, then we would exit on WTO...
Crash out on WTO rules.
Precisely why going down the Article 50 route is wrong anyway.
That boat has left the harbour.
What we will do is have two years of negotiation with people who don't
want to negotiate with us.
And end up and have a deal they can reject anyway.
What the Government can still do, and I am the Brexit spokesman
for Ukip, writing our exit plan.
Step one should be to repeal the 1972 European Community Act
which would under our law mean we are no longer members.
All EU legislation would remain in place because it has been
incorporated as Acts of Parliament.
Bill Cash has done a good draft.
We haven't time for your thesis on that.
That is not the Government strategy.
It is also not how these issues are set out in the treaties.
We have to make it work.
We have to be grown-ups, start a decent conversation and stop
shouting, and threatening the rest of the EU saying we will slap
tariffs on their cars, turn our country into a tax haven.
The Europeans have been quite vocal, I have noticed a change in tone,
a more constructive tone in the past couple of weeks.
I think so.
It is no good for the rest of the EU if we don't have a deal
which will work for everybody.
We have to take some of the steam and the highfalutin politics out
of it and talk about it rationally.
When the Brexit talks get underway, they will be led in the UK
by David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU.
What about the people he will be facing across the negotiating table?
Adam Fleming reports from Brussels on the EU figures going head-to-head
with the UK Government.
# Who are you?
Who knows who this is?
Do you know much about him?
Yes, he is going to negotiate the Brexit deal with the UK.
Do you know him?
Yes, because I am French.
Is he a big deal in France?
A big dealish.
A grand fromage.
Mr Barnier is a former French Foreign Minister,
former European Commissioner, and mastermind of the
1992 Winter Olympics.
His catchphrase is, keep calm and negotiate.
Let us get a more three-dimensional picture from MEPs who know him.
He is a bit taller in real life.
Actually, far taller.
What is he like, do you know him?
He is a very competent person.
He is very expert in one of the most sensitive areas
like the financial services.
He not someone with anti-British feeling, not at all.
When he was Commissioner, he always looked for a balanced
solution in the area of financial services.
But of course as a chief EU negotiator, he will try first
of all to protect the interests of the union, and also
to strike a good agreement.
I could say that he is a Frenchman with a British style.
What does that mean?
He is very concise, very precise.
When someone gives him an argument or an idea,
if it is something reasonable, he will say, OK, it was not
the first idea but I accept it.
But if he thinks it is a red line, he will be always firm
and resilient until the end.
Parliament has its own negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, leader
of the liberal group.
But his precise role isn't quite clear.
Is he going to be in the room actually?
He is a very good negotiator and everyone recognises that.
Years of experience.
The Prime Minster of Belgium, you gain a lot of experience
if you have done that successfully.
We represent half a billion people.
It is vital that any negotiation takes into account the needs
and aspirations of the people of the European Union,
that is what it is all about.
Then there's the man from the Council, Didier Seeuws,
a Belgian lawyer, hardly a household name.
Let us find out more from an old colleague.
He has a lot of expertise.
He's excellent at coming up with compromises
when you have positions which are seemingly irreconcilable.
He often finds a way of reconciling them.
He will have the knowledge.
He will know the positions of the member states so will often
be able to say to Barnier, you can agree this or that,
it might be risky or might not get endorsed by the other member states.
Or that has no chance.
Wait, the cast of characters gets even bigger.
The trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, will be a big
player if the UK and the EU try to do a free trade
deal at the same time.
Never far from any decision is Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to
the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Give me one name who is going to be the most influential
person in negotiations?
I suppose it is Mrs May.
The elected representatives on both sides.
So far, with his Gallic flair, towering presence, ability
to captivate the British press, it does seem Mr Barnier will be
the one who dominates the headlines.
So, what do we know of Michel Barnier?
He has already said one of the key things in this whole debate
which is freedom of movement is not up for discussion.
He said it can't be changed, Britain has to accept it.
The British people don't want to accept.
Now Mrs May has said we are leaving the single market,
free movement is not a matter for debate.
He is supposed to be negotiating our position.
To arrive at this mythical deal at the end of this
long protracted process, he said freedom of movement
is not up for negotiation.
But I am not sure, freedom of movement was one of the four
freedoms that comes with being a member of the single market.
If we are now saying, rightly or wrongly, we are now
saying we will not be a member of the single market,
freedom of movement is not an issue.
But the issue about tariff-free trade is, there is a solution.
But you were talking about freedom of movement.
They are talking about that in order to talk us out of trade issues
which is the second biggest issue.
A free-trade deal, we do free-trade deals with the EU
and other countries, bilaterally, they don't involve
freedom of movement issues.
The EU-Canada deal, the latest, has no freedom of movement implications.
Is that right?
Sometimes, when Britain is trying to secure trade deals
with countries like India, we have come a cropper
on that issue.
A visa issue.
I would come back on one thing about the British people deciding
they don't want to have freedom of movement.
they don't want to have freedom of movement.
Most opinion polls show even a majority of Leave voters said,
if there was a top up between having access to trade across the EU,
and some freedom of movement, they would prioritise
access to trade.
Theresa May has decided she wants to take us
in a particular direction.
There will be some freedom of movement and access
to the single market.
These are the issues that have to be negotiated.
Do we know anything yet, there were so many names in Adam's film,
all with their own constituencies, I don't mean that in a political
sense, but their own interests in Brussels.
Do we have any idea what the common line will be?
Ultimately, the EU 27, talking about them represented
in the EU institutions or member and never states, they want the best
outcome for all of them.
That is one that has a good deal for Britain as well.
That will not happen if we keep having a zero-sum politics
and this trade-off saying, if we have a deal that works
for the rest of the EU, it won't work for Britain,
and vice versa.
Who is saying that?
Some political voices.
We have had threats from Theresa May saying, if we don't get that deal,
we will turn ourselves into a bargain basement tax haven.
That is your party's phrase.
What she is saying is, if we did come out on WTO rules,
we would need to also consider our economic model.
There are plenty of choices between being what we are now,
and Singapore which isn't that much of a bargain.
Philip Hammond has pushed the same line.
They are grown-ups, they know the messages they are sending.
They are damaging, when we should be building bridges rather
than blowing them up.
Except if you hear what is coming out of Europe, listening
to a Baltic States minister this morning on another channel,
he was much more conciliatory Poland is beginning to say the same.
Even Michel Barnier has said he understands the importance
of the London capital markets to the whole of the EU.
What I wanted to ask you is, we have a rough idea,
because of the white paper and Mrs May's Lancaster House
speech, of the British Government's negotiating position,
a rough idea.
Don't we need, doesn't the EU now need to give
its equivalent of its rough idea?
A good point.
We will have these long protracted negotiations to end up in a position
where we should know where we want to be now.
Which is we have freedom to make our own laws, continue trade
on a tariff free basis.
The people, although Parliament has a vote on this,
and the European Parliament could scupper the whole thing,
depending what it looks like.
It is the Council that makes the decisions to accept.
The Council of Ministers.
They are the heads of governments, they will come under pressure
from their own industries and businesses to reach a sensible
agreement rather than the ideologues in the European Parliament.
One thing that could scupper the negotiations would be if the EU
insists on agreeing some kind of Brexit bill upfront,
whether it is 40 or 60 billion.
Because I would suggest to you no British Government
can agree to that.
Well, in an ideal world, would we be here at all?
I can understand their thinking.
More recently they have been saying they want to agree a methodology
for deciding what the commitment would be, rather than a figure.
But people extrapolate figures immediately.
What would we be paying for?
Take one example, imagine a Lithuanian civil servant who joins
the Commission at 25.
When she joins, the British state had a liability for part
of her pension when she retires.
That still will be there in the future.
In the same way the British state has a liability for my pension
when I have paid national insurance.
But you are not leaving the British state.
You are aware the Brussels pensions of bureaucrats,
are between two and three times average earnings in Britain.
Do you think the British people will stand for that paying
the pensions that are up to three times their average wage?
I agree with you, there will be difficult discussion.
What I worry about is if this is turned into bashing a small
number of people essentially.
Small amounts of money in comparison to the overall amount we could lose
in trade deals, and I am not saying it is peanuts.
In comparison to what we could lose, we need to look at these issues
with an adult head on our shoulders.
What would you say to the demand, if that is what it is,
for a divorce Bill?
Well, the EU will do what everyone has to do,
when their income drops, they have to also reduce their outgoings.
There will be people who have got pension liabilities.
But I think that will be minimal.
The governments can agree between them how to deal with that
with obligations to particular people.
The idea we give billions of pounds in order to pay for our membership
up until 2020, the end of the current budget period,
is pure fantasy.
It shouldn't happen.
There are lots of things the Leave campaign kept promising,
like research funds, we were told we would still get that.
But that has to come from somewhere.
It is our taxpayers' money anyway, and research funds are a small
proportion, the Government can easily make that up.
We shall see, plenty of time to debate this in the months ahead.
Donald Trump's arrival at the White House three weeks ago
has got something of a political earthquake in Brussels,
with EU leaders going public about their concerns
about the new president's approach to trade, defence,
human affairs, international relations.
In an open letter, the President of the European Council that brings
all the members together as heads of state, wrote this.
Donald Trump's presidency and the change in Washington puts
the European Union in a difficult situation
with the new administration.
Seeming to put into question the last 70 years of
American foreign policy.
The chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt told a thinktank
in London, Chatham House, in January, on a trip to Washington
after the election, every Europenan I met in the US had only
one conclusion which is that the EU has fewer friends than ever
in the USA today.
This week, the EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia MalStrom
attacked Donald Trump's protectionist policies of trade
and migration, saying, those who in the 21st century think
that we can become great again by rebuilding borders,
reimposing trade barriers, resticiting people's freedom
of movement, they are doomed to fail.
There we go.
The one thing that is clear is, for the first time since this
was an issue, the White House is run by someone who is basically hostile
to the EU.
That is a total change from any previous administration.
How should the EU handle this?
Well, I think it is very important that we try and get some kind
of workable relationship, but not one where the EU
and we will talk about Britain as well, we are in a supplicant
I am worried about the idea we have to somehow support everything that
Donald Trump is doing and not criticise it in order
to have that relationship.
We will still have those commercial relationships at the same time
as criticising him on human rights.
And depend on America for defence?
This whole development and could push more defence
cooperation across the EU, could push the EU to
working more together.
Spend more money?
That is not something for Britain to be involved in.
We meet our 2% on Nato.
An interesting point raised there.
It could be, if the 27 now regard the White House as something
that is hostile to them, this could actually pull Europe
together in a number of fronts.
I think they should cease their hostility to Mr Trump,
and accept the situation, and talk to his ambassador rather
than insulting him.
He hasn't been appointed yet.
It will be him or someone like him.
He is a fantasist.
Let us not go down that road.
This point has been made, you are right, if the EU wants
to preserve itself in some form, it should look at what has gone wrong.
All these political things we have been talking about,
it should get back to the idea of facilitating trade
and cooperation, then it could have some future.
Like the European Free Trade Association.
That is what we were told it was supposed to be.
Nobody would object to that.
It is difficult for you.
The transatlantic trade deal is dead, over.
There is a huge argument over defence and of the right
attitude to Russia.
There will be increasing, we have not even touched
on the White House's attitude to Germany's trade
and currency policy.
Rough times ahead.
The way we can face up to them is actually not by supplicating
ourselves in front of Donald Trump.
I am very concerned, you talk about trade deals,
we have had no assurance from the UK Government as part of our new deal
with the US our health services won't be opened up.
We haven't even started negotiating it.
Mrs May says she wants to start.
No, she said as far as she's concerned the NHS is not for sale.
At the end of the day, that trade deal, that is a matter
for the Parliament across the road to decide.
The British people will decide that.
The British people are quite disturbed by having their leader
appearing to fawn and supplicate herself in front of another foreign
If people decided they wanted to have control when they voted
to leave the EU, I accept a lot of people did,
surely we don't want to leave the EU suddenly to become controlled
by the US.
We have to move on.
MEPs are gearing up for a vote on proposals for a new law
governing non-military robots.
I guess the military ones got a get out of jail card.
A committee decided treat leaps ini technology required regulation
at an EU level.
Here is Adam again, he's been joined by his new friend,
his only friend, Sheldon.
Do think we should have new legislation for robots?
MEPs on the Justice Committee agree, they have spent two years coming up
with ideas for new legislation.
Robots before, in industry, they were kept far away from humans
because of the dangers.
Now we see a new generation, but it is also linked
to interconnectivity, because a new generation of robots
are connected to networks and they collect a lot of data.
As they become more intelligent, how will we interact with them
and what will be the influence on our daily life?
Top of the list is sorting out who is responsible for driverless
cars if they have a crash.
It also suggests robots have a legal status of electronic people.
Parliament was turned into a sort of low-budget edition of Robot Wars
to get everyone ready for a vote next week.
For all the new technology on display, there is plenty
of old-fashioned human politics as well, because MEPs are split
on a range of issues, whether there should be a new EU
robotics agency, a tax on robots for all the jobs they replace,
even whether robots are scary or not.
If MEPs vote it through next Thursday, the report will be handed
to the Commission who will decide whether to proceed with legislation
which could take years.
Meaning one country is unlikely to be affected.
What do you think about Brexit?
No, not Brazil, Brexit!
A problem of communication.
The French Socialist candidate for President is suggesting
we should tax robots.
That would put them in their place.
On a serious note, we do need to think about what we do to support
people who have been made unemployed through these developments.
In Finland, they have brought in a universal income,
partly to help people whose jobs are being digitised.
Try sending a tax bill to the Terminator.
I will leave that to you.
I won't try that myself.
Thank you, both.
That is it for now.
Thank you for joining us, bye-bye.