Kenneth Clarke: ‘Time to Reach Across the Aisle’ on Brexit

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has now offered to step down if parliament will finally agree to pass her deal – a deal they’ve already rejected twice before. No one knows what the next day will bring in British politics, but Kenneth Clarke has more experience than anyone to try and make sense of it.The so-called ‘Father of the House’, Clarke is the MP with the longest record of continuous service.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, that’s what I was going to ask you next, the fact that she has fallen on her sword, the prime minister, offering to resign early if they would only just pass deal. And even that, as you correctly say, did not get people to do that, and there’s still people on the fence. What do you think about the ethics of that? I mean, it sounds a little sort of like, I don’t know, like she’s being extorted to an extent. I mean, what do you think of demanding and then not stepping out with a vote that a prime minister leave?

KENNETH CLARKE, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE M.P.: Simply dreadful. I mean, I have (INAUDIBLE) with Theresa May. I supported her withdrawal agreement but I think she’s made many tactical errors. But the right-wing of my party, the nationalist right- wing, have formed a little party within a party which is they hope will take over the whole party. And they’ve been trying to get rid of Theresa for some time now. They launched an incompetent coup against her earlier year, which she survived. And it’s actually extraordinary, she pays far too much attention to them.


CLARKE: They all (INAUDIBLE) out in their sports cars and their limos. To see her country, prime minister retreats on Sunday and obviously, all gave her an ultimatum and it is sad that she’s given into it. I mean, I wouldn’t have done that. But she has and it will be really — I mean, I would find it, you know, really a dreadful outcome if she still fails to get them to deliver tomorrow. I would never have trusted them myself.

AMANPOUR: Well, can I just ask you then, what would you have done? Because many have made that point, those who’ve got the sort of nobody in the House has got the longevity that you have, nearly 50 years as an M.P.


AMANPOUR: But people have said, “Hang on. Her opposition played their card and they lost and they’re still holding her hostage.” I mean, is there really any way out of this now? What would you have done differently?

CLARKE: Well, the way out is to appeal to the Labour Party. Theresa’s mistake has been made, firstly, to start the whole process before she did any clear idea of what she wanted. I mean, then to put down red lines, which are completely undeliverable contradict to each other. And then to get to this one simple solution and stick to it and keep trying to unite her own party. Now, the other side of the House of Commons, the Labour Party, large numbers of members of the Labour Party are more pro-European than their leadership, don’t want a disastrous no-deal departure. There are political enemies. Within the national interest, she should have reached across to them. The reason — if my amendment wins tomorrow, well, let’s just confine ourselves to the fact that my amendment nearly got a majority yesterday, you know, closer than the prime minister ever has. I had most of the Labour Party voting with me. I had various straight people from other parties. Next Monday, I would tell you, I’m (INAUDIBLE), I’m trying to negotiate get them to join.

About This Episode EXPAND

No one knows what the next day will bring in British politics, but Kenneth Clarke, a conservative MP, joins the program to help make sense of it.

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