tv Dateline London BBC News April 1, 2018 2:30am-3:01am BST
the poisoning of a former double agent in britain have begun leaving washington. earlier, russia told britain it must reduce its diplomatic presence byjust over fifty people. palestinians are observing a day of national mourning for at least 16 people killed in clashes with israeli soldiers at the gaza border on friday. the un secretary—general has called for an independent inquiry into the deaths. two men believed to have been members of the islamic state cell known as "the beatles" complain they can't have a fair trial because the government has stripped them of their british citizenship. the funeral of world renowned scientist stephen hawking has taken place in cambridge. the theoretical physicist, who had motor neurone disease, died on 14th march, aged 76. up to 500 family and friends attended the service. now on bbc news, it's time for dateline london. hello, i'm shaun ley
and this is dateline uk — the programme where journalists from abroad who report on events here for the folks back home debate the big stories of the moment with their peers from the uk. there'll be much talk of peace, as western christians are marking easter. as i say, journalists from abroad will debate that with them. on the border between gaza and israel, friday's violence raises again the question of how to create a plan for peace between israel and the palestinians. with a papal visit to ireland planned for later this year, we'll be discussing the unfinished business of brexit — establishing a border that doesn't reawa ken old hostilities. and with pope francis delivering the traditional easter message, i'll be asking our panel
for messages of their own. with me — brian o'connell, a broadcaster who's reported from both sides of the border on the island of ireland. eunice goes, a journalist and academic from portugal. catherine pepinster, a former editor of the tablet, a newspaper which was founded by a convert to catholicism. and greg katz, from the united states, who runs the london bureau of the news agency ap. we begin with gaza. the killing of more than a dozen palestinian protestors on the border between israel and the gaza strip makes friday the deadliest day in the conflict in four years. it was the day when jews mark the start of passover, commemorating their liberation from egypt. the protests are part of a six week campaign palestinians are calling ‘the great march of return‘, demanding that they should be allowed to return to homes lost when the modern state of israel was founded 70 years ago. it was a dreadful day, the worst in some years, and i don't think there is a reasonable hope that the un security council or the
united states as a broker that is now seen as closely allied with israel, i do not see the outside world stopping this. all we can hope for is there is no escalation in the coming hours, over the holidays. the idea of peaceful protest is invaluable but it obviously went sour yesterday and in a way all we can do is hope, because once it spreads it will get worse and worse. catherine, the suggestion has been that the choice of time to have this protest was particularly provocative? i think it was because of the marking of passover, the greatjewish feast. that was all about jewish liberation and freeing themselves from the egyptians, so it is provocative. but i think it also equally provocative for the israelis to do this. they are, i think, playing into the hands of hamas with their response and that will gain hamas sympathy from around
the world, which is a big problem. brian, this is a crude comparison to talk about ireland in this context, but in the sense of the difficulties between armed forces who are in uniform and groups of civilians who are protesting, the israelis say there were armed men within the groups, they are using them as human shields, this is a tactic. what the outside world sees is civilians being shot at by military in uniform. the pr of that, whatever the substance of it, is potentially very damaging for israel. it is. but i do not think israel care any more. they think they can do what they like, the un does not do anything, donald trump will move the american embassy tojerusalem. there is no talks going on, there is no real hope at the moment
that the two state solution can get back on the agenda and i think that is why israel thinks it can actually use live ammunition against unarmed civilians through a fence. as mark regev said this morning... the israeli ambassador in london... yes, he said it was because of a breach of security. where do you get to when your army in uniform as you say is firing live ammunition against unarmed civilians? no matter how provocative it is. how will this play in the united states? i think there is fatigue in the united states, there is a sense of helplessness and a sense of, so many crises all over the world. really, people will look at this and just want to look away, is what i think is going to happen.
the us is focused in a way on gun violence at home and these repeated massacres at high schools and how in the world we can control that, and i think people are just going to see this as one more horrible holiday horrific event happening far away. is there any life in the suggestion thatjared kushner had a peace plan, has a plan, and that could be an opportunity for restarting some sort of negotiation? no, i think the idea of him as peacemaker has been around 16 months or so perhaps longer and nobody has seen anything. there is no reason to believe he will be seen by the palestinians as an honest broker, and he also faces a lot of questions at home about his role in these events related to russia and the 2016 campaign. i see that a something which is not likely to get off the ground. eunice, the un secretary general antonio guterres is a former
portuguese prime minister. he's an interesting individual, as much a politician as a diplomat, is he somebody you think would want to take an initiative on an issue like this? i think he would be very interested in that, given his profile. the question is as the un secretary general, he can only do so much. we have reached a situation now with regards to the middle east conflict that there is no hope, and i think the protest happened because essentially there is no hope. gaza is a prison for palestinians, the israeli government has transformed gaza into a live prison. people living desperate lives. protest is the only weapon they have in their hands and it is appalling. i think the un has to come out very strongly against these criminal acts. 15—16 civilians killed, thousands injured. this is unacceptable and i think what is the danger,
we are so desensitised to the violence and the daily injustices that palestinians suffer, and have been suffering for years, something has to happen. it is true the us administration will have no positive contribution for sorting out this conflict but we cannot lose hope. there has to be pressure coming from somewhere because this is unsustainable. this is terrible. let's move on to a subject we just keep talking about which is of course brexit. the uk hasjust begun the 12 month countdown to brexit at 11pm greenwich meantime on 29th march 2019 the midnight hour in brussels, where the european union is based. negotiations need to be completed much sooner, though, because the final deal has to be endorsed by several parliaments. this weekend is the 20th anniversary of the good friday agreement, the political deal which help to end years of violence in ireland.
for the previous 30 years the land border between northern ireland and the republic used to bristle with security checkpoints. checks of sorts will have to be restored, even if just for customs purposes. for now the dispute has been parked. brian, can you explain why this border dispute is more thanjust a question of customs duties and trade? it is a question of customs duties and trade and as you say, because once one side of the border is no longer in the eu, it's the only eu land border with the uk. the reason it's so important to the republic of ireland is because of the economic
factors that come with it. it is a case that it is issues of identity which caused the troubles in northern ireland, which makes this border so sensitive. and it is as you mentioned earlier the good friday agreement which brought some kind of resolution to that. but the good friday agreement‘s 20th anniversary coming up in a couple of days, it's an ongoing process. it was not a single event in time. and if you don't keep it going, things will slip back. if you put physical infrastructure on the border, even if it's technological infrastructure as the british government has suggested, a customs post, it will a target. that is what happens. and i've said it before i think on this programme, tell me what happens when you put a small camera on top of a very large pole, and it's a no—brainer. the technical solution that the brexit secretary david davis has talked about as far as the irish government is concerned is a non—runner. but if you leave aside the issues of remain and leave and everything
else and just look at where we are now, time is running out very fast. the irish government has been all round the other 26 remaining eu members and has solid support for the agreement that the uk government has signed up to so far that if they cannot find a solution... if they cannot come up with enough cameras and enough poles as it where... the default option would be that northern ireland would have to adhere to single market regulations, custom union regulations and so on. the other two options which the british have said would work would be, number one, that they negotiate a free trade agreement with the eu, therefore obviating the need for border controls — that would take years. it will not happen within any deadline coming up now certainly. and the second one is technological.
catherine, the difficulty is that default approach, if it is adopted, then you have unionists in northern ireland saying we are effectively being treated separately from the rest of the uk and that challenges their sense of identity? that is absolutely right. and of course we have an issue within all this that theresa may is so dependent on the democratic unionists to stay in power and therefore the democratic unionists have a particular muscle to flex here. the thing which strikes me when people talk about the border between ireland and the north is that border zones occur on a straight line but of course with ireland and northern ireland it isn't at all. it's a very curvy and crinkly line. 500 kilometres. there are people who do it, somebody said there are more crossing points on the 500 squiggly kilometres of the irish border than the entire eastern land border
of the eu covering the whole of eastern europe. that is a handy fact for a pub quiz. in practical terms, how do you police that? i think it will make it an impossibility. so it seems to me that the customs union is the way forward. theresa may has ruled that out but her chancellor thinks that a customs union with the eu for the whole of the uk is the way to go and there may well be plenty of tory mps who feel that too. there are brexiteers who supported brexit who feel this is being used as a convenient red rag to wave, to make brexit difficult. after 20 years of comparative calm in northern ireland, lots of evidence, the murder rate is the same as the rest of the uk for example, after the terrible rate of death used to see, it has gone down. a new generation has come
through and actually the irish government and the european council are playing politics. and britain is playing politics too, because essentially what has happened is the european union has said we will not start negotiating the future relationship with the united kingdom before the irish question is addressed, and britain wants to use the irish question as a bargaining chip during those negotiations. hoping to mollify the european union in terms of accepting the trade—off that britain wants, which is financial services and so on. but they are not seeing eye to eye. the eu is playing hard ball and its 27 member states, it's a massive market and a very powerful actor and britain is a medium—sized power. on top of that, the european union is seeing it's a very divided government. theresa may is not in full control
and they will explore that as much as they can. and it does not help, the fact that she has refused to go and visit the border. that's been quite an issue this week when she was doing the tour of the uk, she went to northern ireland, there were requests for her to visit the border and she said she would not visit it before brexit is negotiated. it is necessary, given the importance. everyone else has been there. david davis has been there to be fair. but the prime minister... that sends the wrong signals. these questions of signals, catherine has mentioned theresa may needs the support of the democratic unionists so people say she cannot be an impartial observer. jeremy corbyn, the leader of the labour party with long and strong links with republicans and he's not trusted by the unionists, if he became prime minister that problem of trust would not disappear. and then the irish government,
the foreign minister saying "i can imagine in my political life there would be a united ireland", which gets the unionists on the defensive. nobody seems to be considering how this plays in ireland on either side of the border. we were all here for the referendum, it's amazing nobody, not a soul raised this question, excuse me, if we vote to leave what we do with the border? thank you very much, here is now completely... it came up during the referendum campaign but it was not... it did not bubble up... despitejohn major and tony blair making an appearance... they talk over each other. i am sure you're right, but it was not a huge issue. so now you have this, in my view, completely unsolvable problem and us with a long history of fudging — there will be some magnificent tremendously imaginative fudge which will allow the world to keep functioning.
but what i think is so great about good friday, i covered those negotiations and what was so great was it's elastic. it's sort of not working. there is no devolved government. but there is no fighting, the murder rate is down, i believe the knee—capping rate is down, it's de facto working, and the border question is a huge distraction. the good friday agreement was created around — was formed around i think they called it "creative ambiguity" or "constructive ambiguity". so, for example, the word "disarmament" was never used. it was always "decommissioning", putting weapons aside, this kind of thing. northern ireland politics has run along those lines for a long time. the problem with this issue of the border is that it is right up against the buffers in terms of the brexit deadlines. they are probably the june council, the european council meeting. after that, the october deadline for the final agreement on brexit
before we go into the... ratification. ..ratificaton, yes, and then the transition period. we're running out of time very fast on this northern ireland issue. since brexit — since article 50 started, it's been pushed down the pipe and we're running out of pipe. and i think despite all the pressure the irish government is placing on this issue, considering the red lines of the british government, it's likely the final outcome will be essentially the hard border because no access to the single market, not being part of a customs union, so that means the actual separation... i detect a hardening in the attitude of the irish government as we get closer to this. they have put a huge amount of work into lobbying the remaining 26 eu countries and they believe they have the support behind them and if they do, if it does go to the wire and they have to invoke the backstop agreement, they will push all the way for it and i think they have michel barnier onside for that if they have to.
it's not the only place in the world where there is a border between countries that are trading partners. america and canada managed to have found a good solution, haven't they, to the border? where the emphasis is on checking people but there's quite a free transfer of goods? i believe so, i have not been there in many years, but it's been trouble—free. you have not got to wait 1.5 hours to cross it! i am sorry. i'm done apologising for the border. different kind of trouble, perhaps you need a wall? whether or not you mark the religious festivals this weekend, as it's the time when whoever is pope delivers a message of hope, we wanted to give our panel the chance to deliver an easter message of their own. starting with pope francis, catherine, he has ordered that the cat among the pigeons with an interview with repubblica in italy suggesting — said he has suggested that hell does not exist, that something other
than hell awaits those who refuse to repent? one of the problems with this interview was the person he was interviewed by does not use a tape recorder or take notes, so how reliable this is, i'm not sure. i was interested in this story because yesterday i was in salisbury reporting on that affair, and i went into a church which has the most amazing medieval mural of the lastjudgement, which includes people being swallowed up by an incredible dragon, and in many ways, our views of hell have not really changed that much. it's the place for bad people to go. of course, john paul sartre said "hell is other people" so it is here already. but most people think it's a place to go. and while we might not want to end up there ourselves, i think some people will see pope francis‘ comments as a blow
if there is no place to go, because they want other people to go there. a lot of people would feel they have been cheated if hitler or stalin and whoever did not end up in hell. so leaving aside hell and what might happen, unrepentant souls might vanish, what would be your message for this easter, your message for the world? well, i think, we've not been very cheery in this episode so this is a bit more cheery. but easter is about the resurrection of christ, it's about life coming back. that reminds me of spring — spring in our part of the world, anyway — where we have new life after the dead of winter. we have a responsibility to our planet. to this new life emerging. pope francis, when he's
written about this planet, talks about it being our common home, and i think we should all try to make an effort that our common home will thrive and that connects us with new life and the spring. and what about you, greg? i may celebrate passover but i have a more secular thought on the day stephen hawking's funeral is taking place. he said something like "you should look up at the stars, down your feet, not down at your feet", and my version of that is less astronomical but my message is the world is way more beautiful if you are looking at it without your phone in front of you. less dangerous potentially as well! if you put your phone down and look at the stars, it's a lot more beautiful than looking at the stars on the screen. are you frustrated by the amount the phone has become a proxy for things we otherwise did.
at concerts, people don'tjust go, for example, they hold the phone up so they can record? it drives me insane. i saw bob dylan to an outdoor crowd and everyone was either on the phone, and i was like "i want to hear it thanks very much!" but i will be quiet now... before you do, how frustrated as a pedestrian in london are you by... no, it is dangerous, it's pretty out of control. my larger point is the world is beautiful, you have to look at it sometimes. that is the danger — we on this programme inevitably talk a lot about conflict, which is how we get debate and argument, but is this a time of year when you feel particularly optimistic? not really. i would like to start by saying i am agnostic. i used to be an atheist but i have moved on as i aged to an agnostic position. i think we should take these rituals, these moments in the christian calendar, because we live in a christian
country, i also come from a christian country, to reflect upon our practices and to think about what can be. what is important in those religious traditions that can improve the world around us? and i think we are living in such disturbing times where actually, the worse of human beings is coming out in terms of lack of empathy. i think it would be good if christian societies started to practice the christian values of empathy and tolerance and generosity, which is contained in that saying of "love thy neighbour". that whole question features, and two things we talked about, the conflict between israel and palestine and, to a certain extent, what was happening in ireland in the recent past. but on the israeli—palestinian question, do you feel there is a real sense of two communities not empathising with one another? yes, and i think it got worse as we advance the cause. i think ten years ago, the idea of the two—state solution
was something of a valuable option. i know there are very few people who believe in this two—state solution now because of the attitudes of israel and the dispossession and hopelessness of the palestinians. it is a paradox. it's an age where we ought to know more about each other than we ever did before, not least because of forums and social media and the connectivity of the world. phones drive me mad, to be perfectly honest. the pope is going to ireland, the republic of ireland, in august for a couple of days. my wish would be to see him do what theresa may didn't do and go north of the border, where the bishop of newry in the dioceses has had to resign over his handling of a paedophile priest. the former president of ireland, mary mcaleese,
and a canon lawyer of some repute, was banned from the vatican for speaking at a women's conference in the vatican a few weeks ago because she said the catholic church was misogynistic, homophobic and asked what would it do to accommodate the 600 million women who are barred from the priesthood, given that all the work of the church comes via the priesthood. "there is no answer," she said. "pope francis in his five years has been a disappointment", and as a practising catholic, i agree with what she said and i would like to hear from the pope on that because certainly, mass attendancies in ireland are declining rapidly. thank you all very much. however you are celebrating, if you're marking easter this weekend or next
weekend, happy easter to you and thank you whoever you are and wherever you are for watching us on dateline. we will be back at the same time next week. for now, from all of us, goodbye. hello there. away from the far north and west of the uk, we saw some brightness today. many places did stay a bit disappointingly cloudy and cool. a bit of damp weather as well across the eastern side of the country. that will tend to continue overnight but gradually ease. a little bit of wintriness over the higher ground but further north and west under those clear skies, it's going to be a cold and frosty end to the night here.
but it does mean for easter day we start off on a dry note for most. cold and frosty, lots of sunshine around. through the day, the cloud will tend to build up at times. we will continue to see a few perhaps heavy showers across eastern counties of england. and then across the south—west, wet and windy weather will arrive here. this will continue to move northwards into colder air so we'll see a mixture of rain, sleet and snow, certainly over the high ground, but as it reaches central northern wales, the north midlands, northern england into northern ireland, central southern scotland, we're likely to see some snow even down to lower levels, so this could prove disruptive. across the south, though, later in the day, it turns milder here with sunshine and showers but do watch out for this snow risk on easter monday. if you have travel plans, keep tuned to the weather. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is nkem ifejika. our top stories — heading home — russian diplomats begin leaving washington in the latest tit—for—tat expulsions over the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy in britain.