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Boris Johnson has been in Downing Street just two weeks
and already the talk is of a general election.
No ifs and buts, says Mr Johnson,
Britain must be out of the EU by October the 31.
So, Robert, is this real, the election talk?
And how does it square with the exit date?
Well, I think there are two answers to that, of course.
My instinct is that he doesn't want a general election
before Brexit for a number of reasons, one of which
I think he's articulated, is that the Conservatives need
to deliver on Brexit before they go to the polls.
Also, I think for a lot of people
who passionately believe in Brexit,
and that's who the kind of people he's surrounded himself
with, do you really want to risk Brexit by giving
the voters a chance to stop it?
On the other hand, he's also keenly
aware of the realities of his parliamentary arithmetic.
Just one-vote
He's got an official majority of just one,
it's fractionally larger and that in reality.
But nonetheless, he could be voted down at any time.
There's an awful lot of talk of vote of confidence
to bring down the government.
And that's led by the Remainers in chief, Dominic Grieve,
and one or two ex-disgruntled...
That's exactly right.
I mean, and the Labour, no...
there's all kinds of conversations going on between
the Labour party and Conservative Remainers about
how they can stop a no-deal Brexit.
And Boris Johnson and his advisers,
Dominic Cummings who's effectively
his chief strategist now, are looking at this
and they know there's a real possibility
of a general election.
So their question is, A, how do we get this over the line?
But also, the other message they want to send out to people
is, we're not going to let a general election stop us
from delivering Brexit on the date we set.
So don't count on a parliamentary cavalry coming
to your rescue.
A word on Dominic Cummings - the Rasputin, Svengali,
any other nicknames for this man who sees himself
as one of the great power centres in this new government?
Well, I mean, Dominic Cummings, who most notably was
the architect of the vote leave victory in the 2016 referendum,
rewarded for this by being played by Benedict Cumberbatch
in a TV serialisation.
You see, an actor who plays Sherlock Holmes and Alan
Turing playing you it is not good for controlling anyone's
But he is a serious campaign strategist
and he is bringing real discipline
to a government of believers in Brexit.
And people are prepared to go for a no-deal Brexit
if they have to.
And Cummings came back with a memorable slogan
"take back control."
But here's an irony, he talked about take back control
but parliament should in Britain post Brexit.
But in fact, this government wants
to disregard a parliamentary vote.
There hasn't yet been a parliamentary vote
to stop a no-deal Brexit.
We certainly think it's possible there could be,
but the parliamentary forces have
been erratic in their efforts to resist Brexit so far.
They have managed the odd success,
but there's not that many opportunities
between now and October 31 and there's not that many vehicles.
And any chance of this supposed national unity government
involving Remainers and Labour and Greens taking force instead
of the Johnson administration?
Well, I mean, look, this whole process has had more twists
and shocks than any.
So it'd be foolish to rule out anything.
I find it very difficult to see how you get to that government
of national unity, for the simple reason that it requires
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party.
It would either require Conservative Remainers
to be prepared to serve under Jeremy Corbyn briefly
to stop Brexit.
Or, since I don't think they would be,
it would require Jeremy Corbyn to allow the Labour party
to serve under somebody other than him.
And I think it's quite difficult to make that work,
on top of which you do have some Labour Brexit and other
independents who would not support it anyway.
And finally, one figure we haven't mentioned
is Nigel Farage.
Do you think there's any circumstances under which Mr
Johnson would countenance a tactical alliance
with the Brexit party led by Mr Farage?
Well, again, you can't rule anything out.
I think it's difficult for a couple of reasons.
Obviously, it depends on when the election is
- whether it is before or after Brexit.
I think Nigel Farage is essentially
running another shakedown on the Conservatives
just like he did to get the referendum in the first place.
Because he knows that if he stands candidate
against the Conservatives in an election before Brexit,
what he is guaranteeing is that Remain minded parties win.
So he's got to be careful at this
but he could certainly scare them
into staying true to what he considers an acceptable Brexit.
All thinks he's really after in terms of a pact,
if he really thinks it's viable, is the right to stand unopposed
by Tories in Labour seats.
I think if things got desperate enough, it's possible
but it's not something I think the Conservatives would
want to cede and they'll resist it if they can.
Now I'm going to put you on the spot as a closer,
not to ask about Queen's Park Rangers, your team,
but what bet for an election before Christmas?
Before Christmas, I think there's a reasonable bet.
What's that?
60 per cent?
Yeah, 60 per fent or so.
But I think the real question is whether it comes before Brexit.
There's no question the Conservatives will
want to go early, but the question for after Brexit
is, what is the immediate Brexit moment like?
If it's quite smooth, then a quick election
looks quite appealing.
If it's chaotic, well, that may not look so clever.
Robert Shrimsley, thanks very much.
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Brexit: the challenge facing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson | FT

12 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on March 28, 2020
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