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The Briefing Room

David Aaronovitch and a panel of experts and insiders present in-depth explainers on big issues in the news.

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How Do We Get Brexit Done?

'Get Brexit Done' was the slogan that helped lead the Tories to an election victory - but how will that be achieved? It's the pressing task now facing government, but what might Brexit actually look like and how long could it take? David Aaronovitch considers the political and economic pros and cons of the different kinds of trading arrangements the UK and EU might end up with. Are the UK and EU both clear about their priorities and what might cause them to shift? And if we do sort out a trade deal, will Brexit be done or is there more to come? Contributors: Jill Rutter, UK in a Changing Europe Mujtaba Rahman, Eurasia GroupDavid Henig, UK Trade Policy ProjectKatya Adler, BBC Europe Editor Peter Foster, Europe Editor of the Daily TelegraphProducer: Rosamund JonesEditor: Jasper Corbett

28mins

19 Dec 2019

Rank #1

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Climate Change: is time running out?

In October, the IPCC, the UN body that reports on climate change, issued a stark warning. It said that if the world wanted to avoid catastrophic environmental damage, we needed to reduce carbon emissions by almost half in the next 12 years. So what needs to be done now if that target is to be reached? What's the position in China, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide? And how important is the stated intention of President Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions? We hear from, among others, Professor Lord Nicholas Stern, the author of the seminal Stern Review in 2006.

28mins

21 Dec 2018

Rank #2

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Is Greece out of the woods?

Greece exited its bailout programme last week. It's the culmination of nine years of reliance on huge loans from international finance bodies and stringent budget cuts. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, heralded it as a day of liberation.In the course of the country's economic crisis, youth unemployment rose to nearly 50 per cent and 40 per cent of the working age population was left at risk of poverty. Pensions were frozen and public sector salaries slashed.David Aaronovitch speaks to guests about what successive governments have had to do to turn things round and what impact years of austerity have had on the day-to-day life of the Greek people. And although the economic indicators have improved somewhat, how confident can the Greek government be in its future and in its ability to stimulate longer term growth?CONTRIBUTORSMichele Kambas, Athens bureau chief at Thomson ReutersRoman Gerodimos, founder of the Greek Politics Specialist GroupChloe Hadjimatheou, BBC journalistProfessor Kevin Featherstone, Director of the Hellenic Observatory at the London School of EconomicsProducer: Tim Mansel.

28mins

23 Aug 2018

Rank #3

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Is Turkey imploding?

This week Turkey's currency plummeted to its lowest level ever against the US dollar. The lira's steady descent this year was accelerated by the imposition of increased tariffs on steel and aluminium by the United States. President Trump, it seems, is personally angered by the continued detention in Turkey of an American pastor, who's been held for nearly two years on suspicion of spying. The currency crisis has focussed attention on Turkey more broadly: on economic difficulties with deep roots, on the leadership of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accumulated unprecedented power, and on Turkey's troubled relationships with many of its traditional allies. Mr Erdogan says he may now need to look for new friends - a potentially troubling prospect for other NATO members. David Aaronovitch asks how deep is the Turkish crisis?CONTRIBUTORSSoner Çağaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of The New Sultan - a biography of President Erdogan.Dr Mina Toksoz, an emerging markets and country risk consultant at the foreign affairs think tank Chatham HouseDr. Amanda Sloat, Brookings Institution, Washington DC and former deputy assistant secretary for Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Affairs at the US State Department Dr Ziya Meral, a specialist on Turkey and a fellow at the British Army’s Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research

28mins

16 Aug 2018

Rank #4

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Chaos on the railways

In May, what was billed as the biggest ever overhaul of train timetables led to widespread rail disruption - why has this new timetable caused such rail chaos this summer? Since then, passengers travelling on the services of two rail franchises - Govia Thameslink and Northern - have suffered weeks of cancellations and delays. The overhaul was aimed at improving punctuality and boosting capacity, but what passengers got was hundreds of trains removed from service as the franchises struggled to cope with the planned changes. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has defended his handling of the situation and pointed the finger at the rail industry - but who is really responsible? And can long-suffering passengers trust that the disruption will finally be brought to an end - and not repeated?David Aaronovitch assesses what led to such chaos on the railway and what the disruption says about the state of Britain's railways.CONTRIBUTORSTony Miles, Modern Railways magazine Dieter Helm CBE, Professor of Economic Policy at Oxford University.Lord Adonis, former Transport Secretary and former Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission.

28mins

2 Aug 2018

Rank #5

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UK fishing and Brexit

The UK fishing industry will be central to EU trade negotiations, starting soon. David Aaronovitch explores why a sector, which contributes very little to the overall economy, has gained such political and cultural importance. He asks why there is such a mismatch between the kind of fish we catch and the kind of fish we eat. When did cod become so central to our diets? With his guests, he also traces the industry's relationship with the EU down the decades. To what extent did the imposition of EU quotas reduce the amount of fish UK boats catch? And should fishing now expect a 'Brexit bounce'? Contributors: Hazel Curtis, director of Seafish Nick Fisher, fisherman and authorJohn Lichfield, journalistDr Jill Wakefield, University of Warwick. Dr Bryce Stewart, University of York Producers: Kirsteen Knight, Jordan Dunbar and Rosamund Jones.Editor: Penny Murphy.

28mins

20 Feb 2020

Rank #6

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General Election Promises: Tax and Spend?

Politicians are busy making big electoral promises. Some of them are to be funded by taxing wealthier people. But will the next chancellor be able to get the money they need from high earners, or will they need to find new ways of funding their ambitions? David Aaronovitch discovers, with his guests, what wealth consists of and who today has the means to contribute more to the UK tax kitty and how they could pay it. How many are there of them? And, importantly, are they the people we think they are? Might we be surprised to discover who qualifies as wealthy?CONTRIBUTORS:Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank that focuses on the living standards of those people on low and middle incomes.John Whiting, CBE, former tax director of the Office of Tax SimplificationPat Thane, Visiting Professor in History at Birkbeck, University of London and an expert on ageing, the welfare state and pensionsMerryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of the personal finance magazine, MoneyWeek, and a columnist for the money section of FT Weekend.Producer Simon CoatesEditor Jasper Corbett

28mins

28 Nov 2019

Rank #7

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The United Kingdom, Brexit and its History

In a momentous week for British politics, David Aaronovitch presents a special hour-long edition of The Briefing Room in which he asks whether the United Kingdom's history might help us to understand better the political storms buffeting the country. What has the debate over Brexit done to Britain’s political parties and its parliamentary system, what does Brexit mean for the future of the union, what does it tell us about Britain’s place in the world and what has it revealed about the state of the country and the public’s faith in government as its provider and protector?Joining David Aaronovitch are: Margaret MacMillan, Professor of History at Oxford UniversityAnne Deighton, Emeritus Professor of History at Wolfson CollegeMary Daly, Emiritus Professor of Modern Irish History at University College DublinLord Lexden, the official historian of the Conservative PartyProfessor Ian McLean, Senior Research Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College OxfordAlwyn Turner, social historian. Producer Neil KoenigEditor Jasper Corbett

57mins

5 Sep 2019

Rank #8

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Where does Labour stand on Brexit?

Labour will play a crucial role in shaping Britain's exit from the EU now the Conservative government has lost its overall majority. The vast majority of Labour MPs backed Remain ahead of the referendum - but most followed party orders to allow Article 50 to be invoked (the mechanism for leaving the EU). On the day the government publishes the Repeal Bill and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn meets the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, David Aaronovitch asks a range of political experts what Labour wants. He'll look back into the party's history to see if that helps explain today's divisions and he'll be briefed on whether Labour's Brexit wishlist is realistic. CONTRIBUTORS Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at The University of NottinghamCatherine Barnard, Professor of European Union Law, The University of CambridgeDeborah Mattinson, former advisor to Gordon Brown and founder of think tank Britain ThinksProducers: Phoebe Keane and Beth Sagar-Fenton

27mins

13 Jul 2017

Rank #9

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Infrastructure: The Roads to Recovery?

Theresa May has promised new trains, faster broadband and improved infrastructure. Critics accused her of adopting Labour Party politics. But is it left-wing to invest in infrastructure?During the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes encouraged governments to dig holes until the economy was restored. The explosion of building in 1930s America is often seen as Keynes' words in action - but the New Deal was not as straightforward as we may think. The Economist's Soumaya Keynes finds out what really happened.After the 2008 crisis, politicians turned to Keynes' ideas once again. First Ed Miliband, then George Osborne and now Theresa May have pledged to build us out of trouble. How has this idea moved across the political spectrum - and could traffic lights and bridges really solve our economic woes?Joining David Aaronovitch in the Briefing Room are:Sir John Armitt, President of the Institution of Civil EngineersMichelle Baddeley, Professor of Economics and Finance at University College LondonTim Worstall, Senior Fellow at the Adam Smith InstituteResearcher: Jordan DunbarProducer: Hannah Sander.

27mins

20 Oct 2016

Rank #10

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Black Lives Matter UK

What does Black Lives Matter stand for in the UK?In the United States it is a protest movement formed in reaction to the killing of black people by police, and now there are BLM chapters in Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and London. The British organisation's most high profile action so far has been a blockade of airports and major roads - but what are the key issues driving the Black Lives Matter campaign in the UK? Joining David Aaronovitch in this edition of The Briefing Room are:Doton Adebayo, journalist and BBC 5 live presenter Stephen Bush, special correspondent at The New Statesman Kiri Kankhwende, political commentator for Media Diversified Researcher: Alex BurtonProducer: Joe Kent

28mins

13 Oct 2016

Rank #11

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Has Narendra Modi changed India?

It's the world's biggest organised event: 900 million eligible voters across India have been to the polls in the last six weeks after five years of Narendra Modi's BJP government.Narendra Modi's ambition was to project India as a global economic power, clamping down on corruption and burnishing its national security credentials. How far has he achieved this? And to what extent should India's non-Hindus be concerned about Narendra Modi's brand of Hindu nationalism? David Aaronovitch speaks to experts to find out.GUESTS:Dr S Y Quraishi - Former Chief Election CommissionerSoutik Biswas - India correspondent for BBC news onlineKunal Sen - Director, Professor of Development Economics, University of ManchesterAmbassador Nirupama Rao - India’s foreign secretary 2009-11; former ambassador to the US, China and Sri LankaJames Crabtree - India expert at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and author of The Billionaire Raj

28mins

23 May 2019

Rank #12

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Middle East Youthquake

A wave of protests are sweeping through Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Retribution in Iraq and Iran has been swift and savage, and hundreds of young people have been killed - but what lies behind the unrest? David Aaronovitch explores the common themes - unemployment, crony sectarianism, corruption and hopelessness. These were the issues that led countless thousands onto the streets in many middle eastern countries during the Arab Spring ten years ago. What lessons have governments and protesters learnt since then? The young people are hoping for sustained political and economic change this time. What chance is there of that happening? CONTRIBUTORS: Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East EditorDr Lena Khatib, Head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham HouseMichael Safi, International Correspondent, The GuardianPesha Magid, Journalist Lizzie Porter, Journalist Producer: Rosamund JonesEditor: Jasper Corbett

28mins

12 Dec 2019

Rank #13

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VIP Sex Abuse Allegations

An independent review of police investigations into VIP sex abuse has found 43 police failings - but why did the police drop the ball with so many high-profile cases?The Henriques Review looked into the police investigations of public figures, including former Home Secretary Lord Brittan, retired army chief Lord Bramall and Harvey Proctor, a former Conservative MP. Justice Henriques criticises the police for choosing to believe uncorroborated accusations rather than approaching the investigations with an open mind. Speaking publicly for the first time Lady Diana Brittan tells reporter Alistair Jackson about the allegations made against her husband, the former Conservative minister Leon Brittan and the failure of the police to inform Lord Brittan before he died that no further action would be taken.He digs deeper into Operation Midland and Operation Vincente: police investigations that spanned several years, costing millions in tax-payers' money, and drew in large numbers of police officers. He speaks to people closely involved and finds out why the Metropolitan Police has now issued apologies.David Aaronovitch asks how historical sex abuse investigations should be handled and asks if police preoccupation with historic sexual abuse cases is hampering their ability to investigate more recent crimes.Researcher: Kirsteen KnightProducer: Hannah Sander

28mins

24 Nov 2016

Rank #14

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What Next For Europe?

David Aaronovich examines the likely lasting impact of the UK's decision to quit the European Union - not on Britain but on mainland Europe. The European Union is struggling to reconcile competing views of the economy, of national identity and of ideology. As populist political parties play an increasing role in the governance of member states, some expert Euro-watchers give their views of the divisions and the chances of them being reconciled. Might the EU "widen" its reach to new countries? Or deepen" the binds between member countries? Or is it time to concede that voters across the Continent prefer sovereignty to be exercised within national states. Presenter: David Aaronovich Producer: Sally AbrahamsResearcher: Kirsteen Knight Editor: Andrew Smith

28mins

11 Apr 2019

Rank #15

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The Cost of Abandoning Austerity

The chancellor is facing widespread calls for more spending. Should he listen, or stick to his deficit reduction plan?Senior Conservatives are calling for more public spending on things like public sector pay - but Philip Hammond is committed to what he himself calls 'the long slog of austerity'. David Aaronovitch invites a range of experts into The Briefing Room to help him understand the arguments around public spending, and asks if the UK should ditch austerity?Guests include Paul Johnson from the IFS and economists Ann Pettifor and Tim Besley.

28mins

6 Jul 2017

Rank #16

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Britain’s constitutional dilemma: who now runs the country?

The Supreme Court has ruled that Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful, turning a page on the country’s constitution. The Supreme Court president Lady Hale said "the effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme." The Prime Minister responded that he "strongly disagrees" with the ruling but will "respect" it. So is British democracy at a crossroads? In an extended edition of the Briefing Room, David Aaronovitch asks who is running Britain and is it now time to have a written constitution.CONTRIBUTORS:Alison Young, Professor of Public Law, University of Cambridge.Philip Norton, Professor of Government, and Director of the Centre for Legislative Studies, University of HullDavid Allen Green, contributing editor to the Financial Times and lawyer at Preiskel & CoMichael Keating, Director of the Centre on Constitutional Change at Edinburgh University and Professor of Politics, at the University of Aberdeen. Meg Russell, Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London, Senior Fellow at the UK in a Changing EuropeMurray Hunt, Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of LawProducer: Neil KoenigEditor: Jasper Corbett

57mins

26 Sep 2019

Rank #17

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Les Gilets Jaunes

In France a wave of protests has brought the country to a standstill in recent weeks. The original cause of the anger - the government's plan to raise the rate of tax on diesel - has now disappeared. President Macron responded this week to the mood in the country by withdrawing the tax, due to be introduced next year. The question now is whether that will temper the anger of the Gilets Jaunes, the protesters who take their name from the hi-viz vest that every French driver must carry with them in their vehicle. The protesters form an amorphous movement without leaders and their demands are many and various. President Macron is being criticised as much for his style and tactics as his policy. Where does France go from here? With Sophie Pedder of The Economist, the geographer Christophe Guilluy, the pollster Bruno Jeanbart, the writer Jane Weston-Vauclair and Professor Philippe Marliere of University College London.

28mins

6 Dec 2018

Rank #18

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Should we worry about Huawei?

The boss of Chinese telecoms giant, Huawei, says his company would never spy on behalf of the Chinese state. But some experts think it would be a mistake for Britain to involve the company in the development of the 5G network. What's the relationship between Huawei and the government in Beijing, is the company a reliable partner and what should Britain do? David Aaronovitch is joined by: Dr Linda Yueh, Economist at the University of Oxford and author of 'The Great Economists'. Wanyuan Song, BBC JournalistJan-Peter Kleinhans, Project Director IoT-Security at Stiftung Neue VerantwortungProfessor Steve Tsang, Director of the China Institute, the School of Oriental and African StudiesCharlie Parton, Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services InstituteEmily Taylor, Editor, Chatham House's Journal of Cyber PolicyDr Tim Stevens, Lecturer in Global Security, King's College London

28mins

21 Feb 2019

Rank #19

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Climate change and meat: what's the beef?

Would cutting back on meat consumption help tackle climate change? What impact would this have on individuals, governments and businesses? Livestock farming accounts for at least 14.5% of all human emissions - with beef making up the highest proportion of this. Meat free burgers are now available at fast food restaurants across the western world; veganism is on the rise, as is flexitarianism - a largely vegetable-based diet supplemented occasionally with meat. But how far can these eating trends help to reduce carbon emissions?David Aaronovitch is joined by: Dr Hannah Richie - Head of Research at Our world in data, University of OxfordTim Searchinger - Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute and Princeton UniversityProfessor Louise Fresco - President of the Wageningen UniversityLaura Wellesley - Research fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham HouseToby Park - Head of Energy and Sustainability, Behavioural Insights TeamProducer: Serena TarlingEditor: Jasper Corbett

28mins

10 Oct 2019

Rank #20