Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 6, Episode 1 - Brexit - full transcript

The UK could officially leave the European Union next month, which would be a huge change with hugely damaging consequences.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
Welcome, welcome,

welcome to "last week tonight."

I'm John Oliver, thank you so

much for joining us.

We are back, we're back.

There is no time,

there's no time to get into

everything we missed over the

last three months, suffice to

say, every single person in

America is now running for

president, Jeff bezos told us

all to keep an eye out for his

dick pic, and of course, the

president has been very busy.

He famously posed with a feast

of 300 hamburgers -- or as he

put it, "over 1,000 hamberders."

And on Christmas Eve, he spoke

to a seven-year-old and said


Are you still a believer in


'Cause at seven, it's marginal,


Yeah, that's the

President of the United States

ruining Santa for a child on

December 24th, which is actually

perfectly on-brand.

Because if there's one thing

trump is good at, it's fucking

up children forever.

But the major drama since we

left has been president trump's

repeated attempts to get

congress to fund his border

wall, including shutting the

government down for nearly a

month, and this Friday, he tried

a new approach.

Underway right now,

president trump declares a

national emergency in an attempt

to get billions for a border


Yes, according to

trump, the border suddenly

constitutes a national

emergency, or as he might spell

it in a tweet, "the berder

cornstidutes a nertional


And to be clear, there is zero

actual emergency at the border

right now.

Illegal crossings have been

declining for 20 years.

And as we've talked about before

on this show, a wall would be

expensive and completely


But putting those aside,

declaring a national emergency

is a big step.

Emergency declarations are meant

to temporarily enhance the

president's power during a

legitimate crisis, so trump

needed to sell this as a real


And yet, within minutes of

declaring it, he said this.

I could do the wall over a

longer period of time.

I didn't need to do this.

But I'd rather do it much


Well, it's not an

emergency then, is it?

Also, for the record, there is

no way that's the first time

this week trump has claimed, "i

could do this over a longer

period of time, I'd just rather

do it much faster."

Happy Valentine's day, you two.


And as if that weren't bad

enough, he then responded to

this newly declared emergency

by, just hours later, flying off

to Florida for the weekend,

where he's apparently been

photographed waiting at an

omelet bar.

You know, the kind of thing you

do when America is in crisis.

Now, unsurprisingly, there were

legal challenges filed almost

instantly, which shocked nobody,

including trump himself.

And we will have a national

emergency, and we will then be

sued and they will sue us in the

ninth circuit -- even though it

shouldn't be there -- and we

will possibly get a bad ruling,

and then we'll get another bad

ruling, and then we'll end up in

the supreme court, and hopefully

we'll get a fair shake, and

we'll win in the supreme court.

You know, yet another

great reason for trump to not be

president is that now I kind of

want to see him as a historical

expert on the next Ken burns


"They killed the archduke and

Germany got mad, and then there

were tanks and also poison gas,

and there was a beagle on a

doghouse flying around shooting

at people, and then America


Look, there will be plenty more

to say about trump's border wall

going forward, but for now, I'd


number one in the world by

"places to end your marriage"


Last week, Ikea apologized after

making an embarrassing mistake.

Ikea is facing criticism

after selling a map that had a

little something missing.

Customers in Washington, D.C.,

noticed the $30 map of the world

forgot to show New Zealand.

It's bad timing for Ikea because

the company is in the process of

opening its first store there.


Yeah, "oops," indeed.

I'm not sure which one is more

surprising there, that Ikea

forgot New Zealand or that Ikea

sells world maps for $30.

Bear in mind, you can buy an

entire dining room table at Ikea

for $39.

So by that pricing, a world map

should cost negative $40.

Now, incredibly, this is not

even the first time this has

happened to New Zealand.

Their prime minister openly

complained about it last year.

We're not actually on every

map that's out there, so...


No, it's actually a real


We've had a campaign around it.

Yup, there are maps where we are




It's honestly true.

New Zealand gets left off maps

all the time.

Now, do I think that that is



Yes, I do.


New Zealand, a place that's

basically Times Square if all

the people were sheep and if all

the neon signs were also sheep,

keeps getting picked never in

the dodgeball game of maps.

That is objectively funny to me.

But this is a surprisingly

common occurrence.

There's both a subreddit and a

tumblr dedicated to collecting

examples of maps without

New Zealand on them.

For example, it's apparently

been left out from this textbook

illustration, this box from

Tiffany's, and the board game

"risk," as well as on large maps

in multiple major airports,

including Munich, Beijing, and

Prague, which begs the question:

Where do these airports think

flights to New Zealand are


"We are now boarding the 8:55 to


Not sure where or what that is,

so from everyone here at

delta airlines, we wish you a

Sincere good luck."

And look, whether you like

New Zealand or not, you can't

deny it is there.

It's not just Australia's

imaginary friend.

And they are trying their best.

They did have an official

campaign just last year using

the hashtag


but it clearly didn't work.

So tonight we're going to try to

help them out by giving people a

practical way to put things

right here.

So if you go to our Twitter feed

right now, you'll find a map of

New Zealand you can print out

and add to any incorrect map of

your choosing.

If you own that Ikea map?

Add New Zealand right there.

If you have the board game

"risk," add New Zealand.

And then throw it away because

it's a terrible game.

And also why stop with

inaccurate maps?

You can put New Zealand on


Map of Florida?

Add New Zealand.

An anatomical map of male sexual


Add New Zealand.

In fact, add two.

And, finally, if you should ever

find yourself in an Ikea, you

can help them never forget my

favorite heavily-logged island

nation ever again by finding

their in-store store map and

going full New Zealand on it.

It's the only way they'll learn.

And now, this.

And now,

news anchors shit talk the

winner of the westminster

dog show.

This is not my favorite breed

of dog.

I just don't find it very


It's not my favorite-looking


It's ridiculous.

So goofy, that face.

He looks snobby.

That dog looks like in the

morning he wakes up and sips tea

and eats crumpets.

He should get a shave.

That beard.

Puffy legs, puffy chin.

Goofy-looking dog.

Does that dog have knees?

He needs a shave.

No, it's okay.

Arthur Chester look, or

Chester a. Arthur.

I gave you the phone book


Either way, I don't know.

Chester Arthur.

You don't know?

He was president?

He was not president.

Chester Arthur?

You sure about that?

100% sure.

Who am I thinking of?

I don't know.


I have no idea.

Woodrow Wilson?

No, it was before that.

I think it was Chester a.


There was no president named

Chester a. -- Jesse, look it up.

Moving on.

Our main story tonight concerns

an issue that promises to

dominate this entire year,

brexit, the playful, fun name

that's been given to a disaster.

It's like if you said

an animal died of

"otter-erotic asphyxiation."

It's cute, although when you

think about the actual

consequences, it becomes quite


It's now been two and a half

years since britain voted to

leave the eu.

The long story short is, there

was a bus with a lie on it,

people made a massively

consequential decision by a

narrow margin, and ever since,

the subject of the impending

brexit has dominated every

waking moment in British life.

It even comes up on reality

shows like this one, called

"love island."

What do you think about


What's that?

Where we're leaving the

European union.

I seriously don't have a


So it was to leave the eu so

we wouldn't be part of Europe.

Oh, the eu, yeah, yeah.

Which would mean, like,

welfare, and, like, things we

trade with would be cut down.

So does that mean we won't

have any trees?



No, that's got nothing to do

with it, babe, that's weather.

Why wouldn't we have trees?

But doesn't it mean it would

be harder to go to, like, Spain

and stuff?

So it would be harder to go

on holidays?

Yeah, I think so.

Oh, I love my holidays!


Okay, so there's a lot

to unpack there, absolutely none

of which is worth unpacking.

It's like coming over to help a

friend move and finding all his

boxes are labeled "dead spiders

for mommy."

Yeah, you could unpack that, but

it's probably better to just

burn everything to the ground

and never speak of it again.

The point is, you cannot escape

talk about brexit in the uk.

It's something brilliantly

captured by a TV show called


It's a show in britain where you

get to watch other people watch


It's actually great, trust me.

Just eavesdrop on some British

people watching the news.

Why did David Cameron call a

referendum in the first place?

He should be put in prison.

Britain wants to have their

cake and eat it.

They want to trade with the rest

of the world, but they also have

the benefit of trading with


I'm halfway through the

585-page withdrawal agreement.


Who are you?

It's like one of those mugs I

saw in pudsey, Mary.

"Different day, same old shit."


I don't like you swearing.

I saw it on a mug.

I'm just quoting what I read on

a mug.


"Here's something else

I saw on a mug, Mary.

'This marriage is like

a locomotive lying on my chest,

crushing my spirit to dust.'

I'm just quoting what I saw on a

mug, Mary.

Don't blame me, blame the mug."

People in britain are exhausted

by brexit talk, and the crazy

thing is, it hasn't even

happened yet, although it has

already had big effects on the

British economy.

In the wake of the brexit vote,

the uk has become one of the

worst-performing economies in

the g-7, major companies like

Nissan and Dyson are moving

operations out of britain, and

the pound has dropped by almost


And all of this will come to a

head just 40 days from now, on

march 29, when the uk is set to

officially leave the eu.

And it could be an absolute

catastrophe because nothing is

happening the way that was


Britain was supposed to leave

the eu in orderly stages, first

entering a transition period on

march 29, during which it would

negotiate its future

relationship with the eu and

then leave entirely.

And prime minister Theresa may

has spent the last two years

locking down the terms of that

transition plan with the eu.

But when she presented this

agreed-upon deal to parliament,

this happened.

Theresa may suffers the

biggest commons defeat in


This was the moment the

defeat was announced.

The ayes to the right, 202.

The nos to the left, 432.

What was that noise?

That was the biggest commons

defeat in British history and

they sounded like a

middle school lunchroom who just

heard someone called to the

principal's office.

"Oh, Theresa's in trou-ble!"

Now, incidentally, we can't show

that moment in the uk because of

their dumb law banning

parliamentary footage in comedy

shows, so when this airs there

tomorrow night, it'll be

replaced by a clip from a 1983

chippendales exercise video

instead with absolutely no


So this is what they'll see:

This is the moment the defeat

was announced.

Yeah, that's what

they'll get.

They'll be confused by it, and

it'll be all their fault.

The point is, the defeat of

Theresa may's deal

raises the specter of what many

consider to be the worst-case

the uk dropping

out of the eu next month with no

transition plan in place.

It's the so-called no-deal

scenario, and the ramifications

of that could be massive, not

just for the uk or the eu, but

for the entire world.

So tonight, let's try and answer

why don't

people like Theresa may's deal?

What happens if the uk leaves

with no deal?

And could they just not do

brexit at all?

And let's start with why

parliament rejected her deal.

There's a lot of reasons that

people don't like it, but the

biggest sticking point has to do

with northern Ireland.

And let me explain here.

You see, the uk is actually four

england, Scotland,

wales, and northern Ireland.

A fab four, sort of like the


I won't say who the Ringo is,

because that would be unfair to


Now, northern Ireland shares a

border with the Republic of

Ireland, and right now,

everything you see here is part

of the eu, so goods and people

can move freely between them.

But the whole point of brexit is

for the uk to leave the eu, and

that could put a hard border

across Ireland, and that could

be a problem in a region that's

been plagued by sectarian


And I don't have time to get

into the sociopolitical history

of Ireland right now.

So feel free to Google

"ira bombings" or

"bloody Sunday," or

"Daniel day-Lewis' 1990s film

output" or -- do you know what?

Do you know what?

I'll just let the Cranberries

10 seconds.

That's basically it.

Tanks, bombs, guns, absolutely

no more than four chords.

You know, Ireland.

In the "troubles," thousands of

people died.

Businesses on the border were

regularly bombed, and

checkpoints became targets.

So removing them was a

centerpiece to the historic

good Friday agreement of 1998,

which brought a fragile peace to

the whole region.

Returning to checkpoints in any

way, shape, or form is going to

re-inflame tensions, as people

who live there know.

If somebody builds a customs

post on the border between the

north and Southern Ireland,

people will shoot at it.

And they'll shoot at the people

who work at it.

That's absolutely 100% certain.


That is striking, because

normally for people to

be that certain something will

be a disaster, they need to see

will Smith in blueface.

So everyone agrees there cannot

be a hard border there again.

But how do you avoid that?

Because if you're not in the eu,

goods have to be screened

somewhere, like you would at any

international border, and no one

has yet come up with a plausible

solution for this.

Some, including former foreign

secretary and untitled

Gary busey project

Boris Johnson, have proposed

elaborate workarounds, including

technologies that don't yet

exist and customs screenings

near, but not at, the border.

But Ireland is not remotely

convinced by those.

And when journalists pushed

Boris Johnson for more details,

his response did not inspire


Nobody thinks it's a

realistic plan, because they

don't think Ireland would accept


The eu does.

Don't -- don't run away.

We want to ask you some serious

questions, because you've just

done a load of interviews, why

don't you talk to channel four?

And answer -- answer a couple of



This is absurd.

You want to have a serious

conversation about brexit and

then you ride off without

talking to us.

Why can't you answer any serious


I'll tell you why Boris

can't answer any serious

he doesn't have any


In fact, the only question he's

ever capable of answering is,

"what would it look like if

Gordon Ramsey was tumble-dried

on high?"

So just in case no one comes up

with a solution for this

un-fixable problem by the end of

the transition period, the eu

and Theresa may agreed on

something called a "backstop."

Now, under it, northern Ireland

would broadly live under eu

rules and there would be a hard

border between it and the rest

of the uk, and that would remain

in effect until they came up

with a permanent solution to the

border problem -- a solution

that, remember, does not exist.

The problem is, brexiteers have

strong reservations about the

backstop, and they want Theresa

may to renegotiate it.

But the eu says they're done

negotiating, leaving britain

hurtling towards the

ever-increasing possibility of

leaving next month with no deal

in place at all.

So what happens if there is no


Well, first -- ironically --

there will be a hard border in

Ireland, the one thing that

everyone agrees they don't want.

But the consequences would go

much further than that, because

it won't just be the Irish

border where there'll be customs


Brand-new screenings will be

required at every point of

entry, and at major British

ports like Dover, where trucks

arrive on ferries, that could

mean chaos.

Under a no-deal brexit,

world trade organization rules

would kick in overnight, meaning

customs inspections on every


By one estimate, if customs

delayed each truck by just

70 additional seconds, the wait

to board the ferry could reach

six days.

Yeah, that is a massive

problem, because the whole

system is built on seamless


Introduce any hitch into that

system, and it all breaks down.

It's like being in a supermarket

checkout when one person brings

a fruit the cashier doesn't


Hold on a second.

You are not trying to buy a

dragonfruit at a kroger at

6:00 pm on a rainy Sunday.

Get the fuck out of here!

You drop that fruit!

You drop that fruit!

You drop it and walk away!

Not up in here!

Not up in here!

And perishable goods will be

particularly hard-hit by delays

at ports, as this flower

importer will tell you.

If things get delayed, our

shipping gets delayed, and we're

trading with no -- no flowers.

So we -- we need free movements

and it will affect us.

What's at stake for you if we

don't get this right now?


My family, my house, everything,

my staff.

You know, we've been trading for

33 years.

Yeah, that's very sad

because people do tend to want

flowers now and alive.

Although you may feel slightly

less sorry for that man when you

hear what he said next.

You know, we've been trading

for 33 years.

And I did vote to leave.

Do you regret that?

I definitely have second

thoughts now, but --

but when you voted "leave,"

did you not think, "well, this

is gonna affect my flowers?"

I didn't really think about

it like that.

I didn't really think about the

business side of it.

Yeah, well, you

probably should've done,

shouldn't you?

And now, you've pretty much

fucked yourself with a rusty

piece of rebar.

Which isn't offensive, it's

something I saw on a mug, so

it's fine.

The mug makes it okay, Mary.

You trust a mug always.

Now, look, the chilling prospect

of a no-deal brexit has now

become likely enough that the

government has released over a

hundred guidance documents

instructing people about what to

do if it does happen, everything

from how pesticides will be

regulated to what the new

procedures would be for taking

your horse abroad.

Although I think I can actually

solve that one for you right

take off its shoes, put it

in a separate tray, and look

innocently confused when airport

security starts asking whose

fucking horse this is.

And while some of what will

happen in a no-deal scenario may

go into the category of

"manageable annoyance," there

are some genuinely alarming

issues like, will there be a

shortage of medication that

comes from other countries that

could affect someone like this

girl with cerebral palsy and


She has three drugs that she

has that are critical, and

without them, she will have

multiple seizures in a day.

It's one of the biggest

countries in the world,

financially, and I'm sitting

here thinking, "will I be able

to get medicine in two months'


It's a completely crazy


You are right about

that, because medicine shortages

are not a problem that britons

expect to deal with.

They're used to having their

problems limited to hearing

Americans mispronounce the word


Not having enough beans as part

of your breakfast, and having to

wait 20 years for another royal


How are you still single,


Settle down already, you're this


Find a fiancee for us to

ferociously judge.

And if all of this is not

already frightening enough,

there are warnings of empty

shelves, and some britons have

begun stockpiling food or buying

so-called "brexit boxes," which,

when you see what's actually

inside them, seems pretty grim.

They may look like tins of

paint, but they could be dinner

a la brexit.

Every brexit box contains all

you need to whip up family

favorites like chili con carne,

chicken tikka, and even fajitas.

Now, putting aside how

unappetizing a paint can of wet

meat sounds, let's also not

overlook the metaphorical

significance of every dish in

the brexit box being something

that came to britain from

another country and greatly

improved the lives of everyone


Now, things look dire here.

Under any form of brexit,

britain's economic options are

basically "bad" and "worse."

The government's own analysis

suggests that, under a brexit

like Theresa may's plan, the uk

economy could be up to 3.9%

smaller after 15 years.

Which sounds bad until you learn

that under a no-deal brexit,

we're looking at an economy as

much as 9.3% smaller.

And a slowdown like that would

not just hurt britain -- it

would ripple across the whole


And yet, incredibly, some in

britain remain completely

unfazed by all this, drawing

confidence from the worst

possible examples.

I lost a grandfather in the

first world war, I lost an uncle

in the second world war, and we


Are you not a little bit

concerned that we're talking

about this political event the

same way that we're talking

about the aftermath of

world wars?

No, I'm not.

I think it's the same sort of


But it isn't, though,

is it?

Because the world wars were


They were a response to outside


Brexit is something britain's

done to itself.

Britain is basically Pompeii if

Pompeii had voted for the


"A bus said the volcano would be


I believe the bus!

And a mug backed it up!

You trust mugs!"

And this brings us to the final

question here.

If all of this going to be so

bad, could britain just not do


To which the answer is,

technically, yes.

In December, the European court

of justice ruled that the uk can

simply revoke its intention to


That is a big indication that

Europe would take us back.

And an even bigger indication is

the existence of the

breunion boys, a Dutch group who

describe themselves as a

"boy band driven to re-unite

Great Britain with the eu."

And if you think they didn't

make a music video, you clearly

don't understand why I'm

bringing this up.


I mean, it's the classic

boy band formula, isn't it?

You get five eurotrash hunks,

dress two like fishermen, two

like guys who run a vc firm, and

one like a marxist guerrilla

with a throat cold, put them on

the world's grayest, dankest

beach, and have them croon in

different keys about the

dissolution of a customs union.

It's just textbook.

And look, if I'm honest, that

clip doesn't make a completely

airtight case for staying in the

eu, but the rap break certainly


Hold on.

Hold on there.

You really think British people

are going to be impressed by

your abs?

We're British.

If there's one thing people know

about us, it's that we all have

spectacular abs.

Look, mine are obviously


The queen's are completely


So why don't you take your

little eurozone four-pack and

hit the gym, pencil-neck.

And while, clearly, that band is

a pretty solid argument for

leaving the eu on any terms

necessary, what if britain did

want to stay?

How would that even happen?

Well, Theresa may and parliament

could weigh the evidence and

decide that brexit is not worth


That would be the truly

courageous thing to do.

They won't do it because of the

political backlash they'd get

for defying the popular will.

But that is why some have

suggested a second referendum.

Now, that would not be easy.

First, the shortest estimate of

the time it would take to

organize a vote is 22 weeks, and

there's just six weeks left.

And also, what, exactly, would

people vote on?

Would it be remain in the eu

versus Theresa may's brexit?

Or remain versus the no-deal


Or do you put all three options

on the ballot, probably split

the vote, fail to get a clear

majority for any option, and

somehow make this whole mess

even worse?

Because the reality is, this

situation is far too complex for

an up-or-down referendum, which,

by the way, was also true of the

first fucking one, because when

voters were just asked to leave

or stay without a sense of what

that might actually mean.

The first referendum was a

terrible idea, because it was

the government punting a

difficult decision to the

people, which, in the people's

defense, is not their job.

They elect politicians to make

reasoned, fact-based decisions

on their behalf.

That's how representative

democracy works.

And you know who could've told

you all of this at the time?

The people of "gogglebox."

Just watch them react to the

referendum being announced in


Do you think everybody knows

enough to be able to vote?

I know there must be other

people like me.

This is what's worrying me.

I'm worried that people aren't

well-informed enough to make the


It's such a big decision.

I don't understand it.

And then I don't want to vote on

something that I don't really

truly understand.


That is an intelligent thing to


Sometimes you don't know stuff,

so you hire someone else to know

it for you.

If you came to your doctor with

stomach pain, and he said,

"well, what do you think?

Should your appendix leave or


You'd probably say, "don't ask


Do your fucking job!"

Look, a true act of political

courage at this point wouldn't

be to call for a second

referendum -- something

that Theresa may's already said

she won't do.

It would be to acknowledge that

the first one was fatally flawed

and that carrying it out will do

long-term damage to the country

and then canceling brexit


But it seems that there is no

way that's happening.

Instead, britain seems

determined to step firmly down

upon the rake of history and

suffer the consequences.

And I wish I could offer you a

rousing, churchillian speech now

about how everything's going to

be okay, but under the

circumstances, honestly, the

best I can offer you is this.

People of britain, throughout

history, we've faced our share

of dark hours.

The great war.

The blitz.

And that time when Deborah

accidentally used Howard's

custard in her own trifle.

That's my custard.

Oh, no.

So sorry, Howard.

And through all this, our

stiff upper lip has prevailed,

because this country is not for

turning, not when other

countries have tried to destroy

us and not when we are in the

midst of trying to destroy


And I know some are yelling,

britain, come back, don't do


You're pointlessly fucking


And to them, we say, oh, we have

not even begun to fuck


We shall fuck ourselves at the


We shall fuck ourselves at the


We shall fuck ourselves in the

hospitals and in the fields.

We shall never surrender.

And when the dust clears, what

will remain?


Not the same britain, certainly.

A worse one with a weaker


Possibly no fresh fruit and a

great deal of confusion over how

horses can go on holiday.

But britain nonetheless.

And once we have delivered this

mortal wound to ourselves, we

will savor the taste of victory,

a victory that tastes like

mummified chicken fajitas!

That's our show,

thanks so much for watching.

See you next week, good night!