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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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What does the UK want from the EU?

Dominic Raab, the recently appointed Brexit Secretary has been in Brussels this week - his first visit since replacing David Davis, who resigned after the cabinet had apparently agreed on a docume...

Trump vs NATO

Should NATO plan for a future without the United States? President Trump has long complained that some European members of the organisation have been getting a free ride from the USA after fail...

Brexit decision time

What will Britain's relationship with the EU look like after Brexit? On Friday the cabinet meets in Chequers and the Prime Minister needs to unite her ministers to coalesce around a single approach...

Why are the British Armed Forces short of personnel?

How well equipped is Britain today to defend itself both at home and overseas? Britain's armed forces are struggling to maintain numbers. According to the National Audit Office there is a shortf...

Could Italy bring down the European Union?

Does the new Italian government really pose a danger for the Eurozone and the European Union? There has been much to-ing and fro-ing in Rome this week as the two parties which finished up ahead...

Macron: One Year On

One year into his presidency, can Emmanuel Macron succeed in reforming France where his predecessors have failed? The Briefing Room visits Paris to find out what President Macron stands for and...

Is the Home Office a problem department?

Why do we get through so many Home Secretaries? It may be one of the great offices of state, but many British politicians regard the job of Home Secretary with dread. As one former holder of...

What is the problem with plastic?

Some 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, where it can be lethal to marine life. Governments and businesses have vowed to take action to curb it. But Just how serious is the p...

A new Cold War?

After the missile strikes by the US, France and Britain on Syria, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, condemned the attacks and warned that any more would bring chaos to world affairs. With rel...

Violent Crime

London's murder rate overtook that of New York in February and March this year, and the violent crime rate seems to be rising in other parts of the UK too. There's much debate about the causes,...

Can you win a trade war?

According to US President Donald Trump "trade wars aren't so bad". Recently his government surprised the world by announcing unexpected big increases in import taxes - or tariffs - on steel and alu...

The EU after Brexit – A special programme together with The Bottom Line

Radio 4’s Bottom Line and Briefing Room will combine in a special hour-long programme examining the economic and political future of the EU once Britain has left. Evan Davis meets Jean-Claude Trich...

The Mueller Indictment

Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel appointed to investigate possible Russian links to the Trump campaign in 2016, last week issued formal charges against three companies and thirteen named individ...

Is ISIS still a threat?

The capture of two Londoners accused of brutal crimes in Syria has again raised questions about the viability of so-called Islamic State. The two men - El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey - face ...

Is Your Local Council Going Bust?

Child services in Northampton are under pressure - and it's partly due to where long-distance lorry drivers choose to take a pee. In fact, Northampton County Council as a whole is under huge fi...

Britain, China and the new Silk Road

Theresa May has been in Beijing this week at the head of a large British trade delegation. China is an important partner for Britain, especially given the UK's imminent departure from the EU. In pa...

Syria: who wants what from the conflict?

As Turkey launches a new offensive over the border into north-east Syria, David Aaronovitch and guests examine what Turkey, Russia, Iran and the US want from the war in Syria. Which country stands ...

John Worboys: Understanding the Parole Board

How does the Parole Board decide whether to release offenders on licence? Should it be more open, especially since the decision to release serial sex offender John Worboys? Nick Hardwick, the Ch...

Would you pay more for the NHS?

In its 70th year the NHS is in a winter crisis again. Many people working in the NHS argue successive governments have failed to address what is arguably the biggest problem: funding. David Aaron...

Who are the protesters in Iran and what do they want?

Twenty people have been killed and hundreds arrested after a series of protests in Iran this week - but what's behind these demonstrations? Iran is a strategically important country and so when...

Correspondents Look Ahead

A group of senior BBC journalists forecast what is likely to happen in 2018 in a discussion chaired by Owen Bennett Jones. Last time they got together they were firmly predicting that Marco Rubi...

What Next for the Democrats?

A year on from their shock defeat in the US presidential elections, David Aaronovitch asks how the US Democratic party is responding to Donald Trump's Presidency and assesses some of the challenges...

President Trump's End of Year Report

Has President Trump delivered on the promises he made on the campaign trail? This programme cuts through the White House soap opera which has dominated headlines and asks what has the President ac...

What's Russia up to?

What do we really know about Russian 'meddling' in Western democracy? David Aaronovitch asks experts on Russia what the Kremlin is trying to achieve by hacking emails and spreading fake news. Gu...

May's Brexit Dilemma

The different factions piling Brexit pressure on Theresa May. Following the failure to reach a deal on the first stage of Brexit earlier this week, David Aaronovitch asks experts why Theresa Ma...

Saudi Arabia's Radical Crown Prince

Can Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince radically change the kingdom? Mohammed bin Salman is an ambitious new leader who wants to reshape his country's politics, economy and society. But he faces stron...

A world without antibiotics?

Drug resistant infections cause 700,000 deaths a year and it's estimated that could rise to 10 million by 2050 unless major action is taken. David Aaronovitch asks how can an antibiotic crisis c...

President Xi and the Chinese Dream

President Xi Jinping is said to be China's most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong - so what does he want to do with this power? The Chinese Communist Party started its congress this week...

Capitalism in Crisis

Is capitalism broken, and if so, what should replace it? David Aaronovitch examines whether the free market is failing, and asks how it could be reformed. He speaks to a range of experts and le...

Could Spain split?

Could the crisis over Catalonia lead to the break up of Spain? With political rhetoric from both Barcelona and Madrid intensifying, David Aaronovitch asks a range of experts whether an independent ...

Is Big Tech Out of Control?

Are big technology companies out of control, as their rapid growth and influence has made them too big to fail? David Aaronovitch asks if companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon can be re...

Why are Myanmar's Rohingya persecuted?

Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, says she wants to know why 400,000 Muslim Rohingyas have fled into Bangladesh. The UN says what's going on seems "a textbook case of ethnic cleansing". ...

What are the consequences of lifting the public sector pay cap?

The public sector pay cap is being scrapped after five years - what will it mean for public finances? Prison and police officers will be the first to benefit, but unions have condemned the pay r...

What does the EU want from Brexit?

As negotiations between the UK and the EU hit choppy waters, the Briefing Room asks what does the EU want from Brexit and what would be its bottom line? David Aaronovitch is joined by expert gu...

The North Korean Missile Threat

Do the United States and its allies really have the technology to stop incoming missiles from North Korea? In the week North Korea tested another ballistic missile - this time it flew over north...

The AI Revolution

How will Artificial Intelligence shape our lives, and what should we do now to prepare for it? AI is all around us in our everyday lives. It's used to make decisions about employment, loans, cre...

The Far Right in America

What do the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, tell us about the strength of the far-right in America? What should the government do to combat domestic extremism? In this week's programme David...

Is Venezuela on the brink of collapse?

How did the oil rich state of Venezuela see such a rapid economic decline? Poverty is rife, inflation is running at more than 700 per cent and protests are widespread. President Nicolás Maduro is t...

A Great Day at the White House?

It's been a tumultuous week in Washington - but to what extent does the chaos in Trump's West Wing matter? Anthony 'The Mooch' Scaramucci was gone in 900,000 seconds - but whoever replaces him w...

Why is there still a migrant crisis in Europe?

This year almost 100,000 people have arrived in Italy by boat - and more than 2,000 have died trying. The Italians say they can’t cope, but it's a problem which has now been going on for years ...

The Crisis in Conservatism

Are Tory divisions temporary or symptomatic of deeper problems? Parliament has broken up for the summer, and the last week has seen Conservative cabinet ministers engaging in open warfare. But ...

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 r...

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 pu...

Labour's Election Result: A Successful Failure?

The election was supposed to be a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn - but wasn't. How did Labour turn around its fortunes? Despite coming second and falling 64 seats short of an overall majority, the L...

Trump, Russia and the FBI

There's a compelling story unfolding in Washington. Last week, President Trump fired the director of the FBI, James Comey. It was a contentious move: Comey was investigating ties between Donald Tru...

How Do We Pay for the UK?

David Aaronovitch presents the need-to-know facts on where taxes come from and how they're spent. This edition is a politician-free zone, with non-partisan analysis on how we pay for the UK and ...

How Does France Work?

For the first time in over half a century, two insurgents, Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, have broken through France's traditional two party system. This week, voters will decide between two ut...

The Problem of North Korea

The US and North Korea have been flexing their military muscles in recent weeks, testing and deploying new missiles. President Trump has said North Korea is "a big big problem" that he will dea...

Snap General Election

What are the political tribes which divide British voters today and how will June's general election shape Britain? Britain voted last year on the question of the EU - and following Theresa May's ...

Should we worry about Turkey?

What does Turkey's referendum mean for the UK's foreign policy? The UK has long seen Turkey as a bastion of stability in the Middle East: a Muslim-majority democracy, a NATO member and ally agains...

Can the NHS Survive?

What are the changes needed now to ensure the NHS is sustainable in the future? The NHS is facing one of the biggest crises in its history. With an ageing population, the increasing cost of drugs ...

Britain's Broken Housing Market

The government says the housing market is broken and that it's holding the country back. As prices have risen, fewer people are able to get on the housing ladder, and more are now renting privately...

Does IS Need a State?

What will happen if the Islamic State loses its state? The so-called Islamic State is rapidly losing territory, money and fighters in both Iraq and Syria. Iraqi government troops, supported by U...

Is It Time to Renationalise the Railways?

Bringing Britain's railways back into public ownership is a popular idea with passengers - but would it really make any improvements to service? Renationalisation of the railways is official Labou...

Trump and Trade

Can President Trump deliver on his pre-election promise to bring back outsourced manufacturing jobs, and end the 'bad deals' that have outsourced labour to countries like Mexico? This message wa...

Trump and the Economy

Will President Trump's plan to put 'America first' make the USA richer? He's promised a raft of radical economic reforms including a huge cut in tax on businesses, an income tax cut, a massive r...

India's Bonfire of the Bank Notes

Why did India's prime minister ban the use of the country's most widely used bank notes? On 8 November, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a stunning announcement. As of midnight that d...

Drugs in West Yorkshire

How did British-Pakistani gangs come to dominate the drugs trade in Yorkshire? Earlier this month, police shot dead 28-year-old Mohammed Yasser Yaqub on a motorway slip road near Huddersfield. T...

Aleppo: After the Evacuation

What happened after the buses left eastern Aleppo in December? After four and a half years of siege, the residents of eastern Aleppo were evacuated before Christmas. But the evacuees didn't disapp...

Liberalism's Horrible Year

Liberalism died in 2016. This bold statement has been made by both right and left wing media in recent months. But what is liberalism - and can such a broad idea really be that vulnerable? Edmun...

Yemen: A Global Conflict

Civil war in Yemen has become a full regional conflict, with global implications - but how did it start in the first place? This week the Disasters Emergency Committee launched a major appeal fo...

The Prison Problem

What are the policies and political decisions which led to the current crisis in prisons? Prison life isn't meant to be easy but it is supposed to be safe and secure. Drugs, violence, self-harm ...

The Investigatory Powers Act a.k.a The Snoopers' Charter

The Investigatory Powers Act - or Snoopers' Charter to its critics - is a highly controversial new law. On one hand, it clarifies a host of vague laws which were out of date with modern technology ...

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...

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 ...

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 Bir...

Europe's Illiberal Democracies

Illiberal democracy is gaining traction across Europe - a political philosophy which in part draws support from the far right, championing anti-migrant and anti-EU sentiment. Among the most vis...

Quantitative Easing

As part of its response to the Brexit vote, the Bank of England will buy an extra £70 billion of bonds and will create new money to do so. The aim is to stimulate the economy and try to meet the go...

A Ceasefire in Syria?

Why has it been so difficult to find peace in Syria, and what are the complicating factors which are getting in the way of a deal? In early September the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Ru...

Trump and Putin

It's one of the strangest developments in a very strange election campaign. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says Donald Trump is "colourful and talented". For his part, the Republican nomi...

Trotsky, Trotskyism and Trotskyites

The Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has warned that his party could be taken over by old Trots - Trotskyist entryists, who have no interest in winning elections but instead see Labour as a vehicle ...

Jesse Morton: The Jihadi Who Changed His Mind

Jesse Morton was once a radical jihadi involved in the American offshoot of the banned British extremist group Al-Muhajiroun. Al-Muhajiroun's leader, Anjem Choudary, was convicted of inviting o...

Milo Yiannopoulos and the Alt-Right

David Aaronovitch speaks to Milo Yiannopoulos about Donald Trump's new political base - the 'alt-right'. It's a mostly young, disparate movement which organises and congregates online, which has...

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are back on the agenda courtesy of Theresa May. Why has the Conservative party's love affair with an almost extinct system of educational selection endured? Step into The Briefing R...

Who are the Special Forces?

When the BBC obtained exclusive pictures of Special Air Service soldiers fighting Islamic State militants in Syria, the Ministry of Defence refused to comment. British Special Forces are now on...

Britain's Nuclear Dream

Britain faces big decisions when it comes to generating electricity - and ones we will all end up paying for. So what's the right choice? Theresa May surprised many by one of her first acts as pr...

What Do Remainers Feel Now?

There was jubilation among many who were on the winning side of last month's EU referendum. But the vote, more than any in recent memory, laid bare the UK's divisions - not only in demographics but...

Fethullah Gulen and Turkey's Failed Coup

Turkey's president put the blame on the Gulen movement for an attempted coup - but what is it? The Briefing Room explores the roots and influence of this transnational Islamic religious and social ...

The Truth About BHS

BHS was one of the biggest names on the high street, but it is now in administration and faces an uncertain future. What exactly happened, and who is responsible for its decline? Much of the foc...

Why Did People Vote Leave?

Why did so many people in the UK vote to Leave the EU? David Aaronovitch talks to residents in the pro-Leave city of Wakefield and finds out from experts why personal prosperity was a poor indicato...

The Chilcot Report: The Source Who Lied

The Chilcot Report revealed that a key source of flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war was a man known as Curveball. How did this obscure figure come to influence Britain's decision to ...

Immigration: Why Did it Rise?

Immigration to the United Kingdom remains at a near-record high - but what are the political decisions and global trends which led to its rise in the first place? Unprecedented levels of immigra...

The New IRA

Northern Ireland-related terrorism now represents a “substantial” threat to Great Britain, according to MI5 - the security service. It believes that a terrorist attack is a "strong possibility" in...

Anti-Semitism on the Left

Labour activists, councillors, an MP and a former Mayor of London have all been suspended for comments which many regard as anti-Jewish. But why might a left of centre, progressive, pro-minority pa...