07/01/2017 Dateline London


Foreign correspondents currently posted to London look at events in the UK through outsiders' eyes, and at how the issues of the week are being tackled around the world.

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Hello and welcome to Dateline London.


two stories likely to dominate the year ahead.


First, the future of the European Union as Britain


And secondly, how far President Putin and Russia


are steering events in the Middle East and elsewhere,


with Donald Trump perhaps in the passenger seat.


Annalisa Piras, who is an Italian film maker.


Lyse Doucet, who is the BBC's chief international correspondent.


Michael Gove of The Times, and who is also a Conservative MP.


Britain's top diplomat in the European Union,


Sir Ivan Rogers, quit this week amid the continuing political


row about Britain being unprepared for Brexit.


But with Italy's banks in trouble, the Greek crisis unresolved,


elections in Germany and France in 2017 and in Italy by 2018,


plus fears about the euro, how much of a mess is the European Union


and more importantly the eurozone actually in?


Michael? Over the course of this year the attention will focus on


German elections and French elections and Dutch elections


particularly and three countries there will be strong populist


challenges. I believe Gert builders in the Netherlands will top the


poll, but I suspect the other parties, for the first time in the


Netherlands, will save the person who topped the poll should not be in


government. In France I suspect Marine Le Pen will make it to the


run-off and run the other candidates very close. In Germany the Germany


the alternative the Deutschland, the


anti-immigrant, anti-EU party will get more than 20% in the polls and


may do better than the social Democrats, the coalition partners.


It will shake the confidence of the EU's current leadership. How much of


that do you agree with? There are many parties in Germany and Italy


who are pretty Eurosceptic. Yeah. The kind of picture that Michael has


just painted is correct. Not much is going to happen until the German


elections in the autumn so we have in front of us a long period of


uncertainty and instability in which populist forces are going to mount


an extraordinary challenge to the status quo. Having said that, there


is something else going on, which is extraordinary story, and terrifying,


which could pull together the European Union leaders who are going


to be smart enough and convincing enough to explain to the people


what's going on in the world. I'm referring to the migrant phenomenon


which is going to accelerate massively and is going to show, for


the first time in European history, how the outside challenges can


combine with inside challenges and make the situation untenable unless


Europeans work together. Specifically on Italy, how far are


people concerned about the Italian banks? I've seen debt write-downs of


50%, people are suggesting in reality many banks will be lucky to


get 20% back on bad loans. In other words they are insolvent. The


banking crisis in Italy is one crisis and people have lost faith in


the banking system and the government a long time ago. There


was a very eloquent front cover of a magazine saying welcome back to the


past. Italy is looking at 2017, looking back at what has been


happening in Italy and not expecting anything good from this New Year.


There is a generalised gloom and doom, despair, lack of any hope


whatsoever. The banking crisis is just one of the aspects. Lyse, we


tend to look down one end of the telescope, Brexit Britain and the


challenges here. How difficult to all these other challenges make it


for any British government? You talk about the European Union and we have


discussed how disunited and shaky and fragile this edifice of the


European Union is. Brexit was another jolt. It is now very shaky


in a year with major elections. For those two pillars, Germany and


France, looking inward, and you can't look inward all the time. You


have to take care of the external factors. Brexit will force them to


look inward as well. That is what could set in motion, and already


has, along with the victory of Donald Trump in the USA, these


political forces that are tearing at the whole ethos of the EU. The


migration crisis was emblematic of just how divided Europe is


politically, socially, morally, in every which way in terms of how they


responded. There was no EU response to that and there still isn't. From


the United States, is the European project in serious trouble in 2017,


and particularly the euro? The European project is in tremendous


trouble and far worse than the people in the US are aware of.


People are focused on the domestic situation. Having watched the EU


closely for several years, there's never been a crossroads like this


before and the idea of a closer union is so discredited at this


point that it's almost not worth uttering the words. I've had this


disagreement with Annalisa before. She talks about a common European


response to the immigrants and I think that's beyond the leadership


of Europe. You put those 28 or 27 leaders in a room and you have such


competing, impossible to reconcile self interest that the immigrant


crisis could be what divides it and what leads to gradual breaking away.


Hungary, for example, and some of those countries surrounding Hungary


take one view, Germany and other. Germany, Italy, everyone's crisis


point is different, and so is Britain's. For any British Prime


Minister or negotiating team, never mind affections from the civil


service, to get the attention of any European leader, particularly Angela


Merkel this year, will be difficult. It is. One of the points made by two


of the principal negotiators is that until the German elections


concluded, it will be difficult to get the full focus and the full


attention of everyone in Europe on these negotiations. The point is


also made that once negotiations are concluded, there needs to be


agreement as much as possible across Europe before any deal can be


settled. There is an imperative on the Prime Minister and the British


negotiating team to make clear, and I know the Prime Minister hopes to


in the next week or so, what the core asked of the European union is.


Clarity in this process is absolutely critical to success. More


important, what is the core ask of Britain? You have your cake and you


want to eat it. Yes. Europe might be able to respond. I expressed my


softball, what is Britain asking of the EU? We need to be clear about


what Britain is requesting. It's not open-ended, the clock is ticking.


Once the trigger is pulled with Article 50, they have two years. You


cannot waste a year, even though a year with Germany and France


focusing on their elections, they will have to do something about


Brexit is Brexit. It's not just Theresa May saying that, John Claude


Yunker has said it, so has Merkel, you have to get it done quickly. It


will be up to Britain to clarify, because I don't think anybody in the


British government knows what Brexit they want. I think they do. A


critical thing for the EU is if those who are currently steering it


play a clumsy hand, that will only strengthen what they considered to


be populist forces. Marine Le Pen has put the European institutions on


notice that if British institutions are punished for leaving she will


make that a rallying cry. It is also the case that if countries like


Poland and Hungary that take a very different line to the current EU


court leadership see that leadership privileging its position, its


ultra-federalist position over some of their interests, that could


create difficulties as well. Can I ask some of you who cover these


things to take a step back from this week 's headlines in Britain. Ivan


Rogers have left. Many people would not be familiar with his name or the


name of his successor. How important of these people who have been


derided in some of the papers as the Sir Humphreys? How important are


these people rather than the politicians? Are good ambassador or


High Commissioner is gold dust. They are your eyes and ears in the


country and they have... They are able to tell you forensically what


the situation is. It is up to leaders to listen... Or not. Even


though nobody should listen to experts! They are the experts of all


experts. Ivan Rogers said he knew the British system so well, he knew


the European system so well, he knew all the players. His replacement is


also a very steady hand, but she's losing a key person. It is a tragedy


for Britain that he has resigned. Simply because the world is getting


so complex, the old order is being replaced by completely unstable and


unpredictable orders. Diplomats in this moment are keyed to the


national interest because they understand the way the world is and


the way it's going. The fact he has resigned and he has warned the civil


servants, please speak to the power, it's very, very important. Let's not


forget that the British diplomatic service is considered to be one of


the best in the world. Rogers is a patriot, he is an example of the


best of the Foreign Office. The fact that he has left is very, very


significant and very, very serious. The world is getting very, very


complex and to look only at the British interests and not looking at


the big picture is very dangerous for the national interest. It also


struck me in his farewell e-mail to the civil servants when he was


pointing out that Whitehall and in general Britain doesn't have the


negotiating expertise, doesn't have the staff, doesn't know enough about


how to do the trade deals and he also, in his earlier memo which


leaked, pointed out that even after this two-year process it will be up


to each national parliament to approve the deal and it could fail


at that point. He said some pretty important things that bats the Prime


Minister was not interested in hearing. I'm conscious that the idea


of some kind of Goldilocks Brexit, that everybody likes, not too hard


or soft or hot or cold, won't even work within your own party. The


least of the Prime Minister 's worries is the Conservative Party.


There's a strong consensus behind the type of Brexit most


conservatives would like see. Philip Hammond against Theresa May, big


differences. I don't think so. It's interesting to see the way opinion


has moved outside the Conservative Party. This week and is capable --


Vince Cable made it clear he thought freedom of movement shouldn't


continue. Who would have imagined 12 months ago that someone is committed


as Vince to the Liberal Democrat tradition would have said one of the


core freedoms of the EU should no longer apply? Theresa May she's --


says she wants workers for the farming community and others save


they want banking and service sectors to have freedom of movement.


It's entirely possible to have a migration policy that allows Britain


to get the skills it needs in the sectors that matter without


accepting freedom of movement as it currently operates within the EU.


You will say but not being the single market. You're not going to


say that! The problem with the muddled thinking is that Britain


seems still not able to understand that you can't have your cake and


eat it. You can't have the single market and not freedom of movement.


It's not on the table! It's not on the table! I don't think we do want


to be in the single market. The cake is not on the table. Balatoni.


President Putin has engineered a rapprochement of sorts


with a key player in Nato - Turkey - and is using it to drive


It comes as Donald Trump prepares to take over the US presidency


amid concerns he is close - perhaps too close -


to Putin, and picking a fight with China and possibly Iran.


As Mr Trump remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma,


where are the flashpoints we should worry about in 2017?


And is Putin playing a weak hand with great skill?


The report by the US intelligence agency, the bits that have made


public, it does suggest that Russia really played a very strong role in


the US election, quite an extraordinary role, whether it made


any difference in the voting is a matter of contention. I don't think


there's much doubt it made a difference. Mr Trump doesn't think


so. They had a very concerted, well directed, successful 16 and 18 month


intrusion into the Democratic Party's e-mails which I blame the


Democrats. They were sloppy. We are all pretty sloppy with their e-mails


and they left themselves to blame, they were completely wide open to


state intrusion and Putin's people do that sort of thing


extraordinarily well. It was very effective. It had to have swung some


votes towards Trump, but so did a lot of other things. Nobody is


saying Trump is the president because of Putin, but he enters with


this very cloudy relationship with Putin that will be problematic. It


is extraordinary in our lifetime to have any American leader being that


close to the leader of the Kremlin, particularly somebody who used to be


in the KGB. It sounds like science fiction and if ten years ago


somebody would have told you rub candid and would have been elected


with the help of a former KGB agent, it would have sounded crazy. That


script would never work! Actually we need to brace ourselves because we


are entering a very, very dark year. 2017, especially in Europe with all


these elections, and clear evidence that Russia has been waging cyber


warfare to influence the American elections, of all countries, is


something that might really put us on alert. We've got a number of


elections in Europe and Putin has already been trying to meddle with


Germany, public opinion, in many ways. He's been doing it in the


former Warsaw Pact countries, he's been doing it everywhere. We need to


be aware. This is a year in which what we have taken for granted, the


international law and order, the kind of force of the law, is going


to be replaced. We know that Francois Phil on in France is quite


receptive to Russia playing a bigger role in Europe. We know that Putin


is playing what could be seen as a very weak hand, but playing it very


well. That's exactly what American diplomats will concede. A week and


played extraordinary well. In December 2015 when Russia decided to


intervene militarily in Syria, there were warnings from Barack Obama it


would be another Afghanistan, a quagmire where Russia will get


bogged down. What has happened instead is that Russia, President


Putin has had the projection of military force and forced the


conclusion he wanted. I spent most of 2016 going to one security forum


after another with Western leaders saying we will not accept the


changing of borders in our Time by force, we will not accept the


post-1945 order will be changed. Russia went into Crimea and it is


still there. Russia not only shifted the momentum on the battlefield in


Syria, saved President Assad from collapse on free -- key front lines,


it's a key player on the battlefield and I was in Aleppo jeering the last


stages of the war for that important city. Then he shifted to the


negotiating table. It was Russia and Turkey which negotiated the


evacuation from Aleppo. Russia and Turkey is driving the talks to take


place not in Geneva of Vienna or Paris, but in Russia. It's


extraordinary. Even British diplomats will concede that Vladimir


Putin went from zero influence in the Middle East in 20 15th to now


being the major player with the military force and the political


will to back it up. Golf states are saying we wish our ally was


President Putin. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and also Iran, the


impact of Russia putting its weight about and being successful. Has that


changed things? It's always been asked if Russia and Iran CI die in


Syria, but they don't. They have a shared interest in seeing President


Assad, or at least his regime, remaining, but they have different


strategic interests. Russia wants its military base, Iran wants to


maintain its corridor to Lebanon and has Bhullar, it wants its access to


forces. The question will be once President Trump enters the mix. He


seems to want to work with President Putin, but he also wants to


undermine Iran's influence. If you're going to work in Syria, it's


hard to square that circle. How do you see President Trump's relations,


potential relations, with Mr Putin? Do you see that as a worried that


Britain should be concerned about? One should be alive to some of these


concerns. There are people who have been in the Trump entourage who have


said things about Putin that give me cause for concern. There are others


in the Trump transition team who have been quite robust towards


Russia. It is an area of concern. But we should take one step back.


Many of the games President Putin has made which


cause me concerned and heartache are as a consequence of the weakness


shown by President Obama. We had an opportunity to intervene in Syria in


2013. The British Parliament much to my regret chose not to. Present an


Obama said that was the reason they didn't do it. The President of the


United States could have shown greater resolution and clarity at


that time. It's a great shame that in the final days of his presidency


there's been an element of displacement activity on the part of


President Obama and John Kerry. They have concentrated the United Nations


about resolutions on Israeli settlements rather than accepting


that they played a much bigger role in the clips of Western power in the


Middle East and the unhappy consequences that Lyse has alluded


to with God states looking to Russia for a role. They play a heavier role


and carry it a heavier responsibility than anything Mr


Trump has to have on his conscious at this moment. How far do you buy


that? The other way of looking at that same story is that after


Afghanistan and after Iraqi, Obama did not want to get involved in some


kind of protracted conflict. The opinion polls and MPs here said the


same thing. There's a consistency to the eight years of Obama's foreign


policy. It's been a bit ambiguous in Afghanistan but he's not wanted more


interventions and I think he inherited a truly disastrous


situation from the prior administration and has spent eight


years trying to cope with it and now it goes back the other way. It's a


very confusing time for American foreign policy. Six months ago Obama


was proud of what he had accomplished and what he had not


been dragged into and I think that's no longer the case. I was with US


diplomats the day the US went into Syria and they were convinced Putin


was making a disaster error and he's -- it's paid off beautifully for


Putin. On the other hand, if you want to be more optimistic, it is


true that this new international scenario does put a lot of pressure


on the Europeans. It is true that the bombing of civilians by the


Russians in Syria has caused all the European leaders to really think


long and hard, what are we going to do? If America doesn't in gauge, if


America decides, as Trump has said, that he doesn't want to pay any more


for Nato, the Europeans by necessity have to come together in order to


ensure their own security. The last European Council, there was no


discussion of what had been happening in Syria and no resolution


to deal with what Russia had been responsible for. It's only in the UK


that there is a live debate about the need to increase defence


spending. That's not correct. There are plenty of smaller countries. If


you've been watching EU politics you would see there's been an


acceleration in terms of common defence spending, common research.


More spending? But not more men and more material. The Baltic states are


concerned. If you look at who is putting forces on the eastern border


of Nato come it is America, Canada, Britain. One of the concerns that I


have is that the European Union, for the reasons we discussed at the


beginning, is turning inward and while there is a belief that they


should be institutional change within Europe, what there isn't is


the resolution in dealing with the anti-democratic forces that Putin


has marshalled. We've come full circle. We started off with Michael


saying there was huge internal issues to reserve -- resolve, and


there are in the EU, but they will be forced to confront the problems


of their unity, or the lack of it, when President Trump stalks about


Nato and you have to pay your own way. What about when President Trump


starts talking about easing the sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.


Angela Merkel were leading the way in terms of Russia and dealing with


Ukraine. These are red button issues for Europe in terms of values and


principles. They cannot left then drift away. I suspect if Marine Le


Pen doesn't win, if Francois Phil on might have a chance, that will be


the key moment in which we could see a real change in Europe, especially


on defence and security issues. France is very keen. That will also


have a strong influence on Brexit negotiations. We have one minute


left. I wanted to ask you if we'd missed what could be the scariest


story of the year, which is China, North Korea, South Korea, relations


there and Donald Trump's attitude to China. We don't know what he will


do, but it is interesting. And his attitude to nuclear proliferation,


where has attitude has been its no problem. Will it change in the Oval


Office? We don't know, he hasn't clarified his view. He was very


robust about North Korea. Judging from his tweets rather than major


policy statement. Whatever Obama told him rattled him on that first


day when Obama first met with him after the election. Trump expresses


a willingness to Japan and South Korea to get nuclear weapons. What


he said would overturn their codes of nonproliferation. On that note,


happy New Year! You can comment on the programme


on Twitter @gavinesler We're back next week


at the same time.