21/01/2017 Dateline London


21/01/2017

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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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Dateline London.

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Two stories dominate the week and are likely

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The beginnings of the Trump presidency and the beginning

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of the end for Britain in the European Union.

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My guests today are John Fisher Burns of the New York Times,

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Thomas Kielinger of Die Welt, Polly Toynbee of The Guardian

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and Dmitry Shishkin of BBC World Service.

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Donald Trump first, and as he begins the job of being 45th President

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of the United States, to paraphrase a question

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from the presidential debates, let's start by saying something

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nice, positive or hopeful about the new President.

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This is going to and stretch for you, but have a go! After that

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inaugural speech in which he reached out to nobody at all, in which he

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trashed all of the previous Presidents sitting around him very

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politely, I think the only thing we can seriously hope for is that this

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meglomaniac will overreach himself to such a degree that he will be

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impeached as soon as possible, hopefully before that four years is

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up. And that he will simply be removed. He is utterly unfit to be

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President of the United States and I think we saw that writ large in his

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speech which was the most outrageously ungracious speech I

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think probably any President has ever made at an inauguration. John,

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I challenge to you do a bit better than that, just a possibility here!

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Um... Well, there was very little for anybody who is not an American

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in that speech. There was very little for the people who have felt

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that American Presidents in the last 30 or 40 years have achieved

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significant things. But I think if we look at what he's promising for

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America, rebuilding the infrastructure of America, bringing

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jobs back to America, these are going to be df things to do. It's

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not clear where the infrastructure he is going to find the money.

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Anybody who has travelled through America, particularly anybody who

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has travelled through the Ohio Valley will know that an attempt, a

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serious attempt to bring jobs back, to rebuild American industries is

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long overdue. Therefore, to sum that up in a slogan Put America First,

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there is another context in the 1930s, but to say in the 21st

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century I am going to put America first that strikes home, doesn't it?

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It has, of course some pretty ominous overtones for anybody who

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knows American history, including it in the 20th century. Isolationism

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and protectionism then. Theagetives rolled out here in the press and the

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last few days about Trump, it's hard to disagree on the basis of what we

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saw in the campaign with very much of it. But on the other hand, 63

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million people, maybe 66 million people voted for Hillary Clinton,

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but 63 million people themselves and many of them are far from being

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crass, vulgar bullies, they found something in Trump that persuaded

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them that he would change the course of America to their benefit. I think

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it's far too soon to conclude they were wrong. Thomas, you have covered

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- been based in Washington and seen inaugurals, the first inaugural of

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Ronald Reagan was greeted in Britain and Europe with perhaps not the same

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amount of dismay but there were a lot of headlines saying he is just

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an actor which was not true because he had eight years as Governor of

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California. This perception continued throughout his years. In

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Europe you could never get a set of opinion to understand America is

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doing from our way of politics and Reagan comes straight from the bone

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marrow of American identity and he was to be a great President. Nobody

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recognised that really until today. There is not a single street in

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Germany that says Reagan Street or Reagan Plaza although he was the guy

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who said tear down this wall. I totally agree with the nature of his

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speech with Polly. That leads to a positive conclusion, that he will

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unite, not Americans so much because he didn't do much to do that in his

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speech, but unite Europe. Nato will begin to understand that something

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needs to be done to do better than they have so far. It will also cause

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minds to pause in the Brexit debate. I don't think EU and Britain can

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afford to go down the route into trade wars. We are going to have to

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watch our trade relations with America. That might lead to a

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unifying amongst Europeans and in relation to Britain, so it will have

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a positive effect on the Brexit debate, I am sure. President Putin

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is hoping to talk to Trump sometime soon, I take it the Russian response

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has been in so far as we can read it positive? In the BBC interview the

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press Secretary of Putin yesterday said they would go and celebrate the

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Russian Christian holiday yesterday rather than watch the inaugural

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address. However, what we know is the potentially summit with ly --

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what Russian television has been saying and the positive thing is

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they call him the man of his word and that's interesting in itself.

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Politicians generally say they don't know what is going to happen really

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because there is nothing to say anything concrete about his policies

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moving forward but what they are definitely saying because the tide

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is changing, they think actually making Trump think about America

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only is actually good for Russia because it means that Russia can

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comb and again start asserting its -- can go and aagain start asserts

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its influence. In the look at the wish list it's not going to be

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dissimilar to Trump's possible agenda. Maybe apart from Middle East

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where Syria is one thing but actually long-term Middle East

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strategy for Russia and America are quite different. It was also said

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that there can't be real progress in Syria without the Americans, in

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other words, the possibility of some deal with a deal-maker. Precisely. I

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guess this is exactly right about Nato but I think even if America

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withdraws itself from different types of bodies, from world bank,

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IMF, UN, this is all actually positive, will be seen positive in

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Moscow. I thought one of the first casualties of Trump's vision for

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America is his hope for improved relationships with Russia and Putin

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and the fact that he's appointed, for example, as Secretary of Defence

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and he is not alone, amongst the Cabinet nominees, somebody who takes

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a much tougher line on Russia. It's indicative and it won't be very long

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before Trump and Putin fall out. You are right. That's why I think the

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current feeling in Moscow is the feeling of let's wait and see what

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will happen because actually I wouldn't actually be surprised by

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hearing on the Russian television moving forward that Trump is our

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guy, he is good, he really means well but he is surrounded by the

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establishment and the hawks of Washington won't allow him. I think

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what we see is two rather similar and perhaps impulsive characters. I

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think the idea that they're going to somehow make great friendship, it

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will take very little, there is a tinder box, it will take little for

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either to take great offence at something the other one does. The

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possibility of friction seems much greater than the idea of this -

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unless of course it is true he is totally in Putin's hands and he has

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blackmail material and all of that, but leaving that aside. I would

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agree and also say they're both people - actually for Putin to be

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seen alone with Trump in this kind of Russia-US really important summit

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is an important thing. Interesting this choreography, if there is a

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summit. People within the Reagan administration said the President

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tried to give away all nuclear weapons. Afterwards people thought

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what was wrong about that? Is this possible to dream that kind of

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thing? The dream continues, I am sure quite rightly but the way

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Reagan went about it without consulting with his allies was

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totally negative. Mind you, Reagan started as far as Russia is

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concerned with that famous statement in the first press conference the

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day after he was inaugurated when he was asked what do you think about

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the Soviet Union, he said they lie, they cheat and want to conquer the

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world. For Trump to give Putin so much of the benefit of the doubt

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already saying you can trust him when Russia has to reearn its trust

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after all that happened recently with the Olympics, drugs scandals

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and interfering in American debates, so to come out with this statement

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to trust Putin, he says I trust Putin as much as I trust Angela

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Merkel. It didn't go down well in Germany. In terms of what you think

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he might do if he does spend a lot of money somehow domesticically and

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rebuilding infrastructure which just about anybody thinks needs rebuilt,

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where is the money going to come from, but also he has to persuade

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Congress. Isn't one of the big, it may not be as obvious as foreign

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policy to people in Europe and around the world but he has to deal

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with people in Congress who are in the Republican Party who have power

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and some of whom don't like him. The question is will they be close to

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him because he is the President and they have to be seen to be or will

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they look at the next election which is in two years as far as they're

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concerned and say not sure? Many years I spent in China, the Chinese

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Government, when asked a question they didn't want to answer, the

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situation remains to be determined. This certainly, there are so many

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uncertainties we can not know. It seems one plain point of friction is

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going to be money. On the one hand Trump has talked about doing

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something about this huge multitrillion dollar deficit. On the

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other hand he wants to build up the Armed Forces on which the United

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States is already spending the best part of $700 billion a year. Now he

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wants to rebuild American - where is the money coming from? It has to

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come via Congress. Congress, we know Republicans are very loath to spend

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money. I think it's going to be a lot of conflict there. It's

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interesting how little he was scrutinised. What's been

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extraordinary about this election is that any normal election, a

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presidential candidate would have to answer that question. You are going

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to cut taxes and spend hugely on Armed Forces, huge amount on

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infrastructure, you are going to save working class America, where

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are the tax cuts coming? They're all for the rich, not for the poor. How

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does he square any of that? Nobody ever got to force him to answer

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those. I think there are more dissimilarities between Trump and

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Reagan. One obvious dissimilarity is that Reagan was a charming

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individual. Even his political opponents found him a likeable

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individual. It seems to me that's not the case with Trump. In terms of

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his relationships with Congress that may prove to be another difficulty.

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Could I suggest one thing that - one strong positive you may dislike is

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that he is a great communicator. People will look at the speech and

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so on but to people he needs to contact or communicate with, the use

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of Twitter which is just a thing that's said and is republished,

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that's one of the reasons why he wasn't scrutinised in the way you

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suggest because he was able to say in 140 characters make America great

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again and people thought that's a great idea. Yeah, the Twitter has

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been brilliant. He is plainly going to go on with it, all day and all

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night tweeting away. It means that he doesn't get challenged or

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questioned. He puts it out there to his own followers. That works very

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well. I think that's a frightening lesson for modern politicians.

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Listening to that rather doll inaugural speech yesterday, it was

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indeed -- dull inaugural speech yesterday, it was indeed written by

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Donald Trump. He said he was going to eradicate Islamic terror, that's

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going to be a difficult job, but setting a tone that is something he

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can clearly work with Moscow on. As you remember, the relationship

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between Russia or Soviet Union and the West always were - they were

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constructive on anything to do with nuclear missile treaties, irrespect

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yaf of how bad the relationship were in early 80s, they still were able

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to go and do something on the missiles. In terms of the

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co-operation between the secret services, definitely post-9/11 when

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Putin was the first to call Bush and he was proud of that, he has

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suggested his help and this will continue definitely. Let's just not

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make mistakes about why, what aims put isn't trying to achieve in the

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Middle East or anywhere else and others because obviously as I was

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referring to the wish list, the wish list goes much further than that.

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There is a question about Ukraine and Georgia and not joining Nato, we

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were - this is this legend, nobody knows whether it is true, whether it

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was promised not a single country in Europe would join Nato after

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reunification of Germany. There is mixed stories about whether this

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happened. Here the same thing. I think I agree with you, if they hit

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it off it will be really fabulous relationship between them two for

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the next whatever years. But it's hard. The difference is Putin has a

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plan. I don't think Trump has a plan, he has tweets, I don't think

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he knows where Georgia is. A tired phrase already, in a world where

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people believe with their hearts and react with their hearts, rather than

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their minds, we are talking about scrutiny, we as journalists are

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interested in that sort of thing. I guess societies in large around the

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world probably are going to the fact that different thing. There are

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obvious problems. For instance, Iran is a defacto ally in the Middle East

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with Russia and Iran is one of the bogeymen Donald Trump has threatened

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to change relations with. That's one of the questions they are not going

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to be comfortable talking about. In the Middle East also if America,

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obviously sides with Saudi Arabia, Russia clearly with Iran, so that's

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the biggest issue. Relations with the rest of the world, the most

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important is with the White House relationship with Congress. No

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wonder we call Congress the other arm of Government. That is central.

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He can't do anything unless he strikes an emoll yant or tolerant

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relationship with Congress. Carter had a majority of his own party in

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Congress but he was constantly bogged down by fighting in Congress.

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He can't make peace with Congress. So it's essential that Congress and

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Trump will get on. I am not sure they will. It's a terrible juvenile

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habity of his to be pursuing. He communicate with people who will not

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listen to White House speeches, it communicate with a lot of people. He

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doesn't read anything himself, he says I haven't got time. All he can

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read is tweets. He assumes all his followers read tweets. He

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overpromises. That speech raised expectations in the wild sort of

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fashion which Congress soon will shut down I am sure. We should

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remember McMilline, events, dear boy, events. Some events may be

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forthcoming and unimaginable, the events of 2016 were unimaginable a

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year ago. It could not, for example - what if there is friction on the

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borders with Russia and Estonia and Lithuania, how long would that last?

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We don't know that, if he is convinced he needs to build

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factories and whatever, then he said that America first and potentially,

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you know, Estonia... At the end of the queue. I want to come on to

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queues about trade and other things. Theresa May made clear her plans

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for Brexit this week. Britain out of the single market

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was clear enough but if we don't get a deal she said Britain is prepared

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to walk away. Does anyone have any idea

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what that might mean? And how is Mrs May's

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clarity or otherwise First of all, we will get to the

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trade talks with the head of the queue, back of the queue, whatever,

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but in Germany when people heard what Theresa May had to say was it

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much clearer what Britain is aiming for? Well, it's very hard for

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Germans to understand the way the British mind ticks. Still to this

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day they don't understand how a nation, a member of the EU can even

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conceive of leaving it. This notion of the island nation going for the

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global sort of horizon is totally strange to the way of thinking. We

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are in Europe surrounded with nothing but friends at the moment

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and we need to be collectively involved ap for Britain to go it

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alone - I keep reminding them - a tradition that sea faring nations

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reached out beyond the immediate continent and neighbourhood and

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other than that they think they will look at it rationally and the

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arrival of Trump on the scene as I said before gives me hope, the two

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sides, the EU and Britain will come together at a workable sort of

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solution. There is no advantage to be gained from going into a trade

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war mindset between the EU and Great Britain. While you have to be

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careful not to make it too easy for Britain to leave it because that

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would bring up copycat mentalities of other European nations, who might

:20:09.:20:14.

say we can also leave it. That's probably again unofficial hope from

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within the Kremlin is that basically starting an avalanche for the same

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trends in other countries. Other countries have their own... The

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relationship between EU and Russia always subject to this exercise -

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southern countries were more pro-Russian. I am generalising here.

:20:39.:20:44.

But you definitely have Greece and some former countries... Now you

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have Le Pen part-financed... If you look at probably the Britain leaving

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the European Union is out of the public debate in Russia, just not an

:20:56.:21:02.

issue. It's irrelevant? Regular Russians would say I wish we had

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your problems generally, that would be one way of looking at it and

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other people would say good for you, we all know how bad the European

:21:09.:21:11.

Union is and go and do it alone because you are a great country. Do

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you think we have clarity this week? Absolutely not. We got some fairly

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ill-intent and the idea she would say we are leaving the single market

:21:22.:21:27.

and the customs union but somehow we are going to have magical deal which

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is just as good as being inside when the response right across Europe,

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whether it was in Brussels or individual capitals was you can't do

:21:35.:21:37.

that, you are either in or out, there is no way in which you are

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going to have a better deal, you will not have to pay in, you will

:21:41.:21:44.

not have to accept freedom of movement and then of course this

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global fantasy, it was extraordinary sort of empire talk. She has an

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Elizabeth I fantasy apparently she sees herself in this role and we

:21:56.:21:58.

will have she is wonderful trade deals. If we want a trade deal with

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India, for instance, they will demand more visas. Now a lot of the

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impetus against Europe was also an anti-Asian, anti-Islamic feeling

:22:11.:22:15.

about immigration as much as it was anti-poles or Hungarians, I don't

:22:16.:22:18.

think people are going to tolerate the idea we have to have more people

:22:19.:22:22.

from India in order to have an Indian deal. The idea we are going

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to have a good deal with Trump, Trump will make a deal, I

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interviewed him in 1988, read his appalling book, he always comes out

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on top, that's the way you do it. Any deal with us and America means

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we have to accept their regulations, not EU regulations. The moment we do

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that then we cut ourselves off even more from Europe because we are not

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accepting European regulations. I have said this on this programme

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before, a lot of of the discussion about Brexit and where it will carry

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us is conducted as if we live in a static kind of world and Europe

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right now is not in a static condition. We know elections in

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France, indeed in Germany and in Italy can radically change the

:23:13.:23:15.

Europe that Theresa May is negotiating with. Not to mention the

:23:16.:23:19.

Italian banking system and other economic factors. I wouldn't be

:23:20.:23:27.

surprised if Theresa May is quite pleased at the possibility of delay

:23:28.:23:32.

in invoking Article 50 because the further she can push these

:23:33.:23:37.

negotiations into the era of the emerging Europe, the Europe where

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there could be a referendum in Europe, for example, and in Italy

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and in France, which could easily go the same way as ours did and I think

:23:47.:23:51.

we might, a year from now... You hear Labour, most of Labour people,

:23:52.:23:56.

a few rebels, Corbyn saying we are going to sign it, the Lib Dems

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won't, but she will get it through, I am afraid. The other point of

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clarity, with due respect, I felt it was clear in one aspect, she's

:24:07.:24:10.

willing to go for brinkmanship with Europe. She has a way of taking - if

:24:11.:24:16.

you don't agree, we have another way of becoming a different country.

:24:17.:24:21.

That's a reasonable negotiating tactic. Expect in a terrible

:24:22.:24:28.

prospect, she wants us to be a Singapore, a bargain basement lowest

:24:29.:24:32.

possible tax. We would be cutting off our own nose to spite our face

:24:33.:24:40.

if we did that. I agree and the impossibility of her suggestion of

:24:41.:24:45.

course strikes you immediately because there's so many circles to

:24:46.:24:48.

square as it were. One thing is where is the money? We talk about

:24:49.:24:54.

money in the Trump case, where does she get the money for reforms she

:24:55.:25:00.

promised? I think the UK goes into these negotiations with a few

:25:01.:25:05.

advantages, to cite only one, how many BMWs are sold in this country?

:25:06.:25:11.

265,000, I think. So where is German industry, the motor industry going

:25:12.:25:17.

to be on this issue? They don't want to drive the UK into some sort of

:25:18.:25:25.

isolation. It's holding Europe to ransom on that account. The Germans

:25:26.:25:30.

and the rest of Europe, like us, are less motivated by economics when it

:25:31.:25:34.

comes to the crunch than by principle and their principles about

:25:35.:25:37.

Europe will be stronger, just as ours were. We have done ourselves

:25:38.:25:42.

terrible economic harm for the sake of a fantasy belief in our great

:25:43.:25:45.

independented pence. Have we done ourselves harm? We don't know. It's

:25:46.:25:50.

likely. It hasn't happened yet. We haven't done anything yet. We are

:25:51.:25:56.

not out. Markets are all predictive. The markets seem to have decided

:25:57.:26:00.

this is a do-able thing. From somebody who came to this country

:26:01.:26:05.

about 16 years ago, I can say that I can feel that actually

:26:06.:26:08.

internationally, globally, Britain as a country where English is

:26:09.:26:13.

spoken, part of Europe will still be extremely interesting for people

:26:14.:26:16.

from Asia to come and do business with, from south Asia, east Asia,

:26:17.:26:22.

Russia, other countries. Africa, as well. There is something culturally

:26:23.:26:28.

and Britain will remain a big magnet. A large part of that is our

:26:29.:26:32.

relationship with the United States and the fact that we have a common

:26:33.:26:36.

language and to some considerable extent common culture. We will have

:26:37.:26:37.

to leave it there. That's it for Dateline

:26:38.:26:41.

London for this week. You can comment on the programme on

:26:42.:26:43.

Twitter and engage with our guests. We're back next week

:26:44.:26:46.

at the same time. Please make a date

:26:47.:26:48.

with Dateline London. Hello. A hard frost for many of us

:26:49.:27:17.

to start the weekend, some fog patches around too. Two views

:27:18.:27:19.

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