america's top lawyer, the us attorney—general, jeff sessions, has made a defiant appearance before the senate intelligence committee, strongly denying colluding with russia to influence last year's presidential election in favour of donald trump. he said he'd had no meetings with russian officials about the trump campaign. an american student who was arrested in north korea last year is being flown home. otto warmbier is said to have been in a coma since shortly after his trial. he was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour for stealing a propaganda banner. three other american citizens are still detained in the country. more than 100 people are now known to have died in landslides floods in south—eastern bangladesh, caused by heavy monsoon rains. dozens more have been reported missing following a series of mudslides in the chittagong hills. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen
sackur. the recent uk general election was supposed to strengthen the british government's hand in the looming brexit negotiations. instead, it backfired spectacularly. theresa may is a weakened prime minister at the head of a minority government ill—prepared for the complex, difficult talks that lie at. my guest is deputy prime minister of oldjim, at. my guest is deputy prime minister of old jim, alexander de croo. —— belgium. does europe viewed written‘s travails with sympathy or relish? —— view britain's travails. alexander de croo, in brussels,
welcome to hardtalk. thank you. their use it as a senior minister in a european government. —— there you sit. and as luck would have it, in the institutional capital of the european union. be honest with me. how much attention do you pay to what is happening in british politics right now? well, we do pay a lot of attention to what is happening there, because we know that the discussion on brexit is one where time is of the essence. we have a two year period to negotiate a good deal with the united kingdom, but three months have gone already and the time is ticking. so we are ready to go to the table to have a good negotiation, buti ready to go to the table to have a good negotiation, but i think the moment has come to really start talking, to get beyond the theatrical rhetoric and to get down
to business. you say that with such gentility, but i get the sense that frustration is creeping into the eu position. i can quote to you the eu parliament chief participants negotiator in the expected brexit talks, who also happens to be a former leader of your political party in belgium. he said this, on twitter, just a few hours ago. "we are waiting impatiently for negotiating positions of the uk government, the current uncertainty cannot continue". do you share that degree of frustration?” cannot continue". do you share that degree of frustration? i shared the degree of frustration? i shared the degree of frustration? i shared the degree of impatience. because, look, we have looked at this election, and i have to reactions. one reaction is that i am reassured, because the
whole idea of negotiating an unnecessary hard brexit, i never understood why this would be to the benefit of the uk citizens or the european citizens. and what i see here is that there is no majority mandate for the negotiation of a ha rd mandate for the negotiation of a hard brexit. that, ithink, is a good thing. the other element is that i am preoccupied, because as i said, time is of the essence. we only have to years for very, very difficult negotiations. we need to be very clear, there is nobody in brussels who is wanting to punish the uk government or the uk citizens. i think the uk citizens have punished themselves already enough, with political instability, with a disunited kingdom, with a pound sterling which is falling and which is increasing, for example, the cost of going on holiday on the
capa the cost of going on holiday on the cap a continent. —— on the continent. i think we have seen enough drawbacks, we are ready to negotiate. i guess that is music to the ears of many in britain, that you do not see this in any sense to bea you do not see this in any sense to be a form of punishment. but you have maybe inadvertentlyjust entered the most sensitive areas of the british debate right now, about what brexit means. because after this election there is no clear sense from the new parliament, as it is made up today, of where a majority lies in terms of what kind of brexit is wanted. you say there is clearly no majority for hard brexit, but many people in britain say there is no such thing as a soft brexit. brexit means that we in britain have decided we are not repaired any longer to accept the free movement of people or the jurisdiction of the european court of justice. jurisdiction of the european court ofjustice. —— jurisdiction of the european court of justice. —— not jurisdiction of the european court ofjustice. —— not prepared. we want to govern our ofjustice. —— not prepared. we want to govern oui’ own ofjustice. —— not prepared. we want to govern our own affairs and take control, and that is brexit. you can
call it hard, you can call it soft, you can call it hard baked ash macca fake, at brexit is brexit. —— you can call it hard baked, at brexit is brexit. so we should get to the table. we have sent out the first position paper of the european union. let's be clear. we are ready to negotiate, and we are ready to negotiate any type of deal that the united kingdom wants. we have received a letter that says we want to divorce. if one of the partners says they want to divorce, well, thatis says they want to divorce, well, that is something that we should accept. now, what is a problem today is that we get a letter saying we wa nt to is that we get a letter saying we want to divorce and that the same time we hear that actually we want to remarry, because we want to create some kind of working relationship with the european union. i think for talking about getting remarried we should be clear on the elements, on the principles of the divorce. —— before talking.
that is a clear element of negotiation. first we discuss how to divorce and after that we discuss what is the way going forward. i continue to be convinced that despite the brexit, the uk citizens and the european citizens continue to have more interests in common than interest that would be against each other. let's talk about the specifics of the divorce agreement as you see it in a moment. just on this issue of time, we'd talk about michel barniet, the chief negotiator for brexit on the european side. he says it is extraordinary, nothing has happened, three months after you took the decision to trigger article 50, we have had no negotiations, no sense of what the british government's negotiating position is, and somebody has calculator that is, and somebody has calculator that is more than 12% of the entire two year period in which this deal is supposed to be done. that has already disappeared. is it time for
people like you, senior political figures in europe, to say that it is obvious this is not going to get dealt with? it is not going to get negotiated in two years, and we already have to start talking about extending the deadline. are you prepared to say that today? no. i think we should get started. there was a question for a mandate to negotiate. that mandate was supposed to be strong and stable. well, the elections have taken place, let's get to the table. i don't think that we europeans should be in a position tojudge what the we europeans should be in a position to judge what the position will be of the united kingdom. hang on a minute. you cannot ignore reality. you know that theresa may is not strong and stable. un belgium no better than anybody that democracy often throws up extraordinarily difficult results which do not allow for stability. —— you in belgium. that is where we happen to be today in britain, like it or not, and you are going to have to live with that
just as the british people. it may require a second election soon. but you cannot say we demand coherence and stability and a strong government position in britain if it is simply impossible. but we do not demand anything. there has been a request for brexit. this was not something that the rest of the eu had asked for. but the united kingdom as a sovereign country and makes its own choices. a letter referring to article 50 has been sent, three months ago. it is true that we have been waiting for the last three months, but let's forget about why this happened. what is important for me is that we get to the table and that we start talking. that we start talking about negotiating a good deal. a deal will not be done in two years. would you at least agree on that? well, to figure it out, we should at least start. up to now, what we have heard too much is rhetoric about hard brexit, soft brexit, about being
generous, one relating to another. for me, it is hard to understand what is really meant by that. at some point wejust what is really meant by that. at some point we just need to get to the table and start negotiating. and the table and start negotiating. and the message from michel barniet is quite clear. the european union is ready, the clock is ticking, so let's get to the table and let's start talking. but michel barniet has already said that he thinks the first thing and the only thing that can be on the agenda at the beginning of the price, the divorce costs, before you get to any negotiation of a new and different future deal between britain and the eu. he has talked about 60 billion euros, others have talked about a figure up to 100 billion euros. you must realise that politically, theresa may, more than ever, is not in any position to sign off on those sorts of sums of money as a sort of compensation package for the eu. it is just political impossible. —— politically impossible. on principle, the moment you leave a
club, ithink principle, the moment you leave a club, i think it is quite normal when you leave a club that you settle the bill. if you will not settle the bill. if you will not settle the bill in leaving the club, it basically means that somebody else is going to pay the bill. how fair would that be to the other european citizens, to say, you know, in the end you are going to pay the bills for somebody who, on one side, has decided to leave the club? i think i have seen those numbers ranging from 60 billion euros to 100 early in euros. let's get to the table. let's put the bill on the table. let's put the bill on the table and let's look at what is the most reasonable way of getting to an agreement there. then we will go further. ok. i don't want to get too bogged down in detailed specifics, but there is a very live debate after the uk election, a very live debate about whether cross—party consensus in the uk can be found for the notion that we actually tried to
stay inside the european single market, but negotiate an unprecedented sort of get out clause that would ameliorate the difficulties britain has with the freedom of movement of labour. can you imagine such a one—off special deal being offered to britain? stay in the single market, but get some concessions on freedom of movement? look, i think in general, we are open to negotiate deals ranging from, on one side, being part of the single market, but you have to understand that one, you want to be pa rt understand that one, you want to be part of the single market, it also means that you respect the four freedoms. —— that when you want to be part. that is the movement of people, capital, goods and services. and of course you also accept the authority of the european court of justice and the european commission. deputy prime minister, you are ignoring my question. can you imaginea
ignoring my question. can you imagine a press spoke, tailored deal which allows britain some opt out for leniency on some of those four pillars you have just outlined? —— bespoke, tailored deal. pillars you have just outlined? —— bespoke, tailored deallj pillars you have just outlined? —— bespoke, tailored deal. i think it is hard to do cherry picking. the european union is not a supermarket where you can go in and say, you know, this is the one ingredient i wa nt know, this is the one ingredient i want and all the rest of it, i do not want to be part of this. being pa rt not want to be part of this. being part of the single market is of course one choice that can be made, but there are certain consequences to that, of course. and if this is what the uk negotiators want to negotiate, let's get to the table and exchange views on that. there is and exchange views on that. there is an opposite view, which is the hard brexit, where you basically say that you do not even want a customs union. but up to now, for us europeans and for the european chief
negotiator, it is unclear what the option is that will be brought to the table. let's at least be clear on what you basically want, and then we can discuss it. one thing which theresa may's negotiating team was insistent upon before the election, and some of them are still saying, but not all of them, is that in the end, from britain point of view, no deal is better than a bad deal, and they are ultimately prepared to walk away from the table to get to the two—year deadline and, in a sense, fall off and eu cliff and have britain outside the eu was no negotiate —— with no negotiated trade deal. it seems to me that there is no question, even for those to advocate that position, that it would be damaging to the uk economy. but have you considered just a damaging it would be to the eu economy as well? notjust because you wouldn't get this payoff that you wouldn't get this payoff that you want of a 100 billion euros of
divorce settlement, but also the impact on european trade, on european growth, you can't afford for that to happen, can you? honestly, i think we need to take a step back and see as politicians why are we doing ourjobs. we are doing ourjobs are we doing ourjobs. we are doing our jobs because we are we doing ourjobs. we are doing ourjobs because we want to create an environment which is good for our citizens, which creates prosperity for our citizens, which create security and peace for our citizens. and what i would want to avoid it is that this whole brexit discussion is about political parties, is about governments, and so on. i do not think thataiming governments, and so on. i do not think that aiming for no deal would actually be something that is in the interests of the security of the british and european citizens. and i think a british and european citizens. and i thinka uk british and european citizens. and i think a uk perspective, there is a choice to be made. we live in a global world. and i think in a global world. and i think in a global world, at some point, you
have to make an evaluation and say who are my allies? who is the person they see as an ally? is donald trump and ally? is that it viewed in an ally? is emmanuel macron or angela merkel and ally? i would go with angela merkel and emmanuel macron any day. —— an ally. but that is a decision that the united kingdom is to make. a very interesting perspective. and i want to come back to those global point you made. i don't want this entire interview to be just about britain, that would not be right, given your position in europe. but a final point on britain, in your heart of hearts, do you still think it is possible that britain will actually reversed its decision, and decide that it does not want to leave the european
union? who am i tojudge? ifi not want to leave the european union? who am i tojudge? if i would bea union? who am i tojudge? if i would be a british citizen, then i have the right to vote, and the right to bea the right to vote, and the right to be a part of this debate. i am not. and i think that this is a choice that has been made in the united kingdom. i believe that no deal would be very bad for the uk citizens, and would be bad for european citizens. i believe it would be worse than the uk citizen and the eu citizen, but being belgian, a small economy, who believes in free trade, with most of our economy dependent on trade, and the large but dependent on the united kingdom, i believe that this whole session with maybe no deal, i don't see how this could be to the benefit of the citizens. citing this asa benefit of the citizens. citing this as a political debate. but it is too important to make this only a political debate. —— so i think this is. a wider argument, let's think
about where the eu is going up. —— going now. man u micron, where he is going, and angela merkel, and perhaps you can extrapolate this to the brits who are dragging their feet, emmanuel macron and angela merkel are talking about unity on the security and fiscal side, do you think that that is where the eu is going next —— emmanuel micron?” prefer having the british people on the table. on a lot of topics, they are an ally. they are an ally in discussions on free trade, and very often, they are at an ally when it comes to foreign policy. but they are absolutely not an ally, when it
comes to further integration of the european project. emmanuel macron is now talking about his vision of a finance minister co—ordinating fiscal policy across the european union. he, ithink fiscal policy across the european union. he, i think it is that to say, definitely has a vision of a european army, european security and foreign policy, heavily integrated. britain was never followed. foreign policy, heavily integrated. britain was neverfollowed. britain was on its way out to the accident. this seems to be the franco—german vision of where to take the european union. i think this is their catharsis moment. brexit was a catharsis moment. brexit was a catharsis moment. brexit was a catharsis moment. but equally so the election donald trump, and the united states lead in the paris climate agreement. i think these are all defining moment. and it comes at all defining moment. and it comes at a moment where there is a new leadership standing up in europe. i believe that the european project is much stronger than some people thought it was. we need more europe?
yes. to tackle... but have you seen the opinion polls? these polls have asked people if they want more treaties, more europe, and in germany, france, the holland, spain, and others, the response is, overwhelmingly, no. let's see how you asked the question. if you look at whether the —— if you look at the big themes of the world today. climate change. terror. handling migration. everybody knows that there is no country that can handle it on itself. isaby can say that we wa nt it on itself. isaby can say that we want some parts in europe which are less, i can agree. i want less european democracy, it yes. —— i can certainly say it, that we have some
parts in europe which one less, i can agree. in working together, for certain causes, however, i think we find each other. and i honestly think that in the discussion with the united kingdom, we will come back on certain topics. yes, we have to discuss brexit. but when we are fighting terror, we have the same interests. and instead of what we see from time to time, when there is u nfortu nate see from time to time, when there is unfortunate terrorist attacks, trying to blame one another, i would rather put my energy, instead of blaming one another, and you seen what we can do together, can we work together to get a better solution? system in this conversation you have chosen an internationalist perspective, and you have talked about worrying trends that you see in the united states and russia and elsewhere, but, as a senior member ofa elsewhere, but, as a senior member of a government in belgium which is failing to meet some of its most basic international obligations, i just wonder how strong the ground is
that you are currently standing on. for example, in nato terms, belgium has an appalling record of failing to meet the 2% of gdp threshold on to meet the 2% of gdp threshold on to phase —— on defence expenditure. only luxembourg, pro rata, spend less on defence than you do. and on international aid, your own portfolio, you are only record of getting anywhere near to the 0.7% of gdp spent on international aid, that is terrible. you are at 0.49%. belgium is not stepping up when it comes to its international obligations. on defence, our prime minister has been clear on the fact that we will step up and invest more. when we are talking about foreign policy, i think that you need to sit in a broad perspective. if we have had positive revolution
in the world over the past ten yea rs, in the world over the past ten years, where has it come from? the reason number one is trade. and when we talk about trade cover the european union is second to none, in relation to trade, and inward and outward investment. that is all very interesting, but you seem to be avoiding my point that belgium has signed up to specific international obligations. let's talk about your own portfolio, before we vanish. belgium has said that it wants to meet the 0.7% of gdp in two international aid, but meet the 0.7% of gdp in two internationalaid, but time meet the 0.7% of gdp in two international aid, but time and again, it has failed, and you have been crowing about how you are going to cut the aid budget by another 270 million euros by 2019. —— we vanish. ijust don't see million euros by 2019. —— we vanish. i just don't see how you can then stand before me and said that you in belgium are committed to the internationalist agenda. what i wa nted internationalist agenda. what i wanted to say before you cut me off was that the internationalist agenda, in my view, is more spending
criteria on defence and aid. yes, we need to step out our investment, and we need to do investments. but if you look at what happened today, what makes a difference, it is open democracies, it is trade, it is investing in the least developed countries, which is somewhere where it belgium is contravening the rest of the world, it is too easy to judge countries on spending criteria. let's also see what we're doing. minister, we are doing. the thank you very a much indeed were joining us on hardtalk my pleasure. —— minister, we have to go. —— thank you very a much indeed forjoining us on hardtalk.
—— my pleasure. hello, there. the middle of the week is going to bring a peak in the temperatures. you could describe it as very warm across many parts of the country. especially across southern areas of england and wales you could describe it as hot. some sunny spells around, but that's not quite the case everywhere because on the satellite picture you can see the cloud that's been rolling in from the atlantic. this will be clipping into northern ireland and western scotland. so here there will be more cloud through the day and it will be breezy. some splashes of rain at times, especially to the far north—west. there could be the odd shower in the afternoon in england and wales. further south, long spells of sunshine and that's where we will have the highest temperatures. for the middle part of wednesday afternoon, maybe the odd shower over northern england, but 2a degrees in leeds and manchester.
towards the south—east, lots of sunshine and easily up to 27—28. always a little bit cooler towards the coast. we could have 18 degrees in plymouth. fine and sunny across the south—west of england and much of wales. there could be the odd shower, especially over high ground. the vast majority staying dry. cooler towards the coast. for northern ireland there will be more cloud, but the day is by no means a washout. a lot of dry weather, mainly mpatchy rain into the north—west. more rain in the northern and western parts of scotland. for eastern scotland there should be some sunshine and a fair degree of warmth as well. through wednesday night it will turn quite muggy across eastern areas. the humid air still in place. temperatures not dropping far. out west, a change. the ban deep of rain working through northern ireland and into scotland, wales. this is associated with a cold front and as that moves in from the west on thursday it will start to introduce cooler and fresher
aironce again. still a pretty warm day in east anglia and the south—east, with some humidity holding on. but as the weather front continues to move eastwards it will sweep the real heat and humidity away. temperatures in most places on thursday afternoon about 16—19 degrees. there will be sunshine, but there will also be hefty showers across parts of the north—west. then we'll have some showers again on friday, especially in parts of wales, northern ireland, western scotland. some drier and brighter weather further east. still up to 23 degrees in the south—east and into the weekend it looks like the heat and humidity will return in the south. always cooler further north, with a little bit of rain. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is mike embley. our top stories: "detestable lies." a massive fire right now in a west
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