tv Dateline London BBC News December 3, 2017 11:30am-12:01pm GMT
hello, and welcome to dateline london. i'm shaun ley. president donald trump is celebrating his first legislative triumph, after the us senate passed tax cuts in the early hours of saturday morning. should he be looking over his shoulder now his former national security adviser has admitted lying to the fbi about contacts with russia? we'll also discuss why ireland's border could be a brexit barrier come monday. with me in the studio: the irish writer and broadcaster brian o'connell. the algerian journalist nabila ramdani. jeffrey kofman, who spent many years working for the us networks and the uk political commentator steve richards. welcome to you all. robert mueller, the special prosecutor examining alleged links between the trump presidential campaign and russia, has claimed an important scalp. mike flynn, who resigned early
in the administration because he lied to the vice president about russia has now admitted he lied to the fbi, too. the question being asked in washington is whether his admission is part of a deal with mueller that could take the investigation into the white house. does this now smack of a plea bargain? yes, absolutely. and i think we can record december i, 2017 as both the best and the worst day of trump's presidency so far. he has got this massive tax cut passed by the senate bya hair, and now the pressure is, the noose is tightening around the white house. and if not him then certainly those close. what we see from flynn is that in this agreement he is pointing fingers at senior white house officials and the us
media is rife with speculation that it is trump's son in law and he stated this publicly very blue back many times is that it will be over by christmas that he can move on, that is not the case. this is a case of trump's alternate reality catching up with him. in terms of the practicalities of this, how big a distraction is this? i think it is going to be running background theme throughout his entire presidency, however long it lasts. i don't think it will overwhelm him because he's not the type of figure to be overwhelmed by a single issue. he will move onto other factors. in fact, in some ways, though i know what you mean about the tax cut been the best day because he's got some legislation through, i think the implications of that will be just as serious as russia. because it is part of an entirely incoherent approach to the role of government.
he promised to be the most active in the history of us politics, spending like no other. more capital spending than current spending. he's introduced a cut which he argues will generate growth. when that doesn't happen, his whole pitch to the so—called left behind, i think will be found to be exposed and wholly incoherent. and the tax cut is part of that. the russia story, i think, as you implied, hasn't quite got him yet. by implication it has, but not directly. and while that remains the case, it will be a background story rather than one which brings him down. many of his supporters, what they expect, the establishment doing their bit to try to bring him down. in the sense, it is almost factored out. the trump presidency is a test of the resilience of american institutions and democracy in a way which, in our lifetime, we have never seen.
can the courts remain independent? can his meddling be held to account? and what we're seeing is so far, yes. his attempts to knock mueller over were unsuccessful and now it is coming back at him. but on the tax cuts, it is so interesting sitting in the uk talking about this because we talk about what brexit is, generational change which will affect your grandchildren. and trump is going to be gone in four or eight years. this tax cut is a generational tax cut this is going to affect america whether he is gone in 4 years, at the end of his first term or survives two terms, this is a pivot for the american economy. he claims it is middle—class. every independent analysis suggest that this is a massive gain for the wealthy. the middle class and the working class... they get a tax cut but it is not the same sort of proportion
on the same scale. in time it diminishes. so eventually it would disappear. in terms of what that means, he is now at least delivering. he has concrete evidence that he has done something. isn't that going to be more important to a lot of voters than whether or not there is an investigation ongoing? no, i think that the latest controversy, i would like to think that the latest controversy will really be the beginning of the end for trump. but there has been so many low points in his wretched presidency that it is really difficult to gauge the significance of it all. but i think that, you know, as you know, official enquiries can take a very long time and it's actually his erratic behaviour and increasingly demonic behaviour that got him through a campaign that he didn't look likely to win in the first place. and i am of the opinion that societies deserve the politicians that they get. and trump personifies a great nation in crisis. and for this reason he will be
fighting tooth and nail against his opponents and he is in an immensely powerful position to do so. and meanwhile, he's announcing next week that he is going to move the american embassy tojerusalem. so this is an utterly provocative move and so typical of disgraceful leaders to try to create red herrings and try to make out that all problems are in foreign policy, meanwhile it is a massive distraction from the huge problems at home. he is dealing with a hugely divided, unequal nation at the moment. and americans have only themselves to blame for putting him in that position and indeed sustaining this state of affairs. i know you're canadian by birth. but you know the united states very well. do they have to accept... i think it is true. we have a deeply divided nation and i was just in the midwest. there is a festering sense of resentment and anger. there were so many people
struggling with two jobs, to stayjust above water. they are not saving anything. and they feel that the world is passing them by. and he spoke to that. the solutions he offered are not realistic. has he talked about bringing coal back? it is just not realistic. we are about to see another wave of technology, putting truck drivers and taxi drivers out of work, with automation. there is a real sense of fear, and he speaks to that. i think his constituency, that core is there. is he distracted now by the russian investigation? can he avoid being distracted by it? he willjust move the agenda onto something else. he gets up and goes on twitter every morning and does this. and he has the rest of the world talking about some obscure right—wing group that we've never even heard of anyway. with the retweets of these. the bbc needs to look at how much coverage they give, you know,
that sort of thing as well. i mean, he is the president, so presumably we would have to get impeachment. impeachment is a political process. it is not going to happen. it is probably not going to happen. and mueller, how long will that go on for? his first term anyway. he has, as you say, one notch on his legislative belt so far and he's probably happy with that, i would have thought. could he have more? is there the potential there, now that the senators have passed tax cuts? a sense that actually this is now concrete achievement? is that the catalyst for other things to be achieved? after a year which, in legislative terms, has been pretty rotten for him. that is a common challenge for most presidents. but it depends what you mean by other things. the tax cut is something that brings together quite
a large part of the republican party. not least in washington. which has been a kind of reaganite, thatcherite party beyond the era of reagan and thatcher. they of course famously imposed spending cuts on obama when he wanted to pass a more high spending budget. and so in this area he brings together the republican party. in most other areas he doesn't. so, no, i don't think this is going to be the beginning of a legislative programme of substantial reform, in which the republican party unites around him. it's too disparate and contradictory and shallow and incoherent for that to happen. but what is happening just below the radar is equally significant. we are seeing a real push to put young, very conservative judges in state and lower level courts and we're seeing a purging
of the state department. a huge exodus of career diplomats and what some are calling at crisis level. there is not even a us ambassador in south korea at the moment. absolutely. and career diplomats have been pushed out. so while it is true the legislative agenda may or may not move forward and he has the significant triumph, he has still has to reconcile the house. but there is this cultural shift happening in the institutions, exactly. and do republicans think that they could run on these tax cuts? in november of next year, when we have the mid—term elections. they desperately needed this. absolutely. what they're really running on, i think, is fear. but what you see is, if you stand up like a senator did. the two who have ejected, they're not running again.
if you stand up in this culture of polarised politics, you will be massacred on social media and by the conservative right and so dissent is simply not an option. you either follow, keep quiet, or leave. ireland was partitioned in 1922, but almost immediately the newly created republic and the uk, of which northern ireland remained part, agreed their citizens could move freely back and forth across the border. during the 30 years of violence which bedevilled the north there were armed soldiers, vehicle checks and razor wire. these days, after two decades of peace, about the only physical sign you're changing countries are road signs shifting between miles and kilometres. brexit could change that. by monday, the uk has to present to eu negotiators in brussels ideas for avoiding the return of border posts and checks — what's known as a hard border — or the divorce negotiations can't move on to post—brexit trade. in terms of what is
possible, and what can be achieved, why have we got to the stage where we are so close to a deadline and nobody really seems to be clear about what the solutions are to the border problem? this is not an irish government view. the irish government is one of 27 eu countries. the reason we are at this stage now is because the british didn't listen at the beginning. if you go back to a month after the referendum campaign, i think it was the 28th ofjuly 2016, enda kenny turned up in downing street. it is theresa may's first meeting... because she has not been prime minster very long. first meeting with the new prime minister and they have lunch and they agree that all the nice stuff about frictionless borders and things have to continue as they are. the irish then went off and went round all
the other 26 eu capitals and they said, this is a crucial issue and they explained why, and the british went off and looked at other stuff to do with brexit, and said, that is the irish sorted out. of course, when it came to setting up the talks, there is ireland, as one of the three things. that is because the irish went around the other 26 capitals and said we want this, this is going to be really important. they did their homework. they did their homework and the british kind of parked it. now, there is all kinds of reasons for that, which we can come back to. but in terms of what is achievable, my understanding is that they have not got a deal yet. the deadline is, i think, lunchtime on monday when mrs may goes to meetjean—claude junckerfor lunch. a lot of people in the uk probably don't grasp, you might be able to help with this, is, why is it
possible for a border to operate between norway, which is not a member of the european union, and sweden, relatively painlessly? or switzerland, which is not a member, and france, relatively painlessly? but everyone says it is going to be a potential crisis between northern ireland and the republic, one outside the eu and one in. the countries you mentioned have various arrangements with the single market or the eea or whatever it happens to be, for which they pay. they signed deals and the problem was northern ireland and the british and irish positions, is that both sides agree that this should be frictionless, open, happy—go—lucky border but the british are saying, we don't want to be in the single market or the customs union and we also don't want, as was suggested by the irish at one point, a dividing line down the irish sea,
so the border would be there. so you can't actually work that rubik's cube out. it is never going to happen. so what you've got to do is, i think, william hague... the former british foreign secretary. he was positing this. you go through the good friday agreement and pull out all the little bits and take it apart, that is what european commissions are for. they've done this and gone through it and i think there is 142 issues... within the good friday agreement? because it was based on the premise that both sides were going to be within european union. it goes down to things like animal welfare, crossing the border, things like ambulances crossing the border. so if you have a heart attack on the south and the nearest hospital is across the border on the north, and that kind of stuff. and you deal with them one by one. and you have a sort of regulatory convergence. this is where the dup startjumping up and
down and saying, no, no, we're not going to do this. this is very interesting. it is fair to say i was in a broadly nationalist part of northern ireland. it is an important issue for politicians there. the dup deputy leader, who is in charge in westminster, the man who negotiated the deal with theresa may to keep her in office, said there is no special status. there will not be a special status for northern ireland. it will be treated the same as the uk. theresa may said that i think she is a woman of her word. how on earth are they going to reconcile? i don't know. and it is very interesting if you look back at referendum in the united kingdom on this. northern ireland came up once, when john major tony blair went to speak there. and that was it. they generated no response, not much interest. that was the sole focus.
now, they are a reminder of two prime ministers who lived and breathed northern ireland politics and the good friday agreement. they would've known about the significance and the multilayered complexities. this peace agreement that effectively, not completely, brought an end to the armed violence that was taking place for decades. on the assumption of northern ireland being part of the european union, like southern ireland. and suddenly all this changes. and theresa may arrives. she was home secretary, she obviously had security issues with northern ireland but beyond that northern ireland had not been on her radar as a senior politician. and i think she hugely underestimated it. in fairness to david davis and others,... he's the british negotiator. the british brexit secretary in the united kingdom. they are acutely aware of it. they do have logical point in saying that before we know the end agreement, it is very hard to deal with the northern ireland situation because until we know
the degree to which free trade is going to apply more widely, you can't deal with this. but, as you know, there is a huge pressure to get some sort of sense. the irish government are not suggesting that we have to have everything glued to the floor before we move onto the next thing. what they're saying is, you've given us all the sort of airy fairy, yes, we all agree that the border has to be... the reassurances. in fact, there was a british paper produced last august, i think, where they talked about trusted traders in technology and all kind of stuff, which the eu commission described as magical thinking. that was all the government has provided so far. the irish now, they're saying give us something that we can hang onto, in writing, that is a guarantee. more concrete. it has to be concrete and credible to which they
are using. and doesn't have to actually answer every single question. but it has to give us sort of idea of how this open border is going to work. given how much hangs on this, surely common sense says they will find a way round this. they're not going to allow this whole process to be wrecked because they can't quite agree a form of words to get them onto the next stage. well, i'm afraid with so many issues around brexit, it effectively boils down to getting square pegs into round holes. ireland's relation to the britain has always been loaded with emotive issues, not least of all religion, and nationalism. but the massive stumbling block is a technical one. and if britain wants a proper brexit then of course it has to have a border. a hard border with the closest eu state. otherwise, all the betes noires that underpin brexit especially immigrants and non—british goods, willjust keep
flowing and will be able to move into the uk with no hindrance. the whole point of brexit is to stop all that. the flow of people, goods and indeed animals and have a border between southern and... there is no physical border between southern and northern ireland then it is very difficult to achieve that. at the time of the attempt to achieve the peace agreement which became the good friday agreement, british politicians and prime ministers could always pick up the phone and ring somebody in washington and there was always a sense that america's interest in the fate of ireland and what was happening in northern ireland was considerable. there were always politicians, republican and democrat, who cared and were passionate about it. is there still that interest? no, of course not. we remember that early handholding at the white house with theresa may and donald trump.
i don't think there will be grabbing one another‘s hands after this week when trump's retweeted those odious anti—muslim videos, at least one of which was totally fictitious. theresa may, to her credit, slapped him down. he then slapped her down. and so it goes. he said mind your business. let me throw another cliche at you, and so he did. i think she is very much, she can't rely on him. she hoped some quick trade deal with the us would somehow paper over the massive potential loss of trade with europe. but, no, she can't. i must say, she clearly... her kind of glib, brexit means brexit. now that she's caught, the devil is in the details. they don't use that phrase. they don't know what it means. that kind of glibness is coming back to bite them. there is so much really difficult
detailed work here, and ireland, who would've thought that would be the one issue that could potentially trip them up. it does go back to the good friday agreement. most around here remember 20 years ago when they put the good friday agreement together they have this thing called constructive ambiguity. well, we'll figure it out afterwards, we'll get around to that. you can't do that with this. so up until now, with all those sensitive issues. because you need to actually explain to people how their livelihoods are going to be able to continue if they run a dairy farm just a mile north of the border and the milk is pasteurised or turned into cheese or whatever it is on the south of the border, because the integration between, and it is notjust agriculture, it is loads of things, along that border area, is enormous. there is a former senior guy who always says...
the drinks maker? yes. he says the milk that goes into the bottle of baileys comes from northern ireland and crosses the border five times for pasteurisation of this and that and the other before it ends upin the bottle. it goes over and back five times. but you have that kind of very, very integrated economy on both sides of the border. and creative ambiguity is not going to... constructive ambiguity is not going to work. reintroducing the border can bring back the division that defined the troubles and undo all the good progress made by the good friday agreement. but all this is about technical puzzles. ones that highlight the horrendous difficulties that underpins the brexit process. after following a very simple decision made by britain to leave the eu. the election is coming back to haunt them because the dup... the general election issue that left
the tories without a majority. they are now reliant on this party in northern ireland of nationalists to support them and maintain the government here at westminster. and now, theresa may really is at their mercy. it is interesting that it is such an emblematic example of the complexity of this, that on this, both sides agree on the end. the eu and the uk want a soft border. and yet they can't quite work out how. so even where there is agreement on an end, it is not at all clear how they reach it. on many other issues there isn't to an agreement on the end and even if she gets through the december summit this crucial moment in her premiership, because if she doesn't there will be a sense of crisis around her. so i assume that she will. do think that would finish her off? such predictions are dangerous now but i think there will be a huge
sense of crisis if she doesn't get through to the next round of much more mountainously complex talks. after december, which is why she's got a sense that the brexit payment will open the door of sorts, assuming that something can be done northern ireland. if she doesn't, there will be a huge, she can't come back from another summit and deliver a statement to the house of commons saying we've made no progress. it is going to require a lot of flexibility by the eu as well. because if they do have these sort of measures where regulatory convergence and so on, the eu is going to have to say, well, it is not the way we run the single market normally but in this case we will make an exception. they will have to be fairly flexible on that. i understand that a certain irish stout, they also involve travelling across the border and then back again. too early in the day to have one of those. that's all we have time for on dateline this week.
please do join us again next week, same time same place. but for now thank you for watching, and goodbye. it is an sort of day today, a lot of the low cloud and light rain and drizzle should be moving away, and they should find a cloud breaking from the north. these cars will brighten and sound channel head south. some areas will hang on to the cloud. it could be rather damp in the south—west of england. the rest of wales, and the west midlands bus see sunshine this afternoon, but it bobby is lawday for the
south—east. the cloud is a glutton to break, but it is not as cold as it was yesterday. further north, other we have sunshine, temperatures a shade more than yesterday for northern ireland. below sunshine as it tonnes dials. let's follow that damp and drizzly weather as it pushes into scotland and western parts of england and wales. a few brea ks parts of england and wales. a few breaks behind that and clearer skies means edible tonnage elliott in places. a better chance of seeing a superman, perhaps. on monday, the fog were left and able... many places but have a dry day and the cloud will break up. brightest guys and some sunshine coming through. wea k and some sunshine coming through. weak sunshine, of course, at this time of year. decent temperatures, seven to 10 degrees in the
afternoon. a lot of cloud, and some drizzle as well. they went back up in the north—west, and they will start to see some rain arriving and turning steadier and heavier. as the middle part of the week, i think we're all going to get wet and windy weather. the event will be heavy enough to give some localised flooding. lots of as the buyers are in the chart, a tangle of weather funds sweeping down across the country. then the wind direction changes to wind that is going to come all the way from the arctic. that will drag that much colder air by the end of the week, i very quickly, there will be sunshine island, but those that will be timing rather wintry. this is bbc news. i'm ben brown. the headlines at midday. the chair of the government's social mobility commission resigns,
saying he has little hope of achieving anything when the government is so focused on brexit. the government, probably for understandable reasons, is focused on brexit and seems to lack the bandwith to be able to translate the rhetoric of healing social division and promoting social justice into reality. president trump faces accusations that he obstructed justice, a new scheme to make it easier for children in england to access mental health services is outlined by the government. president trump faces accusations that he obstructed justice, after suggesting he'd known that his former national security adviser had lied to the fbi. and, in half an hour here on bbc news, click takes a look at the latest in disability tech — including object recognition and "sign to text" translation.
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