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U.K. Reeling as Diplomat Resigns in Brexit Bombshell; An Ambassador's Advice to Young Muslim; The British Icon Sent Packing. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 4, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, dismay in some quarters, delight in others after Britain's ambassador to the EU quits with
a scathing attack on his government's Brexit strategy. As a replacement is quickly found, I examine the fallout with a man who has been both men's
boss. The former head of the British foreign office Simon Fraser.
Plus, the UAE ambassador Omar Saif Ghobash on what it means to be a young Muslim in the 21st century.
And imagine a world where the dinosaur becomes extinct even from a museum. After 112 years, Dippy the Diplodocus is being packed away.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. A new year, a new Brexit bombshell. In a bonfire of
the experts, the British government is now reeling from the resignation of one of its best-versed EU negotiators, its ambassador to the bloc, Ivan
In a scathing letter, he told staff to quote, "Challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking," adding that contrary to the beliefs of
some, free trade does not just happen.
Unlike countries such as the United States, ambassadors in the UK are typically career civil servants, rather than political appointees. Yet the
reaction has been as polarized, as partisan and political as the referendum itself. In the tabloids and among the politicians here is lead Brexiteer
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIGEL FARAGE, U.K. INDEPENDENT PARTY LEADER: In fact, we need to get rid of ambassadors all over the world. Nobody has done more to give away the
independence and democracy of this country than the foreign office. And I hope that this resignation is the beginning of a clear out and we get a
completely new group of people in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now in a furious response from -- sorry -- in a furious response, one former top civil servant tweeted, "Ivan Rogers, a huge loss,
can't understand wilful and total disruption of EU expertise. #Amateurism."
And Roger's replacement in Brussels will be Tim Barrow, the former ambassador to Russia, and that is only just been announced. And all of
this, just three short months before Prime Minister Theresa May plans to invoke Article 50 and start divorce proceedings from the EU.
So in any other circumstance while this might all be dismissed as workplace turmoil gone very bad, this is not any other circumstance. It's about
dealing with Britain's most consequential and southern political change since World War II.
Joining me to talk about it all is Simon Fraser. He is the former head of the UK foreign office and diplomatic service and he worked with Sir Ivan
Thank you for joining us.
SIMON FRASER, FORMER HEAD, UK FOREIGN OFFICE AND DIPLOMATIC SERVICE: Pleasure. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Gosh, there's so much to talk about. So much on our table.
First and foremost, I know there's just been announced a replacement, but what do you make of the circumstances under which Ivan Rogers resigned and
what he's talked about -- beware of model thinking. Free trade just doesn't happen on its own. And, clearly, he's got advice that he thinks is
not being listened to in Downing Street.
FRASER: Well, I think that Ivan has obviously concluded for whatever reason that he is not the person best placed to conduct the negotiation
over the next couple of years and so he's taken the decision, which is a sensible one under the circumstances, to stand down now so that somebody
else, and now we know it's Tim Barrow, can come in and do that.
And, clearly, in his letter, there is some sense of concern and frustration about the way that the preparation for the negotiation has been handled.
AMANPOUR: Well, you were his boss at one point, and here is more of what he wrote in his letter. To his staff -- "I hope that you'll continue to
challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking, and that you will never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power. I hope that you'll
support each other in those difficult moments, where you'll have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them."
I mean, we really do need to dig down. Has -- or have things gone so awry that people just don't want to listen to the hard truths of what Brexit is
going to take? Do you fear that as former head of the civil foreign office?
FRASER: Well, look, I think this is a highly -- you know, as you said at the start, this is a very complex situation. It's a highly charged
I think Ivan felt that it was very important that his expertise and knowledge about Europe was being listened to in London. And I do think
it's important that civil servants feel that they can give honest advice to political leaders and that political leaders will take that. And I think
that's been the position in this country that serves us very well. So I believe that that's the way we should continue to operate.
[14:05:12] AMANPOUR: How does one continue to operate in that kind of way that you layout, which has been the fundamentals of British diplomacy and
negotiation since the Foreign Service and civil service was started? How do those career civil servants deal in a highly partisan environment, where
this has been so politicized that nobody can say anything without the other side jumping all over them?
FRASER: Well, I think they -- what they do is they bring to bear the experience and the knowledge. They give the best advice they can to
ministers. Ministers make decisions. Civil service -- civil servants don't make decisions, but the advice ministers.
And the key thing is that civil servants are loyal to government, that they are dedicated to helping government achieve the company's successful
completion of the policies of government and that they are enablers for the government and not seen it anywhere as blockers, which some people had
describe them as. That's a really important point.
AMANPOUR: Well, again, he -- as we've said, Ivan Rogers has been very well thought of, very well connected in Europe. And he did apparently come a
cropper when something he's thought was private advice became public in that it could take ten years or so to create a new trade deal. But here's
what some European partners are saying about Britain right now and their hardcore stance towards Brexit.
This is what Manfred Weber in Germany, a close ally of Chancellor Merkel, told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANFRED WEBER, GERMAN MEP: Frankly speaking, people all over Europe are a little bit fed up about what we hear sometimes from London and just from
politicians in London. Sometimes this arrogance telling that we know what we can do for us and we don't care about the rest.
This game is over now. These cherry-picking is over after Brexit. We offer a very special deal to Great Britain and Great Britain refused, and
that is now the outcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's important statement especially as Theresa May prepares in the next three months to pull the trigger so to speak.
There is a sense that nobody quite knows where the negotiation is or whether Theresa May is being boxed in or knows quite how to deliver a
Brexit that will be good for Britain.
FRASER: Yes. Well, it's clear, one of the things that Ivan said in his letter was that we didn't yet have clarity about the objectives in the
negotiation. And that is true, because what the British government has been doing is gathering advice and trying to formulate a negotiating
strategy before we trigger the famous Article 50, which begins the Brexit negotiation in March.
So that is what the government needs to do between now and then. I think that, you know, the appointment of Tim Barrow is a very good appointment.
Because he's a very experienced guy as Ivan is as well. He's well-known in Brussels. He's an expert on the issues. He's got a good network, very
credible, got the confidence of ministers so he will help us take that forward.
AMANPOUR: Will he also come a cropper, though, of the people who want a very hard Brexit. The people who actually Michael Gove once dismissed as
the experts that Britain have had enough of?
FRASER: Well, I mean, I don't know what Tim's views are on the Brexit issue if that's the question. But the important thing is he's a highly
credible individual, very skilled, very well networked and a very good replacement. And I think it's to the credit of the British government that
they moved so rapidly to replace Ivan and move forward, because the really important issue is that there's a hugely complicated and important
negotiation to launch and conduct and that's what we need to get on with.
AMANPOUR: Well, yes. And, again, this is the crux of the matter that Ivan and others have told us publicly that actually, you know, most of the top
negotiators have been deputize to Europe during the years of the EU. Britain being in the EU. There aren't enough negotiators with enough
experience, that it could take a lot longer and it could be a lot more painful than those with rose colored glasses are telling and promising
FRASER: You know, I think when Ivan, the famous report which was leaked from Ivan, was in fact reporting what people have said to him would be the
case. So he was just conveying that news.
AMANPOUR: That it could take a ten-year period.
FRASER: A considerable period of time. And it is true that it is going to be a complex negotiation as David Davis, who is the minister in charge,
himself has said, this is going to be a very complex and complicated negotiation. I don't think that there is a simple or rapid outcome. And I
think it's important to accept that and understand that those who argue that this can all be very quickly and simply, in my view, are not correct.
AMANPOUR: How much of a thorn in the side of the prime minister and others will Nigel Farage continue to be? I mean, he gave a very absolutist
reaction today. Get rid of the whole lot of them, clear house, et cetera. We only want sort of like minded people.
How difficult is it going to be for anybody to actually conduct a negotiation that is, you know, not a zero sum game?
[14:10:00] FRASER: Well, clearly, the negotiation is being conducted in a political context around Brexit which is very particular one in this
country and Nigel Farage is one of many voices, but clearly his advice hasn't been taken on this occasion about British diplomats. I think that's
a good thing. But, you know, his views and others have to be taken into account, because it's important that we avoid polarization of the debate
here. These are very important issues and the interests of the country are at stake.
AMANPOUR: Well, in that regard, Liam Fox, who is a Brexiteer and who has big portfolio right now has come to say in public that it probably isn't a
great idea to leave the customs unit so even he is sort of moderating his views. But, again, the hard right, the Nigel Faragers won't allow that to
go. They wanted a hard Brexit. Some are even -- you know, tabloids are touting we're going to be out at Easter. I mean, that's four months from
FRASER: Well, I mean, clearly, there are people who have a very strong belief in Brexit and that's their sole objective. But I think what the
government understands is that there are really important economic, political, security interests at stake here. And, you know, nearly half of
British trade is done in the European Union.
So the terms on which we settle our future economic relationship are very important. That's why issues of the customs union are now being examined
closely because we've got to look at all the options and get the best possible deal.
AMANPOUR: Because as you say that and as this new year's start, a lot of writing is being done and a lot of sort of analyzing of the situation that
while the worst case scenarios that were threatened about Brexit didn't come true during 2016, they may come home to roost in 2017.
Economists are predicting slower growth. The result and the consequence of the devalued pound could come home to bite civilians, businesses, everybody
in the back side so to speak.
Do you expect like others are saying that 2017 could actually be the annus horribilis in this manner?
FRASER: Well, I mean, the British economy has held up better than many people thought. I mean, you have to acknowledge that. But next year when
you look ahead, there are many political and other events to happen in Europe which are going to affect this negotiation, whether it is the
election in France, in Germany and indeed the Netherlands, possibly inflation coming on in this country and increasing.
So, clearly, you know, there are many important stages that we've gone through and businesses are looking at this and saying we need clarity. We
need to know what the operating environment is going to be if we're operating in Britain and in Europe in the years ahead. And they can't wait
too long to get more clarity about what the longer term future is going to look.
AMANPOUR: Yes, which is frankly a comment directed to the prime minister because, you know, six or seven months since Brexit, they are still just a
slogan, "Brexit means Brexit." And she's now coming under quite a lot of pressure.
Do you think she's losing control of her agenda and being boxed in? Do you feel that she's giving confidence?
FRASER: No, I don't think she's losing control. I think she did the right thing to delay the triggering of Article 50. And I think she's done the
right thing to try to gather information and understand exactly what the implications are because we all know that when the referendum happened, the
government didn't have a clear plan. But what I do now think that as we go towards the triggering of --
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, nor did the Brexit people have a plan. I mean, that's the important thing.
FRASER: That's true. But then the new government coming in with the mandate didn't have a clear plan. But as we go towards triggering Article
50, I think in the next three months, it is important that we get more clarity about the direction of travel.
AMANPOUR: So are you optimistic on that front or pessimistic?
FRASER: Well, I'm optimistic that the government will live up to its responsibilities. And I also think myself that we should move ahead and
trigger Article 50 because we need to move forward in this debate. We need to get engaged in a real negotiation so that people can understand the real
issues and in a sense, ministers take their responsibilities for conducting the negotiation and giving us clarity about the way we're heading.
AMANPOUR: All right, Mr. Simon Fraser, thank you very much indeed for being with us.
So if 2016 was the year of blindsiding pollsters; in France, 2017 has started with one daily newspaper, "La Parisien" trying to stay ahead of the
curve by abandoning pollsters all together. To focus, they say, on quote, "The core of our profession," sending reporters back into the field. Now
there's an original idea.
When we come back, really original ideas from the UAE's ambassador, "Letters to a Young Muslim." We'll have that next.
[14:16:10] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
Now Turkish officials say they do know the identity of the man who gunned down dozens of people in a nightclub on New Year's Eve, but he's still on
Since war broke in Syria nearly six years ago, a wave of youngsters have been radicalized in the name of ISIS. Omar Saif Ghobash is extremely
worried by all of this. He is the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia. He's actually half-Russian, half-Arab himself and he knows the
effect of violence firsthand because his own father was assassinated in the 1970s.
Ghobash has just penned a new book. It's a series of letters to his son called "Letters to a Young Muslim." He writes, quote, "Perhaps by looking
at why we still cherish the model of the warrior, we might begin to understand where we have fallen behind the rest of the world."
Ambassador Ghobash joins me now from New York to discuss.
Welcome to the program. You really are putting forth a public and original departure from what a lot of -- I don't know the trend in this sort of
reflection of what's going on has been.
Why did you decide to do this at this point, ambassador?
OMAR SAIF GHOBASH, AUTHOR, "LETTERS TO A YOUNG MUSLIM": Well, to be honest, it's been on my mind ever since September 11th. Prior to September
11th, my friends and I had always been aware of the power of the fundamentalist or extremist narrative.
We never really thought that it would move towards action. With September 11th, I mean, for me personally, this was a terrible tragedy and it made me
think that people who disagree with that approach, disagree with the approach of violence toward achieving political or religious names have to
really think about where we've gone wrong.
And so I spent a number of years really quite puzzled by all of the responses of the Muslim world to the events of September 11th. So I
figured that we should be looking at the reality of Islam as opposed to worrying about the image of Islam in the west.
AMANPOUR: Well, you do, right. And you also, obviously, concerned about how you de-radicalize some of these who have been radicalized. And in one
of the quotes in these letters to your son, you talk about Muslim individuality.
Let me just quote, you say to your son Saif (ph), "I really believe that the idea of the Muslim individual is the simplest and most effective unit
for the regeneration of the Muslim world. There's no need for us to build bombs and regimens and religious cults that promise to return to a glorious
past in order to build a glorious future."
So many people might agree with you except for all of those people who are going out there, because they believe in this notion of a caliphate and its
glorious nostalgia of a past that they are trying to recapture for themselves.
GHOBASH: Well, I think one of the problems here is that traditionally, we -- the way we look at our Islamic history is -- in terms of a series of
dates, warriors and battles fought and won, and in some cases lost. And I think that we really need to think historically that there were so many
other things going on.
There were people living lives. There were people trading, there were people studying and developing centers of knowledge. And, you know, I
mean, it's been repeated many times that Islam isn't simply -- there were golden periods of Islam. And I really think that we need to think about
how we can re-express these new -- these interesting areas in our Islamic life.
I think that to say that all of Islam was just a history battles and warriors is to reflect an ignorance of our own faith.
AMANPOUR: So as you continue to pursue that and as you say for instance, you know, one of the questions you posed in your letters is about any
number of attacks recently. I mean, we've seen Turkey, we've seen all over the place, you particularly talk about the ones in Europe.
[14:20:05] You say, "I think we need to look at Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan and Orlando and ask ourselves if this is not precisely what some
of us are taught by our religious leaders. Is there not some truth to the idea that a strain of Islam welcomes repenters and born again Muslims and
asks of them to clear their sins by acts of great piety or fanaticism."
So, again, if you were in charge, how would you, you know, combat that very troublesome issue?
GHOBASH: Well, firstly, it's going to take a long-term approach and it's going to require a political will and it will require a certain dedication
from people like myself and others.
We really need to look at what we're saying to each other and the consequences of those conversations and debates. It is one thing for us to
divide the world between friend and foe, Muslim and non-believer. If we're sitting in 7th century Arabia or even 10th century Baghdad or Damascus.
It's very different thing to divide between friend and foe when we are living in multicultural societies. And I think that this is where we need
to be more, more interesting in the way we analyze our relationship with others.
GHOBASH: We need to also think -- no, I'd like to also add just a very simple point that we always look back to the seventh century as a period of
moral perfection. And in a certain sense that's precisely what it was. But we also need to think in terms of moral progress that the 7th century
and time of the prophet was a time of moral perfection within that community, we can now look at new challenges and new moral situations to
develop a sense of moral progress towards moral perfection in our own time.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you some more contemporary issues because as ambassador to Russia, you know the situation there very well. You've got
Russia involved in Syria. Give me a sense of being a Muslim ambassador in Russia knowing that the country has a historic fear of, you know, the
invasion of the horde.
I want to know from your perspective why you think Putin's agenda has been the one it is in Syria, for instance?
GHOBASH: Well, I've been in Russia for eight years so I may have a slightly tainted or biased view.
My understanding is essentially that Russia has a serious fear of radical Islam. The festering situation in Syria for the first four years of the
civil war led to Russia feeling that it had to intervene in some way.
I can tell you that from my eight years in Russia, there's certainly is a great worry about radical Islam and there is a serious threat. I mean, 18
to 20 percent of the Russian population is Sunni Muslim. Many of them have been radicals. Many of them have spent time in Syria fighting in a Jihad
and many of them are saying that they are going to come back.
So, I mean, the situation for Russia is -- in Syria is not simply the traditional idea of supporting an ally in the region. I take the argument
of radical Islam much more seriously from the Russian perspective.
AMANPOUR: I see.
Let me move on to the Middle East peace process. As you know, there's been a lot of sort of diplomacy by tweet going on right now, but the key core
issue that the Palestinians have taken issue with is if the Trump administration actually moves the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, they
say they will have to revoke their recognition of Israel and that other Arab nations such as your own will have to follow suit.
Tell me what you think will be the fallout in the Arab and Muslim world of the U.S. moving its embassy now to Jerusalem?
GHOBASH: I'll speak as an Arab and a Muslim rather than in any official capacity.
The idea of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in my position, I think would simply cause an earthquake right across the region, both the Arab
world and the Islamic world.
And, you know, one would just simply question why would it be so important at this stage to pre-empt any further understanding between the
Palestinians and the Israelis given that, you know, Jerusalem has importance -- had symbolic importance for the Muslim world as well. So to
me, it doesn't really make sense and one would hope that it's a certain amount of posturing at this time.
AMANPOUR: All right. OK, good to get your view on that and the rest of your important track.
Thank you very much, Ambassador Ghobash.
And when we come back, we look back here to London to imagine the last day for one of the world's most famous dinosaurs. That's next.
[14:26:56] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine history being taken apart piece by piece, natural history that is right here in London. The
star of the city's famous natural history museum, Dippy the Diplodocus is resigning or is he being forced out after literally holding the fore court
for 112 years, he's headed for extinction. Today was his last day on display.
A sad good-bye for all the millions who've come to see him there over more than 100 years. Soon all 292 of Dippy's plaster cast bones will be packed
up. Dismantling him will take three and a half weeks and it will take a whole year to prepare him for his bon voyage tour, where he'll wander from
museum to museum across eight British cities.
Today marks another end to the Jurassic era. But another museum favorite will be replacing Dippy. The gigantic and real skeleton of a blue whale,
the world's biggest animal. Tilting towards visitors and ready to take the plunge.
That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast and always see us online at Amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.