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Obama Editorial Urges U.K. to Stay in the E.U.; Iceland's President to Run for Sixth Term; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 22, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: President Obama doesn't hold back, flying into London with this message: friends, being in
the E.U. makes Britain even more great, as he weighs into the most contentious debate here in generations.
Brexiters, like the mayor of London, strike back. The former British ambassador to Washington sets us straight.
And later in the program, imagining a world without Prince's "Purple Rain."
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Now after leaving Saudi Arabia and that contentious relationship, President Obama will be spending the weekend here in London, enjoying the special
relationship with the U.K., stating, though, in no uncertain terms why Britain must stay in the E.U. and framing it in terms of America's vital
It is a message that he probably took to the queen when he joined her for a 90th birthday lunch and he certainly brought it to back Prime Minister
David Cameron at Downing Street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As part of our special relationship, part of being friends is to be honest and to let you know
what I think. And speaking honestly, the outcome of that decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States because it affects our
prospects as well.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): "Stay out of our business," the Brexiters fired back. The mayor of London even accusing the president of hypocrisy.
So will the special relationship remain warm and friendly after the June referendum on Europe?
Peter Westmacott was Britain's ambassador to Washington until January and he joins me now in the studio.
AMANPOUR: Sir Peter, you're back here in London.
Were you surprised that the president did not tiptoe around this issue? He wrote a front-and-center op-ed for the "Daily Telegraph" and said, no, this
is not gray here; you must stay in and it's best for all of us.
SIR PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON: Not really. But it was a very bold and unusual statement. I know that the president
has strong views on this subject. I've heard him express them to me. I've heard him express them to others.
So I think given the fact that the issue is neck and neck, that we're not quite clear the way Brexit issues -- the referendum is going to come out on
the 23rd of June, I'm not surprised that he's come here and made his views clear.
But I think it is bold. It is an unusual statement. He's gone to great lengths. He's set it all out. He's been very careful not to tell the
British how they should vote but he has drawn very much attention to the implications of both staying in and of what leaving would mean.
AMANPOUR: To me, what was important and interesting about what he did was to frame it, not as tutting to the British and, oh, you should be there and
it will make us stronger.
No, it will make America stronger. It's important for America's national interest.
And no politician here can quibble with that, can they?
If the President of the United States says that it's better for us...
WESTMACOTT: Well, he says it's better for us because his job, after all, is to look after America's interests. But he also brings a message to the
Brits which says I think it's good for you as well because I think he's very conscious that if he simply says it's good for me, it's good for
America, therefore, a vote yes on the 23rd, people are going to say, well, why should we do what you want?
We are interested in what's good for Britain. So when he talks about enhancing Britain's global leadership by staying in or magnifying Britain's
influence, I think he's conveying a message which resonates with British people, too -- or those of us, at least, who care about Britain's
influence in the world.
And he talks about the economic aspects, he talks about free trade, he talks about continuing investment and he talks, I think, absolutely
rightly, about the way in which Britain and America have worked together over the centuries to reconstruct Europe on the back of a great deal of
spilled American and British blood in two world wars.
AMANPOUR: That also was a very emotional gut punch really to the solar plexus, that Britain can understand because having gone through those wars,
they really did depend in large part on America to help them get through it.
What do you make then of the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who made several controversial comments in his response today?
First and foremost, questioning President Obama and his Kenyan roots --
AMANPOUR: -- saying that some say President Obama's attitude is a symbol of, quote, "the Kenyan's president ancestral dislike of the British Empire,
of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender."
I mean, really?
WESTMACOTT: You know, Christiane, I'm a big fan of Boris Johnson's. I always enjoyed having him in Washington. He's a colorful character. But
he is expressing his views in typically firm language and colorful language.
I think this is an idea which has been lifted out of President Obama's biography; we all know that his grandfather was in Kenya. There were
issues about how well he was treated in colonial times.
But I have to say that in all the time that I've spent in the United States -- and I met President Obama before I went there to be ambassador -- I
never got any hint from the president there was any kind of ancestral dislike -- or whatever the expression is -- of the United Kingdom.
On the contrary, what the president has always been clear to people like me but in a more importantly to members of the royal family, to the prime
minister, to others, is that he has great affection for the United Kingdom and really does value what he calls -- not just us -- he calls the special
relationship with the United Kingdom, our shared values and the way in which we work together to try to solve the world's greatest issues, never
mind the intelligence relationships, the counterterrorism, the trade, the investment, the access for U.S. companies to the single market through
All those things are important, too.
AMANPOUR: And let's just say, because you yourself have written about this, even the incredible steps towards the environment, right now, as we
speak, at the United Nations, they are signing the big climate deal that they came to in Paris at the end of last year.
This wouldn't have happened without Britain and the United States, right?
WESTMACOTT: Well, I think that is true. And let me just say to those who say the United States would never have gone along with the degree of
surrender, of sovereignty that implies membership to the European Union, the United States is signing up to the international climate change treaty,
just like it's signed up to membership in the United Nations and then NATO and lots of other global international organizations where America, too, is
pooling its sovereignty.
AMANPOUR: See, this is another thing the Brexiters here are really, really -- this is the central part of their argument and, again, Boris Johnson
says that it's incredibly hypocritical of the president to prescribe for Britain what he would never accept for the United States.
We're going to play something and I'll have you react to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON: I do think it's perverse that we're being urged by the United States to embroil ourselves ever more deeply in a
system where our laws, 60 percent of them, are now emanating from the E.U. when the United States would not dream of subjugating itself in any way to
any other international jurisdiction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Does he have a point there?
I mean, you talked about the climate change but the United States is not a member of the ICC, the International Criminal Court.
Does Boris Johnson have a point about signing up to these kinds of international laws?
WESTMACOTT: Well, I don't think so. There are a number of things where America is not a member. But I think this idea that we're being asked to
surrender sovereignty -- actually, we're not. We're being asked to stick with the status quo and make it better. But this is something that America
would never have been able to go along with.
We are talking about two totally different situations. The reality is that 150 years ago, lots of American states pooled a degree of their own
sovereignty and formed a union, of which they are, rightly, extraordinarily proud. The United States collectively plays its part in the international
community and signs on to a lot of international organizations.
AMANPOUR: The Brexiters insist that every other European country, plus every other country around the world, is going to be rushing to renew and
remake deals with Britain, because Britain is so great.
What do you think, for instance, the U.S. would do?
WESTMACOTT: Many U.S. officials, including U.S. trade representative Mike Froman (ph), has made very clear, that if Britain chooses to leave and is
not, therefore, part of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations going on now, the big E.U.-U.S. free trade agreement, it will
not be a top priority for America to negotiate a separate one with the British; that would take time and that, by the way, if we are voting -- if
we are negotiating as a single country rather than as part of a bloc of 28, we will inevitably not be negotiating from the same position of strength
that the E.U. collectively is.
AMANPOUR: You've been in Washington. You've been back for a little bit now.
Do you think the Remain campaign, which you back, Prime Minister David Cameron backs, which the president backs, is it putting its case as
convincingly as it could?
And the same question -- attached to the same question -- is this something that's over-emotional?
Do you think people are reacting to this whole referendum, this idea emotionally or based on facts and what we know and don't know?
WESTMACOTT: Well, on your first point, Christiane, I think we're doing our best. Those of us who feel strongly about this, we're doing our best to
explain why we think it's the right thing for the United Kingdom to stay in Europe and work with our European partners to make Europe work better.
Even President Juncker of the commission says we've made some mistakes and we've got to fix it.
So I think that resonates with a lot of people here in the United Kingdom, including those who want to stay.
WESTMACOTT: I think there is a great deal of emotion in this debate, understandable. If you think about Britain's history, we do go back a long
way. We have had the same borders, the same frontiers, the same political institutions, incrementally changed, for hundreds of years. And whereas
Continental Europe has been through all sorts of traumas and revolutions and wars, which have changed everything frequently and they haven't got the
Twenty-five years ago I remember talking privately when I worked for the Prince of Wales with Chancellor Ko, who said, I understand why you British
do not have the same view as the rest of us here towards Continental European unity. We've got to tread gently. But you've got to understand
where we're coming from as well.
So I don't think it's surprising there is emotion. I hope, however, that, come the 23rd of June, that the decision to vote one way or the other will
be taken on the basis of hard, rational thought about what's best for the country.
AMANPOUR: I think it was really interesting. He started his column to the British today, President Obama, by recalling the toasts and the close
relationship between then-President Roosevelt and King George VI, right on the eve of World War II, and how the two countries had enabled peace and
civilized values all over Europe in the ensuing years.
And I'm just sort of reminded, the president went to his Middle East allies just before coming here. He wasn't even greeted by King Salman on the
ground as he touched down in Riyadh, very different reception from the queen of England.
WESTMACOTT: Well, I think the way in which the president reminded us what happened in 1999 is very important. And we've all forgotten that that was
the first state visit by any British king or queen to the United States, because just in the 1930s, British diplomatic representatives in Washington
were saying we think it's too early. The American people are not ready to welcome the monarch of the United Kingdom.
And then boom, 1939, this extraordinary outpouring of emotion, which I think was hugely significant in the way in which over the next few years,
FDR was BLEJER: to get America into a place where he could support us, especially during those difficult years when we were left on our own.
Fast forward to where we are now, the president, of course, wanted to come and say not only happy birthday and but goodbye to the queen, of whom he is
He's always been very generous with his time to members of the royal family when they come to Washington. He wanted to come back and say goodbye. And
I was struck, looking at the pictures, that it was quite a gesture of Her Majority and Prince Philip, walking out to the landing ground on the
grounds of Windsor Park, where the helicopter landed, to greet them.
And then Prince Philip climbing in the front of the car and driving them to the castle. I think that is the sort of people they are. But it is also
AMANPOUR: And in the rain and the wind there, at 90 years old and 94, I think the prince is.
WESTMACOTT: Yes, there he is, in his raincoat.
But I think an indication of just how much affection and respect there is in that relationship.
AMANPOUR: Sir Peter Westmacott, thanks so much for being with us.
WESTMACOTT: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So President Obama has been helping the queen celebrate her 90th birthday. She is, of course, Britain's oldest and longest serving monarch,
on the throne now for 64 years.
Next, a long-serving democratically elected leader: I interviewed the Icelandic president earlier this week. Why after five terms he is going
for a sixth. That's ahead.
AMANPOUR: Britain's oldest monarch ever marks another milestone today. Queen Elizabeth turns 90. And in one of her signature colorful suits, if
it's spring, if must be yellowy-green. She's greeted crowds gathered outside the historic Windsor Castle, who came out to wish her a very happy
It is one thing to rule for so long if you are queen. It's quite another if you're a democratically elected Western leader.
Legacy, of course, is also on the mind of Iceland's president, Olafur Grimsson. He has served five terms already -- that is 20 years -- and this
week he surprised his people by making a U-turn, deciding not to retire but, instead, to run for an unprecedented sixth term.
The Panama Papers scandal took its first high-level scalp in Iceland when the prime minister had to resign after the streets erupted in anger over
his offshore accounts.
Now, the president tells me, the country needs stability and he will try to ensure that, as he explained when he joined me exclusively from Reykjavik.
AMANPOUR: President Grimsson, welcome to the program.
OLAFUR GRIMSSON, PRESIDENT OF ICELAND: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, your country has gone through several eruptions of financial meltdown. And now it's been the most dramatically hit by the
Panama Papers, with your prime minister having to resign.
Why do you think this is happening to Iceland?
GRIMSSON: Well, Iceland, to some extent, is an advanced Western country which suffers the fate every now and then of most European countries. And
we were hit very badly by the financial crisis. And we had to deal with many challenges following that, as we did with the challenge just two weeks
ago from the Panama Papers.
But every time we have been able to deal with these challenges on the basis of our democracy and our constitutional system. And I think Iceland is
interesting from the point of view that in all of these cases, the will of the people, how the population has galvanized its strength and demanded
changes in the cabinet, in the government, demanded national elections.
So Iceland shows I think a very interesting example how we can solve some of those challenges in a democratic way, based on the will of the people,
almost in a classical sense of Western democracies.
AMANPOUR: Well, exactly. We saw these amazing scenes of yet again the people coming out in force. One of the issues is that you yourself, after
serving many, many terms, have decided to reverse yourself and actually run again for president.
How many terms will that make?
It will make your sixth term, right?
GRIMSSON: Yes, if I'm re-elected, it will be my sixth term. It is -- you're right -- an extraordinary long time. And I announced in my New
Year's address, that I was stepping down but then, in recent months, especially in the recent weeks, following these dramatic events, there was
a strong demand for stability, for experience, calling for me to serve through the coming times so the country would be able to deal with both
these challenges and others in a way that we have done before because part of my presidency has to be -- has been to subject fundamental decisions to
referendum and to the will of the people.
And I think, during my presidency, I've been able to show that Iceland is perhaps the only European country that has solved the financial crisis, the
collapse of the banks and the challenges that followed that, as well as the recent crisis, in a way where a democracy has helped us to solve these
fundamental economic problems.
AMANPOUR: We talk about democracy. And, honestly, people do look at your multiple years in office. Obviously, you've been elected and people want
you there. We'll see what happens in this next round. But those who talk about endless terms compare your length in office with President Lukashenko
of Belarus. Now that is not a great comparison.
Are you worried about democracy, you know, maybe being a little bit compromised by having one person as president so many times?
GRIMSSON: Well, of course, it's not the normal state of affairs but since the collapse of --
GRIMSSON: -- the banks, we have not been through normal times. But let me point out, on the basis of your comparison with another country, Iceland is
one of the oldest and most solid democracies in the world, where nobody gets elected in Iceland unless he or she goes through very competitive open
And the presidential elections in Iceland are organized in such a way that every Icelander, farmer and fisherman or everybody else, has the same right
as others to choose the president. So I have submitted my work and my mandate to one of the most open and most fundamental democratic elections
that you can find anywhere in the world.
AMANPOUR: The Panama Papers themselves, was that a wonderful piece of journalism?
Or was that irresponsible?
In other words, how do you see the Panama Papers and their effect, given that they've obviously dominated your political system?
But was it good to open up and have a view through this window or not, do you think?
GRIMSSON: No, absolutely. Absolutely. I think it was a great public service, as many other information that has come out in recent years. We
now live in a very open and transparent world and everybody has to be accountable to the people in a way that the people can for themselves see.
And I think for us and I think others, it was to some extent a wake-up call, that the wild measures of the global financial system in the previous
20 or 30 years have created situations that are no longer tolerated by the people or in advanced economic and democratic systems.
And although we had adopted the OECD measures, the Nordic rules and other frameworks to avoid these international tax evasion schemes, they -- the
facts that came out, not just for us but other countries in these papers, was an important wake-up call.
AMANPOUR: President Grimsson, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
GRIMSSON: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
GRIMSSON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, from a reign happy and glorious to one all too short. Rock superstar, actor and innovator Prince is dead at 57.
Imagining his record -- next.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as Britain celebrates the long reign of its gracious queen, we imagine a world without the purple rain of Prince.
AMANPOUR: The Oscar-winning song of the inimitable Artist, who was born Prince Rogers Nelson. He was confirmed dead at his Minnesota estate on
Prince had only recently taken a break from touring after being hospitalized with severe flu. He was just 57. The Artist formerly known
as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, became legendary for his artistry and his unparalled style, mixing funk, hip-hop, rock, jazz, pop and
countless other styles.
In a rare interview with Larry King on CNN back in 1999, this is how he described his musical style.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE, ARTIST: The only thing I could think of, because I really don't like categories, but the only thing I could think of is inspirational. And
I think music that is from the heart falls right into that category. People will really feel what it is that they're doing.
And, ultimately, all music is or can be inspirational. And that's why it's so important to let your gift be guided by something more clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: He dominated the musical world in the '80s and '90s and he proved timeless, with provocative hits like "Kiss" and "1999."
He received seven Grammys over his career and he sold over 100 million records, becoming one of the biggest selling solo artists of all time,
while also nurturing female singers, like Sinead O'Connor and Chaka Khan, whose first hits he wrote
And he inspired countless artists from around the planet. He was also an activist. He was an active member of Black Lives Matter.
That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcasts, see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.