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Tony Blair Makes the Case against Brexit; Looking inside Libya; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 25, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the Obama offensive. The U.S. president in Germany, pushing a controversial trade deal after

stirring up controversy in the U.K. for urging Brits to boycott Brexit.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've come here today to the heart of Europe to say that the United States and the entire world needs a

strong and prosperous and democratic and united Europe.


AMANPOUR: So can Obama unite a divided Europe?

Washington's ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, joins me.

Plus the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, hammers home his case for why backing Brexit is not only faulty but flawed.


TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: But when I look back, I literally can't think of a single big decision that I wanted to take that

Europe told me I couldn't.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead: from sandy beach to watery grave, how Europe's migrant crisis is leaving devastating scars on the shores of Libya.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany: U.S. President Barack Obama wrapped up his European trip today with renewed calls for the E.U. to stay united, strong

and welcoming to refugees.

The president met with the G5 leaders and attended a trade fair as he tries to move forward the controversial Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment

Partnership. But Obama made news when he addressed another one of the West's biggest challenges: how to defeat ISIS.


OBAMA: I've approved the deployment up to 250 additional U.S. personnel in Syria, including Special Forces, to keep up this momentum. They're not

going to be leading the fight on the ground. But they will be essential in providing the training and assisting local force as they continue to drive

ISIL back.


AMANPOUR: The president really shook up the debate here in Britain, advocating strongly for this country to remain in the European Union. All

four living British prime ministers, including the current one, have, of course, come out against Brexit. I spoke with Tony Blair earlier and he

told me why.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, welcome back to the program.

BLAIR: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: President Obama came and made a fairly strong intervention to remain in Europe for the U.K.

How do you think he did and did he have any right to do it?

BLAIR: I think he did very well and, of course, he has a right to do it. I mean, he's the President of the United States; it's the most powerful

country in the world. It's Britain's biggest single ally as a country. It's right at least that we in Britain know what he thinks about it. And

it would be odd if he didn't think something about it since it's such a huge decision for Britain. He expressed what he really thinks. And I've

talked about it with him. This is what he believes.

AMANPOUR: One of the things about the whole idea of getting out of Europe, Brexit, is that there's so much uncertainty. The Leave campaign is saying,

we could negotiate all the deals we have now with individual nations.

But the president put paid to that argument. He basically said Britain would have to stand at the back of the queue, he said, using a Britishism.

He also said this.


OBAMA: The U.K. would not be able to negotiate something with the United States faster than the E.U. We wouldn't abandon our efforts to negotiate a

trade deal with our largest trading partner, the European market; but, rather, it could be five years from now, 10 years from now, before we were

able to actually get something done.


AMANPOUR: So the Brexiters, led by Boris Johnson, Michael Goh (ph), they are all crying foul, that the president is exaggerating, that that's


How important is what the president said on trade?

BLAIR: It's important and people will pay attention to it, because they should. And it's not as if the president is telling us what we have to do.

He's merely expressing his view about the consequences.

And it's important we know that view. And what he says, by the way, is obvious when you think about it. Look, America's got the Trans-Atlantic

Trade and Investment Partnership. It's got the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These are two huge negotiations for them.

If Britain opts out of Europe, of course, it's going to take time to get to a specifically British deal. And one of the things that's --


BLAIR: -- extraordinary about the Leave campaign is that they cry foul when you point out what are obvious facts. If Britain withdraws from

Europe, it's going to have to renegotiate its terms of entry into the single market. It's going to have to renegotiate all those regulations,

all those laws. It's going to be doing it with the Europe that's obviously going to be upset with us for having left and it's going to do it in

circumstances where the most likely outcome is that we would have to do the same as Norway and Switzerland, who'd have to agree to all these things

about free movement of people and obedience to European rules without having any say over them.

So what people are pointing out is obvious. And when I think back on my 10 years as British prime minister, I can think about lots of difficult

negotiations with Europe without Europe, because it's always difficult when you're negotiating with all your partners in that type of union.

But when I look back, I literally can't think of a single big decision that I wanted to take that Europe told me I couldn't. Not one on the national

health service or education or welfare or tax or spending or war and peace. Not one.

AMANPOUR: The number upon people coming into Britain, is that going to be affected whether Britain stays in or stays out of Europe?

And do you feel a little bit sort of, I don't know, responsible or a player in this since migration did step up quite significantly under your term in


BLAIR: If you're part of the European Union, it's the free movement of people, which is, by the way, not a bad thing. I mean, overall, it does

enormous good for our economies and there are over 1 million British people that are in different parts of Europe right now.

And, yes, because the British economy was very strong when we were there, you've got people coming from Eastern Europe. I personally don't share the

general view this was a bad idea. I think these people have contributed a lot to our country. I think the evidence is that what they've paid in

taxes is far more than anything they've received in benefits.

But if you leave the European Union but want access to the single market, then you'll be in the same position as Norway and Switzerland. They've got

the free movement of people. They've actually got a higher proportion of immigrants than we have.

So in the end, when you come down to the practical arguments, they all stack one way. And that's why I think, ultimately, whatever the ups and

downs in the opinion polls, the British people will vote to stay in.

By the way, it's not just President Obama isn't saying it's sensible for us to stay, you talk to the president of China, he says the same. Talk to the

prime minister of India, he says the same. I can't think of a single world leader that's a strong ally of Britain that's not saying the same thing.

Now if you're smart, you want to at least take some account of that in making your decision.

AMANPOUR: So you think Britain will vote to stay in, when push comes to shove?

BLAIR: I think we will. But it's a referendum and, as we know from here, from America, from everywhere in Europe, politics is a highly unpredictable

business today.

AMANPOUR: What was your thought when you read the now-famous Goldberg article in "The Atlantic," where President Obama said a lot of things about

his foreign policy. But also that free riders aggravate me. And he pretty much said that David Cameron had been a free rider and that the United

Kingdom could not expect to maintain its special relationship if it didn't pay its full whack when it comes to defense spending and NATO.

BLAIR: Well, I think it's important that we realize that this is not just an Obama view. I think it is a reasonably mainstream American view. Take

out some of the more careful language, it's really saying, look, if you want American power to be exerted in the world -- and I certainly do

because I think it is essentially benign, whatever its issues and problems -- then the Europeans are going to have to pay our way and to play our


But I actually think there are very powerful reasons, particularly with this extremism and jihadism in the world. There are very powerful reason

of self-interest for Europe -- and I include Britain in that -- to be stepping up to the plate in military terms.

I mean, the situation in Libya affects us dramatically, radically, and it's on our doorstep. It's not on America's doorstep. And yet we're very

dependent on America for the action that we need to take against ISIS there.

Same with Syria and the fact that the whole of the Middle East -- or you could look at the whole of North Africa, actually, and come to the same


So in my view, over time, we need to debate not about whether you create a European army -- that's not going to happen -- but how you pool defense

capabilities in Europe to leverage their combined weight to make them far more effective.

AMANPOUR: Britain has subsequently actually raised its defense spending to the required 2 percent of GDP.

You talked about Libya and Syria; these are on President Obama and Chancellor Merkel's agenda in Germany today.

Do you think there will be, as Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, has suggested, a move to troops or some kind of U.K.-U.S. bigger military --


AMANPOUR: -- action and intervention in Libya right now?

BLAIR: Well, I hope so, because it's necessary. You have got thousands of these ISIS people, who are occupying a significant amount of territory in

Libya. And they are training their people for operations in that region but also in Europe.

So when you go pre-9/11 and you look at what was happening in Afghanistan that resulted in the attack in America on 9/11, you've got a far greater

plethora of training camps and capabilities going on right now today.

And so if we're being, you know, vigilant about our own security and our own future, I don't think there's an option but to go and take these people

on wherever they are because the fact that they have this territory and they hold this territory, this is also a recruiting device for them.

So it's important both in its own terms for our security but also to strike a blow at the whole notion of this so-called caliphate and their ability to

hold amounts of territory and then to say that they're actually governing them like a state.

AMANPOUR: The U.S. has just announced another 250 Special Forces to Syria.

What kind of difference do you think that will make?

BLAIR: It will make a big difference. Every single increase in American capability that's been applied in Syria, in Iraq, across the region over

these past months, every single step forward has been a step forward in the campaign to defeat these people.

Because look, the Americans; the British, particularly, but also others like the French, they now have long experience in Afghanistan, in Iraq,

elsewhere, of fighting these people. And this is like any other professional job in one sense: the more capability you have, the more

experienced you are, the better trained you are, the better equipped you are, the more effective you are.

AMANPOUR: Tony Blair, thanks very much for being back on the program.

BLAIR: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And we return to Libya later in the program. We have the latest evidence of the tragic lengths that refugees will go to to escape war and

poverty, where even prisons can be safer than the streets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not good indeed for you outside, believe me. Now Tripoli looks like -- I don't want to say it, but I have to say it, it

looks like a jungle. There is no security situation outside. We don't want any person to catch you and use you as a slave.


AMANPOUR: But coming up next, my interview with the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Matthew Barzun, encouraging young voters to think positive about

the E.U. That's after this.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The United States wants to finalize a trade deal with the E.U. and Britain should not walk out on the E.U. Those are the messages the U.S. president,

Barack Obama, is delivering on this European trip, first with Prime Minister David Cameron here in London, where he knocked down any notion

that Britain out would have fast-track trading status with the United States.

He had the same message for young voters at a London town hall meeting, advising them to reject isolationism and embrace a more optimistic world


I asked the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Matthew Barzun, about this agenda, when we met at the embassy here in London.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, welcome to the program.

BARZUN: Thanks for having me.


AMANPOUR: Thanks for having us in your embassy.

BARZUN: Well, thanks for having me on.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's a pleasure, specifically at this time, when President Obama's been here and also, of course, today he is in Europe with

Chancellor Merkel, lobbying for her for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Partnership agreement.

Is it going to happen?

He's already said time is running out.

BARZUN: Yes, well, President Obama talked to that issue when he was here in the U.K. and he talked about the work that we had done with 11 countries

on the Pacific.

Deal -- which the deal is done now, it's working its way through our Congress and all the attention that he's put for coming on three years on

this Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and that, with his remaining nine months, when he was asked about that, he said, yes, I'm

going to give a lot of attention to try to get this deal done.

The likelihood of it actually getting through our Congress in that time is unlikely and he acknowledged that. But let's get the work done now.

AMANPOUR: Is it good, given the hostility, if you like, these days towards globalization?

BARZUN: Well, we need economic growth and we need jobs. And that's why President Obama wants to do it. And he always makes a point when he's

talking about this trade and investment deal.

He said if you say free trade deal, a lot of people back home in the States and elsewhere have sort of bad muscle memory about some other ones and

remembering factories going overseas and other stuff.

So he has fought in these trade deals that he's been part of, to make sure that there are amazing environmental protections, labor protections,

consumer product safety protections, so that, in the case of the deal we're trying to do with the European Union, that these really high standards that

the U.S. has and that European countries have are not only good for each other but that could set a standard for the rest of the world to plug into.

AMANPOUR: He was very forceful with Prime Minister Cameron during the press conference, in which he really, you know, made a case for why America

wanted Britain to remain in the E.U.

And he specifically dressed the trade issue, saying that, don't think that we're going to rush to sign a separate trade agreement with you.

In fact, you will get back to the back of the queue and then he amplified and said that it would take five to 10 years.

BARZUN: The point he was trying to make on the substance was that some folks on the other side of the debate, of what he's advocating for, have

claimed somehow that if the U.K. were to pull out of the European Union they could go get a -- they could jump to the front of the queue, get a

quick deal done with the United States.

And he said, look, as a friend, let me just tell you what the facts are. And the facts are -- and we touched on it earlier -- that look at the trend

of what kind of deals we're doing. They're hard, they're complicated. So if you're going to go do them politically and organizationally, you want to

do it with a big bloc, with lots of countries, which is why we're doing it with the 28 countries of Europe now.

AMANPOUR: So you obviously heard -- and everybody's heard Boris Johnson, who's the leading and loudest Brexit voice, has criticized the president,

has called him hypocritical. We're just going to play this sound bite and I'll have you react to it.


BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON: I think what perhaps our friends in America don't appreciate is that the E.U. has really changed in the last 43

years. It's become something else. And it's something to which the Americans would never submit their own democracy.


BARZUN: Well, I would disagree with the characterization of what we in the United States and what President Obama is trying to do.

We are trying to, as a friend, say, of course, it's up to you, what the voters here in the U.K. decide on June 23rd. And, of course, we care.

How could we not care?


And I think what I would comment, without getting into all the specifics of that, is to say, look, we're different countries, obviously, different

hemispheres, different histories. But look what we have done together. The United States and the United Kingdom.

We built this international architecture, United Nations, G7, G20, IMF, Bretton Woods, all that stuff we built, recognizing that British people,

just like American people, treasure independence.

And we recognize that, as we look around the world today, at the opportunities around trade but also the threats we face, ISIS, ISIL,

climate change, all those things, they don't recognize national boundaries. So we also have to realize the power of interdependence. That's the point

the president was making.

AMANPOUR: You took President Obama to a town hall of young people. But there was an amazing moment, where a young girl literally came out to him

on international television as a transgender but not binary.

Tell me about that moment.

BARZUN: Well, it was a wonderful moment of her personal courage, standing up and saying it. And she had shouted it out. He was calling on people

raising hands. And she hadn't raised her hand. And just -- or hadn't called on her and she just blurted it out.

And then they had a discussion that I couldn't hear. But she's like, oh, don't worry; it's just a crazy thought. And he said, well, go ahead. You

seem particularly passionate.

What do you think?

And she shared this -- her own story. And he said, "That's not crazy. Thank you for sharing."

And then it got -- gave him a chance to talk about the importance of people stepping up and using our legal systems to protect rights, not take rights


AMANPOUR: And finally, everybody, I think, was quite amused that the president --


AMANPOUR: -- mentioned staying at your residence, the U.S. embassy residence, and that, very fortunately, you have a turntable and this was

the day after Prince died. This is what he said and then we'll ask you about it.


OBAMA: It's a remarkable loss. And I'm staying at Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador's residence. It so happens our ambassador has a turntable

and so this morning we played "Purple Rain" and "Delirious," just to get warmed up before we left the house for important bilateral meetings like




AMANPOUR: So I just want to know, how did it go?

Did you dance?

What happened?

BARZUN: There were many wonderful moments at Winfield House. And the president and first lady had a chance to enjoy this Prince vinyl that we

were spinning at Winfield House.

And then later when he was back, we played a lot of Prince over his visit here, with the joy that Prince's music brings to everyone who listens to

it. And, of course, lots of sadness in that as well.

AMANPOUR: Were you surprised that he even brought it up in his press conference?

BARZUN: I was not expecting that to come up, suffice it to say.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Barzun, thank you very much indeed.

BARZUN: Thank you so much for having me.


AMANPOUR: From Prince to this, next.


OBAMA: Our freedom, our quality of life remains the envy of the world so much so that parents are willing to walk across deserts, cross the seas on

makeshift rafts, risk everything in the hope of giving their children the blessings that we, that you enjoy, blessings that you cannot take for



AMANPOUR: And imagine dying for those blessings. That's our story -- next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, while Syria and Libya take center stage at high-level meetings, imagine the tens of thousands of ordinary people

trying to make the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean by boat.

The UNHCR says three times more migrants crossed from Libya to Italy last month than in the same period last year. About 500 of them drowned just

last week when their unseaworthy vessel capsized halfway between Italy and Libya.

The photojournalist, Kurt Pelger (ph), has been patrolling those beaches with his camera. And what he captures is disturbing.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): On a weekend, families can make a get-away to this beach at Garabulli, east of Tripoli. But this coastline is also host to a

more grisly tide, the bodies of migrants washing up on shore.

Garabulli is one of Libya's main people-smuggling ports. Desperate men and women who'd handed over hundreds of dollars to cross the --


AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- Mediterranean in small, overcrowded boats.

So many end up back here, volunteers with Libya's Red Crescent, often recovering the bodies of those who didn't make it, digging them out of the


Twenty-five thousand migrants have reached Italy this year, according to the International Organization for Migration. But others are being caught

by the Libyan forces and now await deportation, in detention centers like this one.

Most of them are African.

Some are very young.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Gambia. I'm 16.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 14. I want to look for money for my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): I'm 12.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Twelve?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Yes. My father doesn't know where I am. Nobody knows where I am. My family doesn't know.

He arrested us and we asked him, "Why did you arrest us here?"

He didn't say anything.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Authorities tell the teenagers that it's better for them to be locked up in this Tripoli prison than out on the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not guaranteed for you outside, believe me. Now Tripoli looks like, I don't want to say it but I have to say it. It looks

like a jungle. There is no security situation outside.

We don't want any person to catch you and use you as a slave. This is not from your humanity, this is not from our religion. We are scared of you --

scared of something happen to you.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But many are kept in what the U.N. calls deplorable conditions, spending months in these jails, facing torture and ill

treatment, as this guard even demonstrated.

Despite the risks on land and at sea, people continue to make this desperate journey, in pursuit of what they hoped would be a better life.


AMANPOUR: And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, you can see us online at and you can follow me

on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.