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Britain Still Has No Exit Agreement; Interview with Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, U.S. Government Shutdown Hitting One-Month Mark; Interview with National President, J. David Cox Sr. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 22, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
The elite gather in Davos but the guns are staying away. Trump is absent. His Federal shutdown is squeezing nearly a million government workers.
I'll talk to a Union leader.
Britain's Theresa May is absent. I'll talk to the former prime minister, Tony Blair, about the Brexit mess.
And China's Xi is absent. While his economy is slowing and a tit for tat for Canada is escalating. I'll speak with a former ambassador to Beijing.
Plus, discourse or discord? Our Alicia Menendez speaks to highly controversial website editor who is questioning everything from race issues
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
You could very easily be excused for not quite getting Brexit or frankly, not even beginning to understand the whole process.
In a turbulent world, it's a slow-moving story about bureaucracy, backroom dealing and how to honor a referendum that was held back in 2016 offering
no facts about the future.
Right now, the U.K. remains in the European Union. But in less than 70 days, it leaves. The problem is Britain has no exit agreement yet.
Experts say that if it leaves the E.U. like that on March 29th, hurling itself off a cliff, the economic impact will be disastrous.
Meantime, the British Parliament has roundly rejected Prime Minister May's deal and the plan B she brought forward on Monday looks an awful lot like
plan A. The drama in Parliament, some say the soap opera, has made this story oddly compelling around the world, even if the United States, where
this government disfunction is looking a lot like that government dysfunction.
So, what's to be done? I've been spoking to Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, who tells me that it's time to take the choice back to the
British people with another referendum.
Tony Blair, welcome to the program.
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, you're,, you know,, very well-known to Americans and,, you know,, not just Americans but people around the world are scratching their
head now after two-and-a-half years of this and trying to figure out which way is up about Brexit. So, I wonder if you can explain what's going on.
Let me just read you a little from the "Wall Street Journal." They have an essay entitled "The Great Brexit Breakdown." And it says, "From afar, the
spectacle of the U.K. undergoing the national political equivalent of a nervous breakdown has been a source of head scratching. The country once
defined by its stiff upper lip has been indulging in a kind of orgy of public histrionics more commonly associated with Latin American
What do you say to that as a former prime minister?
BLAIR: Well, it's a pretty difficult time for us. So, look, the situation is this, the country voted to leave the European Union in June 2016. Since
then, we've had 30 months of negotiation. And what the negotiations really reveal is that in the end, Britain faces a choice of two different futures.
It can either stay close to the trading system of the European Union because we've been four-and-a-half decades in Europe.
So, you've got a host of commercial relationships, investment relationships, trading relationships. , you know,, for four-and-a-half
decades, our economy has been trading within the European system and roughly 60 percent of our trade is governed by European arrangements.
So, you can either stay close to that trading system but in which case Europe's going to say. "OK. If you want access to our markets like you
have the access now, you've got to keep to our rules, right. You can't join the club or be part of the club and have your own rules." So, that's
But the problem with that is, it immediately leads you to the question, "Well, what's the point of Brexit then?" If the purpose of breaks it is to
break free of all those rules but if you stay part of the European system people say, "Well, we've left but we've not left." OK. So, that's one
The other alternative is that you do what the hard b Brexiteers, the true Brexiteers in a way you really want, you get out of the single market of
Europe, its unique trading system, you get out of the Customs Union, you break free of all those rules. But then, since business is going to be
severely disrupted by that, because you've been trading within this system for a long time, then it's going to be painful.
And so, it's what's the point versus what's the price. And the trouble is, painful or pointless is not a good choice. So, really what these 30 months
have done, the prime minister has been trying to reach agreement, she eventually has come out with a deal that's frankly neither one nor the
other and Parliament split, Parliament's gridlock.
AMANPOUR: Right. So --
BLAIR: Parliament --
AMANPOUR: -- here we are. I mean --
AMANPOUR: -- you've just -- I think just coined the new slogan, "What's the point versus what's the price," that's pretty interesting.
Now, we all know where you stand as former prime minister, as former leader of the Labour Party, you obviously were a Remainer, you remained a
Remainer, and you want a second referendum. Is that wishful thinking at this point or do you believe seriously, politically that momentum is
seriously moving towards a second referendum?
BLAIR: Yes, I think it is moving that way. Look, a year ago when I first said this or I think 18 months ago when I first said it, people dismissed
it as fantasy indefinitely is wishful thinking. But now, I think as you carry on and you see the mess of this negotiation, look, Parliament can't
agree, you've got the prime minister subject to a no confidence vote from her own party and then from the Parliament. OK. She survived both but you
got one part of the cabinet saying one thing, another part of the cabinet, this is the cabinet, saying another thing.
I don't think it's unreasonable in those circumstances to say, "We've got to take this back to the British people to resolve." , you know,, they
first of all, said they wanted to leave. Now, when we're gridlocked, they've got to resolve the gridlock.
AMANPOUR: So, what -- just for -- you know, an exercise in this, what would you put as the questions for a second referendum? It obviously
cannot be the same question, yes or no, in or out, as the last one in 2016.
BLAIR: Yes. But I think, the thing is, you can do the question one of two ways. I mean, some people are saying in Parliament that you could have a
question that as isn't were has staying or close to Europe or breaking free from Europe. So, you could have options. I mean, and I think there are,
you know, some difficulties with that but you could do that.
Alternatively, you just take the two things that really have public support. I mean, in every single published opinion poll, there are two
propositions that have support, one is staying, the other is, what I will call, true Brexit. In other words, you break free of that trading system,
you know, you're prepared to go through the pain because you think it's so important to be free of the European Union. And you could have a
referendum with that simple choice.
So, I don't think the question is that difficult. The real issue is, people say, "Look, we made our decision in June 2016. If you go back and
ask the people again that's dishonoring the mandate of June 2016," to which my answer is, yes. But, you know, we can't -- we don't know precisely what
that mandate is now because you've got different versions of Brexit, even 30 months of negotiation, our knowledge of what has happened is infinitely
greater. It's not really a democratic outrage to go back and ask the people again.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, the current prime minister -- that's your view as the former prime minister. The current prime minister, Theresa May, has said
exactly the opposite. I mean, she's implied that it's anti-democratic, that it's akin to a coup. I mean, those aren't her words but others have
used it. And even some Tories and some members of your own party have used the specter of social unrest should the country go to what they call a very
divisive another referendum.
Here's what the prime minister said just yesterday in Parliament.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I set out many times my deep concerns about returning to the British people for a second referendum. Our duty is
to implement the decision of the first one. I fear a second referendum which has a difficult precedent that could have significant implications
for how we handle referendums in this country, not least, not at least strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break up our United Kingdom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, there's a lot in there, undemocratic, break up our United Kingdom, you know, a lot of that. What do you say to that?
BLAIR: OK. Well, let's just unpack that for a moment. First of all, by the way, the single biggest threat to the U.K., to the United Kingdom, is
Brexit. It causes enormous tensions in Northern Ireland and we haven't yet resolved the Irish border issue, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in
the United -- in the European Union. So, you've got a problem with Scotland when you do Brexit. If you do a hard Brexit, that is, for sure,
the biggest strain you're going to impose on the integrity of the United Kingdom.
Secondly, you know, look, even if we had had a good negotiation, even if out of the negotiation you'd had a deal in Parliament that pass the deal,
there is a perfectly reasonable case saying, "Back in June 2016, we didn't know the alternative to European Union membership that was to be
negotiated." And it's perfectly reasonable once you see the alternative. Once you you know the house you're going to be moving to after you've
decided to leave the house you're in, but you're entitled to think again. That would be perfectly reasonable in my view.
But, OK, the situation we're in today is where there's no agreement as to what form of Brexit. the Prime minister can't get her deal through. She
got defeated by 200 votes on it in the House of Commons, a huge defeat.
So, in those circumstances, where in this mess, is it really undemocratic to go back and ask the people, we're not asking some other people, by the
way, we're asking the people, whether they want to proceed or not. What people say is going to cost social unrest. I mean, from who?
I mean, people who -- if they still want to leave, they've got a perfect opportunity to come make their case. But, you know, this was a vote two-
and-a-half years ago, it wasn't like 65 or 70 percent 30 or 65, 35. You know, I think if you really take a step back and look at it, in these
circumstances, is it really unreasonable for MPs to say, "Look, we've looked at the deal, the various options and offer, we can't personally
support this. We don't think this is in the interests of you, our constituents, that we represent in this Parliament but we're handing the
decision, final decision back to you."
I mean, I think it's a little unreasonable that people are protesting about being asked their opinion in those circumstances.
AMANPOUR: And we do, obviously, know that there have been referendums that have been run again in other countries about other issues and it's gone
But I guess the real question is, so, if you were prime minister now and you had put some kind of proposal to Parliament and you see this deadlock,
not just in the Conservative Party, which is riven by hardliners against, I know, the moderates against the prime minister, but also in your own party,
the loyal opposition, is now riven also by remain or on the leaders, you know, desire for Brexit and not have a second referendum. What would do
you -- as a guy who was elected three times to be prime minister of this country, what would you do unblock this?
BLAIR: I would have a situation where you lay out the options for people, because these are the options, stay close to Europe like, for example,
Norway, break free from Europe, have a free trade agreement like Canada, no deal, right, which, obviously, would be a bad idea. Her deal or of another
And the only way of resolving this is to lay it out for people, explain the options, because they're all perfectly clear in their implications, by the
way, and then allow Parliament to decide, and that's the only way, really, you can resolve this, you've going to run an indicative set of votes. And
in the end, Parliament is going to have to make up its mind. And that's what it will do, by the way.
And the reason why I think in the end it will come to another referendum is because the alternatives are all unpalatable. The thing about this is all
the way through people have thought of this as a negotiation and it's really a choice in the end. Britain's got to choose which future it wants.
And what this negotiation taught us is what those futures really look like. And the only sensible thing is to have them (ph) piece decide that and then
if they can't decide, the people.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you said, you know, no sensible people can really get behind a no deal. But these are people -- they make up, from what I
gather, about 15 percent of the relevant people, the sort of hardliners in the Tory Party. And this prime minister, apparently, doesn't want to be
the prime minister who splits the Tory Party or splits the country or whatever.
But it seems that she's in hock to them. I don't know how you view it. Again, as a former prime minister, you know, having this insurgency on her
right flank -- by the way, has already played its cards and they've lost. But do you think she's still tacking to the hardline Brexiters, the Boris
Johnson's, the Jacob Rees-Moggs, the John Redwoods, those types?
BLAIR: Yes. I think to a degree yes. But, I mean, I think, to be honest, she'll tack which have always, she thinks, there is a majority for her
deal. And I think at the moment she thinks it's best to tack towards them.
But, you know, if the purpose was to reunite the Conservative Party, I think we can agree it's failed. And, you know, you said the Labour Party's
divided, Christiane, and that's true but to a much more limited degree.
The Labour Party is a party, by the way. It is massively in favor of staying in Europe and in favor of another referendum. It's true there are
AMANPOUR: Yes. But the leader is a vote prime minister, the leader isn't. And you're right, the rank and file want to remain and there seems to be a
lot of build for a second referendum amongst the rank and file of the Labour Party, but not the leadership.
BLAIR: No, the leadership has been very reluctant. Although, I think the amendment they tabled yesterday is a big step forward and an indication
that they're recognizing, this is eventually where we'll get to another referendum.
But, you know, there are -- look, this is really difficult and no one should pretend there are easy solutions. And I've often said, by the way,
at one level, I completely sympathize with the prime minister, it's a hugely difficult task. She's faced on every side by people advocating
different things and her own party is pretty unreasonable, no coalition party, the DUP can often be extremely unreasonable. So, you know, it's a
difficult, difficult situation that she's in.
But, you know, the only way out is to let Parliament try and reach an agreement. You can't do that really unless you put each option before them
and say, "Here it is. You've got to decide which one do you want."
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me just go back to how it's being viewed overseas. I mean, on the one hand, Britain always, you know, certainly in its modern
history, was the little country that could constantly punching above its weight and people are now thinking, "Oh boy, you know, what's up? I mean,
this commonsense country is in meltdown."
It is, you know, kind of going a little viral around the world, now this constant soap opera and drama that we're seeing played out here. And even
celebrities have busy tweeting. We have one American model, and this is a British columnist who wrote this, spoke for a large swathe of society when
she tweeted, "One of my goals to 2019 is to understand U.K. politics. I read and read and I try and learn but my brain cannot grasp it."
So, I can see you smiling. I'm sure you agree. But let me ask you about the European leaders there. I mean, you have tried to do an end run around
the prime minister and you've been lobbying for a second referendum with the Europeans. What are they saying now, today, at this point? Where do
they think it's going to go?
BLAIR: Well, look, I think everyone's pretty confused right now. By the way, just to make this point, and I should say this in defense of my own
country. You know, Britain remains a serious and great nation, and we'll get through this one way or another. And even if we end up doing Brexit,
which I passionately hope we don't, you know, we'll get on our feet and we'll move forward. So, you know, don't -- anyone who writes this off will
be making a mistake. But I agree, our politics is pretty confusing right now, even to those of us involved in it.
You know, what I've been saying to the European leaders is not, you know, "You should support a second referendum," that is not their business, it's
up to us to decide the way forward. What I've been saying to them, is the underlying causes of Brexit, the immigration issue, anxiety about cultural
and national identity, these are underlying issues everywhere in Europe today.
I mean, the last 30 months hasn't just turned British politics on its head. You look around Europe, and you know this, Christiane, very well from the
analysis, you're do in the interviews you do with people in Europe. I mean, the truth is, the whole of European politics is convulsed at the
And that's why the sensible thing, in my view, is for Britain to think again but Europe also to think again, to realize that it is going to have
to come to a different type of settlement around issues to do with migration and identity and that it's going to have to recognize that in the
future those countries that are part of the Euro Zone are going to integrate in a different way and in a bigger way than those countries
And so, what I've really been discussing with the European leaders is, you know, it's our business to build the support but going back to the people,
which should we do so, you know, you guys should think carefully also about what you can say that helps the process of Europe staying together. And,
you know, staying together is important for Europe as well. Britain coming out of Europe is not just bad Britain. It's very bad for Europe as well.
AMANPOUR: Again, I'm assuming you're putting that case to the European leaders you meet there right now. But let me ask you finally, it's our
final question, about the point of Davos all these years later. You know very well that Davos is considered the sort of hobnobbing of the elite, the
very people who through so many millions of people around the world into the calamity that they find themselves in now and led to the rise of
Let me just play this little soundbite from a guy whose kind of gone viral right now, Anand Giridharadas, who's just just written this book, you know,
"Winner Takes All," the charade of the global elites. Look what he just told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, AUTHOR, "WINNER TAKES ALL": I think Davos should end. I think it should be canceled this year and should end going forward. It
is a family reunion for the people who, in my view, broke the modern world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, you can argue with that, right?
BLAIR: I can. Look, it's the easiest line in the world to make, by the way. You know, there -- I'll tell you what I do when I come to Davos. So,
later today, I'll be meeting three of my presidents from Africa and I know that they broke the economic system. I'll be meeting a whole lot of people
from multilateral institutions who work in the developing world.
I'm here because my institute, which are not for profit institute, works in some of the poorest parts of the world trying to help them. And, you know,
to be fair, the people who come here, they're discussing serious issues. So, it's easiest play in the world to say, "Oh, you know, all these people
are coming along here, the global elite and so on."
And by the way, you know, these arguments about cultural identity and nationalism, in my experience, you got elites on either side of the
argument. So, you know, Davos, it is what it is. See, it's an opportunity for people to come and network on issues of importance.
And, you know, some people, you know, may come here who are billionaires from different parts of the world but other people come because some of the
issues discussing here are important.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister, thank you for joining me.
BLAIR: Thanks very much, Christiane. All the best.
AMANPOUR: Now, President Trump would also have been in Davos but he cancelled because of his shutdown, which is now hitting the one-month mark.
He seems as far away from a deal with the Democrats as the British prime minister does on a deal for Brexit. And it's important to remember that
this is not just a political but it is a humanitarian crisis, government workers and contractors keep missing out on their paychecks, which for many
means trouble paying rent, utilities and even buying food.
J. David Cox Sr. is president of the American Federation of Government Employees. His union sued the administration earlier this month for making
some of his members work without pay. And he's joining me now from Washington.
Mr. Cox, welcome to the program.
JEFFREY DAVID COX SR., NATIONAL PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: Thank you very much for having me on today.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, just tell me this -- the -- you know, where your suit lies. Do you have any hope of winning this? Have you tried this
COX.: We have tried it before and we got a favorable ruling in the past and winning the suit. However, with the partial government shutdown, our
justice system is now shutdown in America. So, therefore, the case can't move forward.
800,000 people are being required to either go to work without pay or sent home from their jobs through no fault of their own with this government
shutdown that President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have imposed upon the American people.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's Kafkaesque. On one hand you're saying you suing the government but the ministry in charge, so to speak, is also out so it
can't process it.
Just tell me, what are the grounds of your lawsuit? On what basis are you suing?
COX.: We are suing over for the fact that the laws require employees to be paid at least the minimum wage and employees have not been paid the minimum
wage because they've received zero in their paycheck. So, therefore, they weren't paid properly. Also, the law requires employees to be paid time-
and-a-half or overtime, and again, they were not paid for anything. So, the lawsuit deals with that.
We believe we will prevail in the end. But currently, 800,000 Federal employees are literally in soup kitchen lines, asking for free meals,
trying to barter, as President Trump said, for their rent, for their mortgage payments, their car payments, they are suffering tremendously
going to work every day but not being paid on payday.
AMANPOUR: I think one of the things that really sort of illustrates this kind of desperation is always when people need to survive by using food
stamps, and even that is at risk of grinding to a halt. Tell me what the status of the food stamp issue is right now and how many of your workers
that would affect?
COX.: The Food Stamp Program is administered by the Department of Agriculture, which President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have
chosen to shut down and will not open at the current time. So, therefore, the Food Stamp Program, SNAP as it's called, is getting in jeopardy.
There are many people that are working for the Federal government now who aren't receiving no income would be eligible for it. But, again, those
resources are starting to dry up also because of this partial government shutdown. We're back to -- Senator McConnell needs to do is call for a
vote in the United States Senate to open up the government, the president sign the law and continue to operate our government.
Mr. Cox, I don't know whether it's just me but I feel that the advice of government agencies right now for workers like the ones you represent to
hold yard sales or try getting a side job as a dog walker or a babysitter, I mean, is awfully (INAUDIBLE). What is it doing to the morale of your
COX.: The morale is at rock bottom. TSA, our transportation security officers, who have done a superb job in this country, protecting this
country ever since the 9/11, a great job, they're not being paid, they are the -- some of the lowest paid Federal employees in this country, they are
struggling. They make about $40,000 a year, they're living paycheck to paycheck.
Many of them do not have the resources to get to work, to buy groceries, to provide for their families, but yet they're required to go to work every
day or either they face disciplinary adverse action, could lose their jobs, and they're very dedicated civil servants, very dedicated.
AMANPOUR: And we have heard a lot about some of the most crucial workers you just mentioned, I mean, all of them are obviously, but to work in such
a high stress, high security area as the TSA or even the air traffic controllers and other people, you know, it must add considerably to the
And let's not forget that you once worked for a government agency. How does it sit with you, you know, to hear other government workers being
told, you know, just either don't come to work will or don't expect a paycheck, come to work?
COX.: Well, it does not sit well. I went through a government shutdown lockout in 1995, '96. My wife and I both worked for the government, the
Department of Veterans Affairs, neither one of us was paid on payday. We had young children, we had to buy groceries. So, it was a very difficult
situation. That's what we're having to occur now with TSA.
And we don't talk much about the fact because correctional officers and all of our Federal penitentiaries and Bureau of Prisons they're being required
to work without pay and very dangerous jobs guarding us from some of the most heinous criminals in this country who are being fed every day but they
don't have enough money to buy food for their own children.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned that you were once a government official, in fact, you worked for the Veterans Administration. And right now, the head
of the Veterans Administration is really angry and demanding an apology from your union because some local leaders suggested that the pressures of
this shutdown could particularly affect vulnerable veterans who work for the government and potentially lead to suicides, and he's very angry and
he's demanded an apology.
Tell me where you stand on that? Why would your local leaders have said that? Is there evidence in that regard?
COX.: Yes. That local leader is a service connected disabled veteran in this country, he works in the Bureau of Prisons, he's a local president, he
has hundreds of correctional officers coming to him continuously saying, "Look, my children need food. My mortgage is due. My car payment is due.
I must pay my bills. How are you going to get the government to pay me my paycheck on payday?" And yet, Mr. Trump is not paying them on payday. And
for the secretary of the V.A. to say that, about a service connected disabled veteran is unconscionable. I cannot believe that the secretary of
the Department of Veterans Affairs would say that.
I worked in psychiatry. I'm a registered nurse. I understand about disabled veterans and we need to show compassion for our veterans in this
country. And a third of the men and women locked out of their jobs, not being paid in this country right now are veterans. And I say shame on the
secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs for even saying such a thing about a man or woman that served their country.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it really does bring it home very, very starkly. So, I mean, I think I hear you saying and many others have said that all these
workers are being used, essentially, as bargaining chips for a political process, a political game of chicken in Washington. Do you see any way out
of this impasse as you stand right now, as these hits it's one-month mark?
COX.: Yes. It's a very simple way out of the impasse. Senator McConnell, all he's got to do is allow a vote in the Senate on the legislation that
the House has passed, that legislation will pass overwhelmingly with a veto proof majority of Democrats and Republicans, send it to the president and
allow the president to sign the legislation.
There's a simple way out, except Senator McConnell does not seem to want to do that, he does it want to upset the president. We have our system of
checks and balances in our government, that's what Congress is supposed to do. Federal employees need to be paid. They are required to work. All
workers want to be paid on payday. They shouldn't be asking for a handout, they should just be getting their fair wages on payday.
AMANPOUR: OK. Very, very briefly because I'm running out of time. Shouldn't the workers then be out in the streets protesting? How do you
put -- you're asking the Republican majority leader to do something but often things don't happen unless there is, you know, pressure on these
leaders, which haven't seen people out on the streets in this shutdown, workers who are being affected?
COX.: Well, we have been having protest every day, we've had them all over the country, there is continuous protest, there will be a protest tomorrow
on Capitol Hill, there's been protest in front of the White House, workers have been constantly protesting, many in the religious faith community are
beginning to protest because in the book of Leviticus it says that, you know -- that you not -- shall not rob from anyone and that you shall pay
your hired hand before the day comes to an end. It's unconscionable that the United States government would not pay its employees who are going to
work every day providing services to the American people and all those that visit our great country.
AMANPOUR: All right. J. David Cox, president of one of the biggest unions affecting so many government workers. Thank you very much for joining us
COX: Thank you so much for having me today.
AMANPOUR: So the American economy is also taking a big hit from the federal shutdown and also from the two year long trade war with China. But
China is hurting too. New figures released by the government in Beijing show that the economy grew at its slowest rate in almost three decades last
year. So is economic anxiety one reason for Beijing's escalating diplomatic standoff with Canada? It's arrested two of Canada's citizens
and it's and sentenced a third to death just last week. Most see this as retaliation for Canada's arrest of a top Chinese tech official who's wanted
by Washington for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.
It is complicated. And David Mulroney is Canada's former ambassador to China. He's one of more than 100 diplomats, academics and activists who've
signed a letter to Beijing demanding the release of those two Canadians and he's joining me now from Toronto. Ambassador Mulroney, thank you. Welcome
to the program.
DAVID MULRONEY, FORMER CANADIAN AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Thank you for having me, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So I set up by saying first and foremost that you've written this letter that's the latest intervention from you and others. The
Chinese have responded very verbally violently, if you like, and completely dismissed that. What do you think is going to make the Chinese reconsider?
MULRONEY: Well, this is a -- these situations are very tough and when China has taken a step like detaining Canadians and -- and as you say re-
opening the conviction of a Canadian and giving him the death sentence, it's very hard to change their behavior and you have to work at it through
many steps. This is another of those steps. But what's important is illustrating to the Chinese that this isn't a Canada-China dispute. China
likes to isolate countries, pick them off one by one. The only country it can't do that to is the United States.
And what we're saying is many people, governments but also scholars and diplomats and people around the world are concerned about some of the
things that China is doing. We hope that registers.
AMANPOUR: So in -- in -- in part of the letter, you've said it's understandable -- or rather the Chinese ambassador has said it's
understandable that these Canadians are concerned about their own citizens. But have they shown any concern or sympathy for Meng. Now, she is the
official who's arrested in China after she was, they say, illegally detained and deprived of freedom. So give us an update about Ms. Meng, who
is an executive, the chief financial officer at the big Huawei tech giant. What is her condition?
I mean, your citizens are in jail, they haven't had access to lawyers. How is Mrs. Meng doing?
MULRONEY: And let me add, Christiane, if I may, not only are our two citizens in detention, we know from their testimony and the testimony of
others that they're subject -- the lights are on 24/7, they're subject to round the clock interrogations. These things actually constitute torture
in international law, sleep deprivation. What's happening with Ms. Meng couldn't be more different. She got a good Canadian lawyer when she was
arrested in Vancouver, she had a bail hearing, she made the case she should be allowed to live in one of her two properties in Vancouver, she has hired
her own security guards and she's on a curfew where she has to be back in her residence at 11:00 o'clock at night, she's free to go again at 6:00 in
the morning and she's been seen many times in Vancouver shopping and going about her business. So Canada is following the rule of law to the letter
and we're treating Ms. Meng fairly. She will have her day in court through this process, however it unfolds. The same is absolutely not true of
what's happening to our Canadians.
AMANPOUR: So do you have any doubt -- because the Chinese completely reject any linkage and they'd say this is not a tit for tat response. Is
the official position of Canada and your analysis that this is a tit for tat, what's happened to Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, your citizens in China?
MULRONEY: Yes, this has to be seen as a tit for tat. In fact, the Chinese ambassador to Ottawa, who's been very, very outspoken and -- and very
feisty in his rhetoric and his -- and his denunciation of Canada basically made that point. And the -- the point is, too, we've seen it before.
In 2014, Canada extradited a Chinese aerospace technician to the United States on suspicion of steeling U.S. military secrets. He subsequently,
but guilty and was sentenced to jail, but in the wake of that, two Canadians, a couple up in North China who ran a coffee shop on the North
Korean border were detained. The husband was kept in detention for 19 months. This is China's response of choice in these incidents, and they
know that countries like Canada and the United States and the U.K. are very vulnerable because we care about our citizens. We don't want them to be
held hostage like this.
AMANPOUR: So what is your view what's going to happen? You've been there, you've been there. You've been an ambassador, you're engaged. I mean,
you've also written that this kind of behavior by the Chinese will dissuade people whether they're Canadians or others from going and building genuine
bridges between various countries in China. I mena, what do you think is going to be the outcome. Historically, do these kinds of letters, does
this kind of pressure - public pressure work on Beijing?
MULRONEY: Well, these are all small steps, but steps in the right direction. President Xi Jinping of China is a very powerful leader and
he's made himself more powerful to the ears of his leadership and presidency, but he is vulnerable to a certain extent. Every leader has
enemies and Xi has made his share of them. And what he's susceptible to in China is criticism that he's being too assertive. China begins to worry,
and this is why we've been warned - the Canadian Foreign Minister has been warned not to seek allies at Davos because that's precisely what China
doesn't want to have happen. They don't want to hear that serious countries like the U.K. and France and Australia and other, the United
States are all concerned about its behavior. So this is not - this is really one of the best options that we have available to us. It's going to
take some time. I think that relations with China are really a succession of plateaus and valleys. You descend into difficulties inevitably because
of the different in your systems. Norway has gone through this because of the award of the Nobel Prize to the Chinese Human Rights Champion Liu
Xiaobo, and they stayed in the doghouse for several years. Sweden is just coming out of a period like that because they had the temerity to complain
about detention of two Swedish citizens. So we're going into that, too. I think today's news, which is that the - it seems that the Unite States
will, indeed, proceed with the extradition request only prolongs this because the Chinese haven't found bottom yet. They don't know where this
is ending. They're tremendously concerned that Huawei will exposed to all of the scrutiny of a trial in the United States. Why Huawei is their tech
champion and its business dealings will be put in a - probably a very negative light by prosecutors in teh U.S. if indeed Ms. Meng stands for
trial there. So this is a great concern from China. We haven't heard the last from them on this one.
AMANPOUR: Right, and of course as you said, the stakes will be raised if indeed Ms. Meng is extradited back to the United States, but how much of
this do you think or how much does the economic worries for china right now play into this? We said that its latest figures show a slowing economy.
It's got this trade war spat with the United States that's lasted the best part of two years still unresolved. How much economic anxiety does China
face right now?
MULRONEY: They face a great deal of economic anxiety and you reported on their - the numbers at the end of the year, they're - the annual number is
the slowest since 1990. So there's a lot of concern there. And what's really happening is that this is taking place as China hopes to get into
the final round of its negotiations with the U.S. to end the trade war. So there's a very senior Chinese person, Liu He, the Vice Premier who's the
economic czar. He's going to be in Washington next week. And the Chinese were hoping that they could sort of put this to rest, and their strategy
was essentially buy their way out of the impasse with the U.S. to say we will buy at an accelerated rate and through to 2024, and by that stage the
trade deficit will have disappeared, so let's just get on with things and you don't need to raise anymore tariffs. That addresses the concerns of a
part of the U.S. delegation who really want this thing to end, too. They don't want any disturbances in the markets. They want to kick the problem
down the road, but there are some true believers and apparently that includes U.S. trade representative Lighthizer who keeps a list of all the
failed deals with China and doesn't want to do another one.
MULRONEY: And for those folks, really key is intellectual property piracy and cyber espionage, all things that are associated with Huawei file. So
this is a nightmare scenario for China and it could upend the trade talks as well.
AMANPOUR: Well -- and you just mentioned the trade talks. I've just had word, quoting the F.T. (ph) now, that the United States has turned down
China's offer of these preparatory trade talks. So Former Ambassador Mulroney, thank you very much indeed for talking to us about all of this.
It's a really, really important issue because it also effects the global economy. Now we turn back to the United States where a group of online
writers are forcing us to ask the question where should we draw the line between provocative thought and those who simply want to be provocateurs.
The editor, Claire Lehmann, founded the website Quillette as part of the so-called intellectual dark web. It's oftentimes a platform for those
whose controversial views on issues like race, gender and even sexual assault were considered far too extreme for mainstream publications. So
when they spoke in New York, Lehmann told our Alicia Menendez why she's so determined to keep prodding the boundaries of acceptable discourse.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, HOST, AMANPOUR & COMPANY: Thank you so much for joining us.
CLAIRE LEHMANN, FOUNDING EDITOR, QUILLETTE: Thanks for having me.
MENENDEZ: You yourself were writing pieces that you felt weren't getting the publication or the attention that you believe they deserved.
LEHMANN: Yes. And I think that's simply because my thoughts and my views didn't neatly fit into a box, a conservative box or a progressive box.
They were somewhat in the middle somewhere or just outside that framework. So I was interested in, for example, men and women's different interest in
occupations and often criticized by (ph) the feminist narrative which portrays men and women's choices as being somewhat forced or socially
constructed. I was interested in evidence that suggested that men and women come to different occupations because they have innate differences.
MENENDEZ: There's a term we hear thrown around a lot and that is P.C. culture.
MENENDEZ: So I wonder first if you're a believer that we're living in a time of P.C. culture and if so, if you could you define that for me.
LEHMANN: Yes, I do believe we're living in a time of increasing political correctness. And it's difficult to define, exactly, but I think one of the
-- the -- the -- some evidence that we are is the amount of people who are getting into trouble for voicing opinions that they wouldn't have gotten
into trouble for maybe five or ten years ago. And we can see this on social media, people get mobbed (ph), people are losing their jobs now
over, you know, some pretty benign opinions. Even saying something like men and women are different or have biological differences can be
considered controversial in some contexts.
MENENDEZ: So can you give me an example of someone who you believe lost their job over what was a benign opinion?
LEHMANNI think there's the example of James Damore at Google. He wrote a memo and it had various arguments and hypotheses in it, but then his memo
was presented in mainstream press as being this anti-diversity screed and he said that women can't do the jobs of computer science and technology
engineering up to the same standard as men.
But he never made those arguments. He presented much more nuanced arguments based on empirical evidence showing that men and women have on
average different interests. And so I think the way in which we strip down complicated and complex arguments and present them in a simplistic fashion
is a symptom of P.C. culture and it's driving P.C. culture as well.
MENENDEZ: There's currently a piece on Quillette, the new war on comedy, which takes a look at Louis C.K., who is someone who has admitted to
wrongdoing, but there's a question of if he gets to return, when he gets to return and how free speech operates in the context of comedy. Where do you
come down on that?
LEHMANN: Well, I come down on the side of whatever is funny is comedy and --
MENENDEZ: Understanding that that's wildly subjective.
LEHMANN: Absolutely. But laughing at something -- laughter is an involuntary response. So if a comedian makes a joke and we laugh, there's
no gap between the joke and the act of laughing where we can say hang on, is that an appropriate joke or not. We just laugh if it's funny. And I
think comedians play a really important role in exposing some of the hypocrisies and some of the empty dogmas in society and breaking convention
and being transgressive. I think as soon as we start clamping down on comedians and telling them what they can and can't joke about, I think
we've become a less free culture and society and I think it's dangerous.
MENENDEZ: Is it wrong for #MeToo victims to be upset, then, by his comeback?
LEHMAN: Oh, look, #MeToo victims can be upset over whatever they want, I just don't think the rest of us have to necessarily pay attention or listen
to their demands. I mean, people can have any kind of emotional response that the -- they choose to have, but it's not -- it's not -- that doesn't
mean that we all have to suddenly comply with -- with demands that these people have.
MENENDEZ: There's also a piece on the site about the posthumous #MeToo-ing of J.D. Salinger. Is it going too far to look back retrospectively at the
men of history in the context of #MeToo?
LEHMANN: There's nothing wrong with going back and relooking at behavior of historical figures. I think it just becomes problematic when suddenly
we don't read the books of (inaudible) authors because they weren't up to our moral standards. And I think we miss out on precious literature and
precious art when we constantly judge artists and people of the past by our current moral standards.
MENENDEZ: What, then, do you define as a dangerous ideal? What crosses the line for you?
LEHMANN: Well, we -- we are all liberal humanists and we believe in the dignity of all human beings and we don't like -- we don't publish anything
where individuals are denigrated or groups are denigrated in moralistic terms. And so we don't -- there's one reason why we reject identity
politics. We think all people are equal and all groups are equal. However, we do think there are empirical questions that are open and we'd
like to explore them about differences between people and their interests and occupations and preferences and that type of thing.
MENENDEZ: The vast majority of names that are publically identified with the intellectual dark web are white men.
MENENDEZ: What do you make of that?
LEHMANN: Well, I think it's a bit of a misrepresentation because there are people in this so called intellectual dark web who aren't white men such as
Coleman Hughes, my star contributor, John McWhorter, Glenn Lurie (ph), Ayan Hersiale (ph), Maajid Nawaz, Deborah Soh --
MENENDEZ: So (ph) you agree you agree that those names are not nearly as well known as Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro.
LEHMANN: Well, I mean that's partly because the mainstream give Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro more of a platform than these lesser, well known
names. And -- and perhaps that's something that should be remedied and rectified. Perhaps these other individuals should be given more of a
MENENDEZ: If the intellectual dark web is anti-tribalism, how do you respond to the critique that you're simply creating your own tribe?
LEHMANN: Well, I think the critique is correct. I think we are creating our own tribe. And it is something to watch out for because we will become
susceptible to our own form of groupthink and confirmation bias. Absolutely.
MENENDEZ: Where do you see that tribalism manifesting?
LEHMANN: Well unfortunately today you see that kind of tribalism occurring on university settings more and more, where -- where theories like -- such
as intersectionalty are becoming more popular, where -- for example, not just on university settings but I believe the women's march that has
occurred here in the United States has gotten into a bit of trouble for excluding Jewish women for their privilege. And I know that in California
a women's march was cancelled because some of the organizers thought that too many white women were going to be on the women's march.
And it's that kind of tribalism which we critique because we don't think that's helpful, we don't think that judging people or shutting down
conversations or ranking people according to their privilege on the virtue of their skin color is in any way useful at all.
MENENDEZ: I wonder how much of it, though, in the context of America and in America becoming a majority-minority country has to do with the fact
that people who have marginalized identities -- African Americans, Latinos, women -- for so long were shut out of the corridors of power and in many
ways what they're looking for now is not to exclude but to create a sense of community and belonging for those who have often felt on the margins.
LEHMANN: Yes. Look, I don't think there's anything wrong with that and I don't that is not beneficial. I think it becomes a problem, however, if
groups are seeking reparations or seeking to punish
LEHMANN: Beneficial, I think it becomes a problem however if groups are seeking reparations or seeking to punish groups that they perceive as being
oppressors. So at the moment white men are sort of this group who are perceived as this big oppressor class, and because white men have always
held power throughout history now there needs to be some sort of redress (ph).
And I'm not saying that power shouldn't be shifted away towards other groups, but if we're going to be looking at individual white men they're
not necessarily guilty for hundreds of years of power held by their identity (ph) group. I think the problem is when we attribute guilt and
blame to people who have not done anything personally wrong.
MENENDEZ: So can you give me an example of someone who has experienced that?
LEHMANN: Oh well you see it -- we've seen it in the United States on college campuses with some of the rape culture rhetoric where young men
have found themselves caught up in unjust sort of procedures on campus where they are found guilty by universities but they haven't had their full
due process rights protected.
And often the argument's made well white men for so long have had so much power and rape -- or sexual assault hasn't been prosecuted as aggressively
as it should have, so what does it matter if some innocent men are being unfairly convicted or charged on university campuses.
MENENDEZ: Who is making that argument?
LEHMANN: Jessica Valenti on Twitter has made the point that she doesn't care if innocent men are now afraid of women, because this is the time for
redress (ph). The "Me Too" movement and prosecuting aggressively, prosecuting sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace, it's
time for a reckoning and if innocent men are afraid then that's bad luck. That argument has been made.
MENENDEZ: There's a difference between innocent men being afraid and innocent men being unduly prosecuted.
LEHMANN: Yes, yes. Well you know I would say someone like the mathematics professor who had his paper censored in an academic setting (ph) I would
say that's an innocent man. We had the Duke lacrosse players who were charged -- or the accusations of rape against them fell apart.
It was the "Rolling Stone" article which alleged a rape happening at Virginia University -- UVA and that fell apart, that was a false story and
now the "Rolling Stone" are being sued.
I know that there's been dozens of lawsuits in the United States on behalf of young male students who have been found guilty on university campuses
but in actual courts -- in the actual justice system they've -- that decision has been overturned and there are dozens and dozens of lawsuits.
So I think there is a real issue, and it can't just be swept under the rug.
MENENDEZ: Would you say that the intellectual darkweb is anti-victimhood?
LEHMANN: Yes, yes.
MENENDEZ: Is there then a contradiction in declaring yourselves "victims of PC culture" who are anti-victimhood?
LEHMANN: Yes, I think there is a contradiction somewhat and it's an interesting one to navigate. Certainly there are true victims of call-out
culture, people who have lost their jobs because of something they've said on social media, and I would argue that losing a job over a comment made on
Twitter is perhaps a disproportionate punishment.
At the same time, I think there's a real danger in people like myself and the tribe that we are a part of perceiving ourselves as victims. Because
as soon as you perceive yourself as a victim you lose a sense of agency and sense of purpose.
And so, although there are problems with call-out culture and some people have lost jobs and some people do feel silenced in university settings and
that type of thing, we have to always be very careful not to overplay that and undermine our own agency by thinking that we are victims of this
Because in the long run we really aren't.
MENENDEZ: Thank you so much Claire.
LEHMANN: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: Some controversial views there for sure, but let's go back to Davos and end on a more optimistic note with two of the most famous people
around plugging our need to combat climate change.
The legendary conservationist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough was interviewed on stage by Britain's Prince William. And tomorrow we'll have
more on this issue with the former Vice President and environmental activist Al Gore himself. But that's it for now, thanks for watching.
Goodbye from London.