Return to Transcripts main page


Lessons Learned From Afghanistan; Conservatives Win Big in British Elections; Interview With Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning- Schmidt. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 13, 2019 - 13:00:00   ET



[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I urge it to everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin.


AMANPOUR: After a landslide election victory, it is full steam ahead for Brexit. An expert panel dives into the changing face and friends of


Then --


JOHNSON: We're going to get Brexit done.


AMANPOUR: He may get the divorce, but will he get an amicable relationship? The Former Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt,

has the view from Europe.

Plus, unlocking the truth. Were Americans fed lies about the war in Afghanistan? Investigative journalist, Craig Whitlock, joins me.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

And it is Friday the 13th, and the British Tory Party is celebrating its good luck with a landslide election victory. Prime Minister Boris Johnson

now has a comfortable majority. And therefore, Brexit will happen. There will be no second referendum.

Speaking outside number 10, he paved the path forward for his new government.

JOHNSON: And on Monday, MPs will arrive at Westminster to form a new Parliament. And I'm proud to say that members of our new one nation

government, a people's government will set out from constituencies that have never returned a Conservative MP for a hundred years. And, yes, they

will have an overwhelming mandate from this election to get Brexit done. And we will honor that mandate by January 31st.


AMANPOUR: Johnson benefitted from a one-issue election and an unpopular opponent. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party suffered its worst defeat since

1935, and he'll step down, only not just not yet. And even the Centrist Liberal Democrat leader lost her own seat and she's out. The fate of this

United Kingdom is in question after Scotland scored another big election win and promptly called that a mandate for a second independence


Now, world leaders have been congratulating the British prime minister on his victory, including one of his biggest fans and best friends, President

Donald Trump of the United States who tweeted, the U.S. will now be free to strike a massive new trade deal after Brexit.

So, with me here to discuss the changing face of the United Kingdom is Simon Fraser, the former head of the U.K. foreign office and now, a

managing partner of the Flint Global consultancy. Alongside him, Afua Hirsch, the social commentator and author of "Brit(ish)." Also, joining me

is journal journalist, Mark Landler, who covers this election and this country for the "New York Times."

Welcome to you all.

So, I guess I'm just going to go around the table and ask you what is your reaction to what happened. And to just have -- let's just put it out

there, the polls were right. Were you none the less surprised, Afua Hirsch?

AFUA HIRSCH, COMMENTATOR AND AUTHOR, "BRIT(ISH)": I was especially surprised partly because we cannot rely on the polls in this country. We

knew this was going to be a highly unpredictable election. I think that's one -- maybe the only thing on which everyone agreed. I thought we would

have a hung Parliament. I massive under estimated the level of support for the Conservatives, especially in places where people will tell you it's

almost in their DNA not to vote Conservative.

And this feels, in some ways, like a country that has taken a decisive step but it doesn't so feel as split as ever. If you look at the Metropolitan

census, those were the places that retained their Labour stronghold. So, the divide between a city like London and the more form industrialized

north now seems greater than ever.

So, it's really a lot to take it and it feels as if the divisions in our country have, if anything, been solidified by this election result.

So, Mark Landler, let me ask you because this -- some people say, well, it's very America, the divisions in the country is solidified. Although,

you saw Boris Johnson saying, now, there must be closure, there must be healing. And he seemed, according to some analyst, to be tacking more

moderate, tacking more to the center. Do you think that? And what do you think the U.S. might take away from this?

MARK LANDLER, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I agree with people that say that Boris Johnson is not an insurgent in the same that

Donald Trump was. Donald Trump, when he was elected, was every bit as radical as everyone thought he would be in terms of how he governed.

I think in terms of how Boris Johnson will govern, from the perspective of domestic policy, government spending, I think he probably will try to tack

toward the center and he was clearly making an appeal for unity in his remarks today.

I think where things get tricky is in the issue of Brexit. What kind of Brexit does he negotiate? His instinct might be to go for a softer Brexit

in part because he has inside his party all of these working class former Labour voters from the midlands and north. I think the problem is he's

going to find he's a bit hemmed in because a softer Brexit implies all kinds of concessions on Britain's part in the negotiations with the

European Union.


I think he might find that difficult to do. He's also made a series of promises in the course of this campaign about not extending the negotiating

period beyond 2020. So, I think there will be a series of difficult decisions he'll come up against fairly soon.

AMANPOUR: Well, and we're going to get that viewed later in the program from the former Danish prime minister. But as to the Get Brexit Done,

Simon Fraser, and you were, as I said, head of the British Foreign Office.


AMANPOUR: It's not really. I mean, this election is not getting Brexit done. Yes, the divorce deal. Yes, he has a majority that will force

through his deal.


AMANPOUR: But what then, you know, as Mark alluded to? What happens next?

FRASER: Well, I mean, I think you have to say it is a really important moment of Brexit. It's not getting Brexit done but it means Brexit is

going to get done. And that changes the psychology of Brexit. And those us like me who were basically Remainers have to accept now, we're not going

to have another referendum. One way or another, this is going to happen.

Now, he will push very fast now to get his withdrawal deal agreed and he will get that legislation through Parliament and we will legally leave the

E.U. at the end of January.

The big question, as you say, is legally leaving doesn't fix the future relationship. And as we've just heard, there are many complexities there.

And he has to make a big choice on that, which is a trade-off between speed and content. And how -- where he hands on that is going to be (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Well, which leads me to one of these soundbites I want to play of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Because, you know, he's given a few

statements in some of his public outings today. And this is one of the first, and he was talking about this now totally new constituency that he

and the Conservative Party has.


JOHNSON: You may only have lent us your vote and you may not think of yourself as a natural Tory. And if that is the case, I'm humbled that you

have put your trust in me and you put your trust in us. And I and we will never take your support for granted.


AMANPOUR: Afua, you know, he obviously acknowledged that he's got this first-time new constituency and I think what was called the Red Wall across

the northern and middle part of England. Do you think that they are now permanent Tories or is he right to wonder whether it's just for this


HIRSCH: I think I'm going to try really hard to be positive, find something positive here. This is a huge change for the culture of the

Conservative Party. I think that he is right that that support is conditional. And there will now be a new generation of Northern

Conservative MPs who are representing poor constituencies, former mining constituencies, places that have very working-class concerns. And those

MPs will want to do justice at their electorate so that they can get re- elected.

And my hope, and I think it is inevitable, that will force some kind of cultural change within the Conservative Party. And if that leads to a

Conservative Party that is more compassionate, that is more serious about social justice, that is more serious about redistributing wealth and

opportunity, then that has to be a good thing.

And I think what he is right to know that that does require some change. And what is fascinating about this, and one of the things that I think will

be on pick in the coming weeks that in the victory, Boris Johnson has somehow coopted the far-right. I mean, if you look at the Brexit party he

supports collapsed practically because the Conservatives soaked that up, but he's also appealed to people who have traditionally been on the left.

And how the Conservatives are going to be able to please all of those new supporters is going to be a real challenge. And I'm very curious to see

how that's going to work.

AMANPOUR: Well, to be honest with you, I want to ask you all about your impressions of the personality. I mean, he's a big personality. He's a

celebrity personality, much like Donald Trump was in the United States. You saw these stunts. We showed the -- you know, the sort of tractor

plowing down a constructed, you know, foam wall of the said gridlock.

But you also saw him ducking from journalist's questions, ducking from serious interviews. You saw him not able to even confront the idea of a

little 4-year-old boy, you know, suffering from phenomena lying on a floor in a hospital because there weren't enough beds. He simply was not able to

empathize or say anything.

And then in the past, I mean, let's face it, he said racist things, he said homophobic things, he's called Muslims bad names, he's called blacks bad

names. I mean, you know, he has had his cake and eaten it too. Why do you think -- you know, from the land of Trump, I guess, why did do you think it

didn't matter in this election here as an observer from outside?

LANDLER: I think partly because for all of the things that you've just said, which are true of the way he conducted himself, he managed to keep

the campaign and himself on this extremely disciplined, literally three- word slogan, Get Brexit Done, which he repeated so many times.


People who covered him began to lose their minds. But it really penetrated and it made it difficult for anyone else to shift the debate on to ground

that might have been friendly, say, to the Labour Party.

I was struck, above all, as someone who is relatively new to Britain and knew mostly of Boris Johnson as this kind of flamboyant, clownish figure,

how little of that I saw in my exposure to him on the campaign trail. This was an extremely tightly scripted, completely unspontaneous, awfully

cynical operator.

You know, Dominic Cummings, his mastermind, was the person behind this, he did a brilliant job because I don't think I washed Boris Johnson really

slip into anything spontaneous almost through the course of the entire campaign. And the only time when unexpected things happen, as you alluded

to yourself, was when he oddly failed to show humanity in a certain situation, the key one being with the picture of the little boy.

So, again, I was struck mostly by how buttoned down and how disciplined he was and how effective that ultimately proved to be.

AMANPOUR: Well, I need to ask you this, Simon --


AMANPOUR: -- because, obviously, he used to be foreign secretary.


AMANPOUR: He's well-known in the foreign ministry and, you know, he was, you know, behind his back. People say he wasn't particularly, you know,

well-briefed. He was -- you know, had charisma, charm, he managed to, you know, talk a good game and he was likeable. But he wasn't particularly

sort of detail oriented. And he's been ruthless in the campaign. I mean, basically, to get his deal agreed, he threw the Northern Irish Unionist

under the bus. Were you surprised by the discipline of this campaign?

FRASER: No, I wasn't because he is a politician, he's a skillful politician and he wants one thing, and that is to be prime minister. He

didn't want to be foreign secretary. That wasn't his again. You know, that wasn't his objective. I don't think he was really focused on it. But

e's been focused ever since he got an opportunity and this is where he wants to be and this is what he's good at.

And like him or loathe him, and some -- and there are both sides, he's been very skillful in running the campaign, and it has been a disciplined

campaigned. The question though is, who is the real Boris Johnson? And we're going to learn that now because he's got a huge mandate. It's a

mandate, which if he handles it right, should see him for 10 years. It's a big majority to lose in one of actual period.


FRASER: So, you know --

AMANPOUR: Well, that's -- I want to talk about that.

FRASER: -- we're going to find out more.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And because there are issues, obviously, not just internationally but domestically, as well. But I just want to ask for your

reaction, because just before the election, I mean, given what you've just been saying, who is the real Boris Johnson and what will Brexit look like?

Alexandra Hall Hall, a senior civil servant, who has been around for 30 years, resigned in spectacular fashion from the embassy in the U.S. saying

that she refused to basically pedal what she called distortions and half- truths and untruths about the Brexit plan, about all the rest of it. What do you think she meant?

FRASER: Well, I think, you know, many people have been concerned, many civil servants have been concerned to know what the plan is. And let's

face it, there have been throughout the whole history of this Brexit, the referendum and what has come after, there have been instances of the truth

not being told or not being fully told.

And if you're a civil servant, your job is to represent your country and the government of your country. And, you know, I suspect that quite a lot

of them have sometimes found it stressful but they've been incredibly professional in the way they have done it.

And, of course, the professional thing to do if you can no longer do it, is to resign. So, I wouldn't criticize her for that. She did it, she

resigned and she was clear about why she resigned and then, she hasn't commented since and we've moved on.

AMANPOUR: We have moved on but it's still very worrying because, you know, one of these is distortions that Britain may one day wake up to find, you

know, it's not all as they've been sold in this election

FRASER: Well, it's true that -- I mean, the really difficult decisions and choices to be made about Brexit have all still to be made because they've

all been punted off beyond the leaving. So, the point is, we're leaving legally without knowing what -- we still don't know where we're going.

AMANPOUR: So, I want to get to the question of, you know, what Britain will look like, you know, coming up after this. Because, again, the map

has changed, the electoral map has changed for the first time in decades and decades and decades. And, obviously, Jeremy Corbyn, who, you know,

many young people, many people on the very progressive side of society here believed in him and believed in the anti-austerity message and the message

for the National Health Service and all the other students cancelling debt and all the rest of it, and tuition fees.

This is what he said in the aftermath of his historic loss.


JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Well, I have done everything I could to lead this party, done everything I could to develop its policies.

And since I became leader, the membership has more than doubled and the party has developed a very serious radical, yes, but serious and fully

accosted manifesto.


And I've received more personal abuse than any leader has ever received by the great deal of the media.


AMANPOUR: Do you think that's true in terms of personal abuse by the media? Was it unfair? And B, he himself used the word radical, and it

looks a lot like people, the British people, were not ready for that radical. Some called it Marxist, some called it, you know, other stuff.

What do you think?

HIRSCH: I think I agree that Jeremy Corbyn wasn't treated fairly by the media. But I have to say, I'm not comfortable with that being the response

of the Labour Party today. I think that the response today needs to be a lot deeper soul-searching into what's gone wrong here. And instead of

blaming journalists and blaming pro-Remain MPs, which is another tactic that I've heard used, I think the Labour Party needs to ask why it failed

to reach even its traditional heartland, people who can benefit from those radical policies.

To me, some of the policies that Jeremy Corbyn announced during this election, which were attractive, because I do think we need a radical

reappraisal of our education system, of our health service. I mean, parts of our welfare state are in dire state after years of austerity and

underinvestment. But there were so many policies, there were so many offices that I think they began to lose credibility.

And I think the electorate in this country are sophisticated enough to say, how are you going to do all this and are you going pay for it all? And it

didn't feel like this had all been properly thought through and that there was any selection going on. It felt like everything was being promised,


So, I think that is something that went wrong. I think there is a problem with Jeremy Corbyn and I've always this, that he was my MP, he was my local

MP for years. He is a man of integrity who cares about his constituents. He believes in his policies. I do not think that has translated into him

being an effective leader and one who's been able to unite the party around him.

And yes, this is a difficult time for all political parties because Brexit is so divisive within the party itself but the Conservatives have been able

to overcome this, even though I agree the tax being very cynical dodge any serious interviews say the same thing over and over again. But Jeremy

Corbyn has not been able to overcome that division and unite people. And I think, instead of blaming people, this time to ask why and how the Labour

Party can reform. And the only silver lining, really, for me is that this can lead to a period of much needed renewal for the left.

AMANPOUR: Well, he says he's going to step down or at least not lead the country to the next election in his party.

HIRSCH: But the question is, what comes next?

AMANPOUR: Yes. And when will he do this?

HIRSCH: And who will step up. And what will the value system underpinning renewal of the Labour Party being?

AMANPOUR: And, Mark, I mean, do you see any parallel between the failure of this progressive, again, here they call it more than progressive, they

accuse him of being revolutionary radical, he said it himself, Marxist? Does it have any resonance, do you think, in the current electoral debate

and divisions within not just the Democratic Party but between the Democrats and the Republicans and the United States?

LANDLER: I think it definitely does. And I think you saw some very quick evidence of that at a fund-raiser that Joe Biden did, the Democratic

frontrunner, as the results were coming in from the British election. And he said, I can predict what the analysis is going to be tomorrow. A party

goes so-so far left and it can no longer rationally argue for its policies.

So, we could hear clearly what Biden was doing, was making an appeal. Don't pick Elizabeth Warren. Don't pick Bernie Sanders. Go for the more

centrist, the more moderate option. And I think that within the Democratic Party in the U.S., there will probably be some internal debate over whether

it was a repudiation of Jeremy Corbyn, which I think it was in many ways, or whether it was also a repudiation of an entire legislative program?

And the answer to that question could have some bearing on whether the Democrats ultimately go with their progressive hearts or with their

moderate heads. And so, this is an ongoing debate. It's predated the British election. It will extend long past this British election. But I

do think that what happened here will have resonance in the U.S., it will be part of the debate.

AMANPOUR: And then, of course, we're talking about the United Kingdom. So, as we've seen in the results, the Scottish National Party did really

well. And unbelievably, in Northern Ireland, the Nationalist, the -- you know, they have a Sinn Fein and the SDLP, they did better even in the

unionist for the very first time, for the very first time. And they had voted remain, those parties who did better.

Let's just listen to Nicola Sturgeon who seems to be the -- you know, again, a major winner.


NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY LEADER: Westminster has ignored people in Scotland for more than three years. Last night, the people of

Scotland said enough. It is time for Boris Johnson to start listening. I accept regretfully that he has a mandate for Brexit in England. But he has

no mandate whatsoever to take Scotland out of the European Union.



AMANPOUR: So, is this going to be the prime minister who presides over the disunited kingdom? Will Scotland successfully hold a referendum? Will he

allow them to?

FRASER: I think one of the very big issues that emerged last night was this, very clearly. What has happened is in England, the leave movement

has now taken control of the official Parliamentary political process through a reconstituted Conservative Party. And in Scotland, you've seen a

very different outcome. A vote which is pro remain still and pro-Scottish independence, reinforcing that message.

So -- and, of course, we're going to have a deal on Brexit, which creates a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So, those two things

are now in play. I don't think Boris Johnson is going to allow -- is going to want or allow a second Scottish indie referendum for as long as he can

hold it. But I do think it is going to come. And she will push -- Nicola Sturgeon will push it in that direction.

Of course, she has other problems because there's this big trial coming up of her predecessor in which some people think she is going to have some

difficulties in explaining her own opposition. So, let's see what happens to Scottish politics as well.

AMANPOUR: And Northern Ireland, given the fact that the balance changed there by one sit, but it's still significant.

FRASER: Yes. It is significant. I mean, the DUP had a bad election.

AMANPOUR: Those are the unionists.

FRASER: The unionist.


FRASER: The pro unionists. And as I say, a consequence of the deal that Boris Johnson is proposing is to create some sort -- it will be a light

border but some sort of customs border within our country, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And I think that pushes the sort of

psychology of the Irish question a step further towards possible reunification.

AMANPOUR: So, then it becomes Little England and Wales, maybe?

FRASER: Well, that is a question. I think that is one of the things that it is going to be one of the sorts of strategic consequences of this

election in the years to come.

HIRSCH: The existential problem, I think, is that the current constitutional arrangement of Scotland, the legitimacy of it rests on a

narrative that Scotland has choice, that Scotland is treated as an equal partner, that Scotland is listened to in Westminster.

Now, you can't enjoy that legitimacy while ignoring what the Scottish people have quite forcefully said in their choice that they want another

referendum and that they also want to remain. So, I can't see any way of the ways resolving this.

But One of the things I found remarkable during the election campaign was how many Conservative voters and Brexit voters were polled to saying they

were willing to see the breakup of the union as a price for leaving. These are extraordinary times where the obsession with Brexit and England has

really hijacked every other concern. And this was a Brexit election. It was a reflection on the desire to leave in England. Abd it was a

reflection on how far, ideologically, voters are going separate ways already. If you look at the way people voted in Scotland and in Northern

Ireland, they are taking their own countries to a different place. That will (INAUDIBLE) is a huge question.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And also, Jo Swinson, who is the leader of the Centrist Liberal Democrats, she not only lost her seat, they did worse than was

predicted in the polls. And it means that, you know, there's no truck for the Centrist right now. But given what you were saying about, you know,

Britain -- it was just crazy to hear. We couldn't believe it, you know, that they would rather see the breakup of this country than the lack of


Michael Howard, former Conservative Party leader, I talked to him in the early hours of the morning while all this was sort of settling down and

coming out. And, of course, he's a major Eurosceptic and he's major Brexiteer. And I asked him about, you know, was there a bit of nostalgia

among the voters for Brexit?


AMANPOUR: You must be thrilled. Let's face it, you are a Brexiteer in any event.


AMANPOUR: And you were pretty -- you know, you're a pretty determined Brexiter. What does this mean in your regard?

HOWARD: It means that we will get Brexit done, to coin the phrase, and we will be out of the European Union by January 31st. We then have to

negotiate a trading agreement with our partners in Europe, our friends in Europe. I hope that will be done during the course of next year. There's

no reason why it shouldn't be done in the course of next year.

And we have to revive the country. We've been stuck as a country for three years. With Parliament not being prepared to implement the result of the

referendum. Now, we've got a Parliament that will take that result for --

AMANPOUR: Well, there was a healthy debate, let's say, in Parliament.

HOWARD: It was stuck.

AMANPOUR: Now, you've got a big majority and you can do things that you couldn't do when you didn't have a majority. So, that was the fact.


AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you, you know, I know you're a Eurosceptic, but Britain had its cake and ate it too.


It was not a member of the joint border area, it was -- kept its own pound rather than the euro. It had its own heft and authority within the E.U.

It was able to get things that it wanted. Why is this going to be better?

HOWARD: Well, it wasn't able to get not all the things --

AMANPOUR: But it was a lot.

HOWARD: -- by any means. We can run our (INAUDIBLE) affairs now. We will be an independent country. We will be in control of our destiny with a

good relationship with European friends. We will be able to make trade deals with other countries across the world, which we were not able to as

members of the European Union, and we will benefit from all of that. We will have control of our borders, our laws and our money. We'll been an

independent country once again.

AMANPOUR: You have control of your borders and your money. We'll see about the trade going forward. But it is a historic win for your party.

You must be thrilled as a Tory.

HOWARD: Absolutely. Great credit to Boris Johnson.


AMANPOUR: You know, and I know you're a Remainer, but reality check on that. I mean, Britain did pretty much have its cake and ate it too.

FRASER: Yes, we did. But it had a very privileged relationship when we were in the E.U. I mean, there's one thing he said which I sort of

sympathize with, which even as a Remainer, which is we were stuck and there's a small part of me which says, well, at least, we're unstuck, even

if we're unstuck in the way I didn't want to be unstuck.

But what really irritates me, actually, if I may use the word that here, is the sort of simplistic sloganizing of that sort of interview, which says,

you know, we will be independent. We will be able to take control of our own destiny. Because, you know, that's not how the modern world works and

everybody knows that. You know, that's not how the integrated economic and political system that we live in works.

And, so, if we're going to do Brexit, let's get on and do it. But can we now have those realism about what is involved, both in our relationship

with Europe and in our wider position in the world, a world which is going to be dominated by China and the United States in which we are going to

have to find our way outside the European Union.

AMANPOUR: All right. So, you bring me right to President Donald Trump who also commented, actually, as the votes were being tallied. It was today,

but he wasn't prepared to sort of give the whole picture. So, he was discussing his friend Boris' win, emerging victory.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: This was a tremendous victory last night ad it's very interesting. The final votes are being tallied right now but the

numbers are tremendous. So, I want to congratulate him. He's a friend of mine. It's going to be a great thing for the United States also because it

means a lot of trade, tremendous amount of trade. They want to do business with us so badly. Under the European Union, it was very, very hard for

them to do business with us.


AMANPOUR: Again, reality check on all of that. Yes. I mean, he's saying they want to do business with us very badly. What? What's going to

happen. How easy is it going to be, Mark, to negotiate on your own as Britain, a massive trade deal with the big superpower like the United


LANDLER: Well, in the category of unpleasant handovers after this happens is going to be the beginning of this trade negotiation. Because as Donald

Trump himself suggested or implied just now, they're desperate. That the U.S. is going to view this in a transactional we win, you lose context.

American drug companies are going to make demands about drug pricing.

This whole notion of the NHS, the National Health Service, being on the table is slightly misleading. No one expects American companies to come in

and buy up chunks of the NHS. But there's no question that American firms are going to want access to it and they're going to want more competitive

drug pricing, and that will drive up drug prices.

So, I think that people in this country are going to have a bit of an unpleasant shock, not just with how difficult it is to do a trade agreement

but also, with what the terms of that agreement may be, especially when you're not negotiating as a member of the mightiest trading block in the

world but as a middling but somewhat large economy, it's just going to be very difficult. And I think that's in the category. If things are going

to be a rude awakening in the future, this is one.

HIRSCH: Coming back to your question --

AMANPOUR: Very quickly because we're about to --

HIRSCH: -- of Michael Howard about nostalgia, I really think that imperial nostalgia has been the looming ghost throughout this entire pro process.

And this is the reason England sounds apart. In England where the loss of identity following the loss of empire was so acute, there is still this

deluded belief that we are -- you know, we talk about the commonwealth instead of the empire. This is not a nation that sees itself as it is, a

small country in the North Atlantic. This is a nation that sees itself on a par with the United States, and I think that this is the other reality

check, that the world is not queuing up to bow to our terms.

We are now in a highly competitive market. Other companies are organized into regional blocks like the E.U. for a reason, to consolidate their

power. We're moving in the wrong direction and that is going to be painful.

AMANPOUR: Final word, 20 seconds.

FRASER: Well, if we have so much difficulty trading with the United States as a member of the European Union, why do we have such a trade surplus with

the United States? That's my question. We trade very well with the United States as we trade in other parts of the world as a member of the E.U. I

think we will find it more difficult to cut those trade deals in the future.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Thank you all very much, Afua Hirsch, Simon Fraser, Mark Landler. Thank you very much, indeed, for


Earlier, I also spoke with Gavin Barwell. He was Theresa May's chief of staff and worked for months to try to get her Brexit deal through


Here's our conversation.


AMANPOUR: So you used to work for Theresa May.


AMANPOUR: And so what is your reaction? She couldn't get a deal through. She couldn't get a majority. But now we have a massive Conservative


BARWELL: So, I'm obviously pleased. I didn't want Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister this country. I think it's really important for politics in

the U.K. that his extreme, and the anti-Semitism we have seen infect our politics has been rejected so comprehensively.

And I want the Brexit deal to go through. Boris' deal is -- about 90 percent of it is what Theresa negotiated. So he's now got a clear mandate

to get that deal through and finally to get us over this gridlock that has infected our politics for two or three years.

AMANPOUR: So let's just talk, because it did seem from an outsider's view that Theresa May did a lot of this. As you say, it's 90 percent of her

deal that he got with the E.U.

And they kind of offered her this deal. And it was Boris Johnson and his hard-line wing of the Conservative Party that rejected it when she had it.

BARWELL: So, I think a combination of two groups. It's really interesting that you had some people on the rise of the Conservative Party who wanted a

harder Brexit and rejected it.

And they thought, if they rejected it, they would get what they want. And you had some other people that basically wanted to stop Brexit, wanted to

have a second referendum. And they thought, if they rejected it, they'd get what they want.

And at the time, we said to both of them, one of you must be wrong. And we now know from the election result which country it was that was wrong, the

people that wanted a second referendum. If they had compromised, they would have got a sort of softer Brexit, if you like, than the version that

they now going to get.

AMANPOUR: So what do you think they are now going to get? Are you happy with this particular withdrawal deal?

BARWELL: So, I don't think it's perfect, from my point of view.

There are two things really that he's changed that worry me. One is the Northern Ireland protocol, where, essentially, I think you are going to

have some kinds of checks when goods are moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, which is not good for our...


AMANPOUR: You're talking about a border down the Irish Sea.

BARWELL: Yes. Essentially, yes. And...

AMANPOUR: Which he hasn't been particularly truthful about.

He keeps saying it's going to happen, then it's not going to happen.


BARWELL: The truth is, actually, the deal he's negotiated says a lot of this is going to be sorted out down the line, so you can't answer that

question with certainty at the moment.

But it seems to me there's going to at least be some checks, now, which -- now, that worries me as a Unionist. The second thing is about how close

you want the future relationship to be after you have left the E.U.

And he is envisaging the kind of relationship that Canada would have with the European Union. And, personally, I would like something a little bit

closer than that. That's what Theresa's deal envisaged.

But, look, he -- let's give the guy credit. He's just won a huge victory. He has a mandate now to pursue his deal. We are going to leave on the 31st

of January now.

And then we're going to get onto the debate about exactly what that future relationship is. And we will see how that plays out.

AMANPOUR: It was clearly a very, very resonant and clever slogan, "Get Brexit down."

So, obviously, with the vote in Parliament, with a massive majority, he will get that vote, which is the divorce vote.


AMANPOUR: But then what happens? How long will it take? How difficult will it be? And will Europe now just bend over for Boris Johnson?

BARWELL: No, I don't think they're going to do that.

So he wants to -- he wants to get the second phase done by the end of 2020. And that's going to be really challenging. It probably means he needs to

have it negotiated by about the summer, because this one's got to be ratified probably by all of the national parliaments within the E.U., and

that's going to take time.

So the question is, can you do it that quickly? Now, he's full of confidence, said, yes, I absolutely can. I think it's going to be

challenging. It may be that what you have is a sort of initial deal that isn't that deep that then gets improved a bit down the line.

But we will have to wait and see. That, as you say, is the argument that is going to come after the 31st of January. What I think you can say with

confidence now is, he is going to get the divorce part through by the date that he wants to get it through.

AMANPOUR: And, to be fair, I mean, I know that, after three-and-a-half years, it is a bit churlish of me to say this, but with a massive majority,

that's the easy part, getting the divorce part.


BARWELL: Yes, absolutely.


BARWELL: ... because what he's managed to do last night is construct a majority between people that really, really want to leave, and others who

maybe didn't vote leave in the referendum, but are fed up with this issue blocking our politics and do think, in a democracy, people voted for this,

it should happen.

And that "Get Brexit done" slogan was a really good slogan to get those two groups of people voting together.

AMANPOUR: So, there are two issues that come out of that.

There was -- there was such a division in this country for so long. Is Boris Johnson and does the electoral map now show that the country has

healed with this vote?

BARWELL: So, I don't think we're healed.

But I think there is a prospect of healing. So, first of all, it was really encouraging this morning to hear him do two things. He was showing

some humility, I think. He was recognizing, yes, some people have been really enthusiastic and voted for him, and others may have just sort of

loaned him their vote as, if you like, the least bad of the options on offer.


And there was some humility, which I think is really important. When you win in politics, what I don't like to see is sort of triumphalism or


But, secondly, I think there is a chance to get on to other issues. And if you talk about dealing with climate change, or our National Health Service,

or trying to ensure that our economy in this country isn't all focused in London and the southeast, those are issues where I think it is possible to

bring the country together and form what he calls a one-nation conservatism.

And I think he does have a good prospect of being able to do that.

AMANPOUR: On the economy, of course, the pound has risen. Stock market is pleased that there's at least some clarity in this first chapter.

But, as you know, many people, including longtime grandees of the Tory Party, friends of Britain in Europe, have said, this is an act of self-

harm, that it will affect the economy negatively, and that Britain will be relegated to a second-rate, second-tier member of this community.

How do you how do you react to that? And what kind of Britain will it be, a Singapore kind of Britain? What?

BARWELL: So, I would try and react with a little bit of sort of just balance on this issue.

So I campaigned for remain, so I thought the best option was to stay in. But I would make two points. First of all, people predicted that,

actually, just voting to leave, let alone leaving, but actually just voting to leave would have a hit on our economy.

And that hasn't proved to be anything like -- our economy...

AMANPOUR: Well, you know the pound did sink very rapidly.

BARWELL: Yes. The pound went down.


BARWELL: There was an initial inflationary hit on people's incomes.

But, actually, our economy -- if you think what we have been through for the last three years, this incredible period of political turmoil, the

British economy has proved stronger than maybe some people thought it was.

AMANPOUR: People thought.

BARWELL: Now, the key now is getting this future relationship right, because I think, if we can -- if we can manage the trick where we have got

a close relationship still with the E.U., but the ability to do these trade deals with other countries, then, actually, I think Britain can do well in

that world.

But the detail that we're going to come on to post 31st of January, that's critical in terms of answering your question.

AMANPOUR: And, very finally, this is a United Kingdom. We have already talked about how the nationalist parties have done very well in Scotland

and in Northern Ireland, for the first time, better than the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

Do you foresee an inevitability that Northern Ireland will one day join up with the republic and not be part of the U.K. anymore, or that Scotland

will spin off with another independence referendum?

BARWELL: So, I think those things are inevitable, but I think they are genuine concerns.

I would draw a little bit of a distinction between them. So I think, in Northern Ireland, actually, what's happened is, some of the moderate

parties in the center have got elected to Parliament. And I hope that that is a message to both the DUP on the Unionist side and Sinn Fein on the

Nationalist side to get back into government together, because we have had three years in Northern Ireland with no government.


BARWELL: So I'm actually hopeful that the result in Northern Ireland will lead to some positive changes.

Now, you're right to say there is such a contrast between England and Wales, where Boris has done incredibly well, and Scotland, where he's gone

backwards. And there is going to be real tension there. And all of us in all parties who believe in our union need to fight to protect it.

And that is going to be a big political challenge over the years ahead.

AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Thank you so much, Gavin Barwell. Thanks for being with us.

BARWELL: My pleasure. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And now, when we talk about the European Union, of course the divorce will happen. Boris has a majority. It's going to happen by

January 31, at the very latest.

But what does his promise to -- quote -- "get Brexit done" really look like? Europe, of course, will have a say in that.

And with me to discuss this is Helle Thorning-Schmidt. She is the former Danish prime minister. You may all remember her. Her moment on the

spotlight that introduced her to the world was this fabulous selfie. And it's really relevant, a selfie that she took with herself, President Barack

Obama and then Prime Minister David Cameron.

This was at the funeral, in fact, of Nelson Mandela, the great anti- apartheid hero. And we're going to talk to her about that and this.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, it might sound like a little stunt, but it's not because there you were, prime minister of Denmark, with the British prime minister,

David Cameron, who, even at that time was beginning to talk about and try to convince you all to do something, anything, to reform Britain's role in

the E.U., to get him not to have to call a referendum.

Do you remember that?

THORNING-SCHMIDT: Oh, yes, absolutely.

I had been working very closely with David Cameron, because we were prime ministers at the same time. And Denmark and U.K. have always had a good

working relationship. So, I know David quite well, and I worked with him.

And he started talking about this back then. And I would always think that he should have worked harder to reform the E.U. And, on that basis, he

could have called the referendum, if you really want to call it. But he should have gotten more results in the European Union before he called the


And they should have -- U.K. should have been much better prepared to understand what it actually meant to leave the European Union. And they're

grappling with this three-and-a-half years after.

AMANPOUR: So would you have given him a better deal?


I think if he had fought harder, particularly on the freedom of movement of people -- I, as prime minister, discussed this with the commission as well.

I felt there was kind of a movement in the European Union to get a different deal on the free movement of people and put some restrictions.


And, also, the U.K. could have done much more themselves, because the U.K. is not very good at keeping track of who's actually in this country

working. So there were things that he could have gotten.

And with that reform deal, he could have perhaps done the referendum on a much better basis, and with a new deal with the European Union. So I'll

never quite forgive him for that.

AMANPOUR: So what do you make of today's result then?

THORNING-SCHMIDT: This is a very bad result. It's a very bad result for Labor.

And I think that this shows that at various moments in time over the past couple of years, there has been opportunities to actually get a compromise,

find a good deal, not only with the European Union, but also in the Parliament here in the U.K.

And I do think that they should have jumped on those chances, because what Labor's ended up with now and what the country has ended up with now is

basically a very, very hard Brexit, the hardest Brexit possible, and a Tory government which seems to be quite a solid Tory government, where they will

have a lot of party discipline.

Instead, we could have had a softer Brexit and the chance of a Labor government next time around.

AMANPOUR: Well, this is interesting, because I didn't actually say when I introduced you that you are married to Stephen Kinnock, who is the son of

Neil Kinnock, the former leader of the Labor Party. And he kept his seat in this election.

And, obviously, you have been campaigning with him. So it must be desperate for him, for you, for the Labor Party to see this implosion.

THORNING-SCHMIDT: Yes, I mean, we are -- I mean, obviously, my husband, Stephen Kinnock, he had a very good result last night. He had 53 percent

of the vote, which was a very good result in a leave voting constituency.

So, of course, we were very happy with that. And he was very proud that they had decided to send him off to Westminster again with that backing.

But we are also very gutted, because the Labor Party is now at a size where they will find it very hard to find themselves internally, but also to gain

influence on what really matters, I mean, Health Service, all the services, where people are screaming for improvement. That will be very, very hard.

AMANPOUR: So, talk to me now as if you were a European prime minister.

What now happens? Because "Get Brexit done" is just a slogan. You have got the divorce is going to happen. But what happens? What can Britain,

Boris Johnson, expect from European leaders? Is it going to be difficult?

THORNING-SCHMIDT: Yes, first of all, I think there is a slight sigh of relief in the European Union amongst the 27, because they have felt that

this is taking so long, and they have been the hostage to internal British politics for so long.

So they have found it very difficult to move on with things that are also important to the European Union, like our border control, like cyber-crime,

terrorism, climate change, you name it. There's so many issues that the European Union needs to solve right now.

And they will feel that now they can actually get on with this with a new commission and the new Parliament. So that's the first thing.

But, of course, Brexit -- get Brexit done is a very hard thing, because what we have now is only the leave deal. I'm sure Boris Johnson will get

that through Parliament very, very soon. But what is left is, what is the future relationship with the European Union?

What is the future trading relationship with the European Union? And what the British government has to decide now in the coming years perhaps is,

what kind of deal do they want? They can get an easy deal, but then they have to get an off-the-shelf deal, which would be like the Canada deal that

the E.U. has with Canada.

And if that happens, that means that it will be very difficult. The U.K. will have to live up to the standards of the European Union for many, many

years, because what the European will be very nervous about is not to create a Singapore on Thames, where...

AMANPOUR: A competitor.


AMANPOUR: On its doorstep.

THORNING-SCHMIDT: On its doorstep, where they're not living up to all the standards and regulations that we have in the European Union.

So I think that this could take a very long time, if this is for -- if this is going to be a good trade agreement with the European Union.

AMANPOUR: And in the referendum campaign, Boris Johnson clearly said he was against regulation.

So, the Europeans are going to be very keen to make sure that -- as you say, that there is not unfair advantage. And tell me about how much the

Europeans have been already preparing for this. I mean, we understand that they're already looking elsewhere for certain deals and relations that they

can't necessarily rely on Britain for.

THORNING-SCHMIDT: The thing we know about the European Union is that they love procedure, they love to do things that -- as we always do it, and

that's how they overcome all the internal differences.

And that's why they have been so strong in these negotiations. The European Union have actually kept together, which is quite remarkable, over

so many years and with so many different interests. So that's one thing.

The other thing that they will, of course, be focused on is that they will not accept that there is a country right on their doorstep that gets a

favorable trade agreement and do not abide by these regulations.


And I'm absolutely convinced that they have prepared this very, very carefully already, because they have been -- that's the kind of way they

work, to prepare these things very carefully.

AMANPOUR: So, what do you see, I mean, as the future relationship between this country and Europe?

THORNING-SCHMIDT: Well, we are where we are now.

And now we will go into a very hard Brexit. And I'm hoping that the next phase of this will be a much more positive one, where we build up again,

saying, we want to have a good trading relationship. We want to have more or less similar regulation on each side, U.K. and the European Union.

And I'm also hoping that, because the U.K. is still a NATO -- a strong NATO member and also a very strong country in terms of humanitarian aid for the

rest of the world, I hope that there will be a renewed partnership in these areas between the U.K. and the European Union.

All is not lost. I think we are at a very difficult as stage in our neighborship, but all is not lost. And I really hope that the U.K. will

come back gradually to the European Union, particularly in cyber-crime, terrorism and defense security issues, because we need each other.

AMANPOUR: So interesting.

And I didn't even ask you about Jeremy Corbyn, your party's leader, or your husband's party...


THORNING-SCHMIDT: I have got many opinions about that as well.


AMANPOUR: But he's got to go?

THORNING-SCHMIDT: I mean, anyone who loses by this has to respect the electorate.

The electorate has been very, very clear in the last night. And I think you owe the electorate the respect to really consider to go, and to go

quite soon.

AMANPOUR: Would your husband contest leadership?


THORNING-SCHMIDT: You have to ask him that.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister -- former Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, thank you so much, indeed.

THORNING-SCHMIDT: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: We turn now to the United States, where a trove of documents have revealed how U.S. officials allegedly misled the American people about

the war in Afghanistan in an effort to conceal fears that America was losing.

But now "The Washington Post" has obtained more than 2,000 pages of these documents through the Freedom of Information Act.

Craig Whitlock is "The Post"'s lead investigative journalist who's been digging into these papers for the last three years. And he's joining me

from Washington to discuss the secrets behind the war.

Craig Whitlock, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, tell me, how -- how did you go about getting this job? What sort of -- what was the impetus that spurred you to want to -- to get to

the bottom of this?

WHITLOCK: Well, like a lot of news stories, we got a tip.

And back in August of 2016, so over three years ago, now we got a tip that Michael Flynn, a retired U.S. Army general who had played a key role in

Afghanistan, had given an unpublished interview to an obscure U.S. government agency about the war in Afghanistan. And we heard he was quite

critical about it.

At the time, Michael Flynn was becoming more famous in the political arena and the United States for his support of Donald Trump. So we wanted to see

what he had to say. And we put in a simple public records request for it.

And long story short, it led us to a whole trove of more documents, but it took us three years to get our hands on them, under the public records law

in the United States.

AMANPOUR: And so one of the quotes that you have basically is from Michael Flynn, and, again, as you say this larger-than-life character who was very,

very pro-Donald Trump, and then flamed out in spectacular fashion, and did have this role as a lieutenant general in Afghanistan.

"From ambassadors down to the low level, they all say, we're doing a great job. Really? So, if we're doing such a great job, why does it feel like

we're losing?"

What did you discover? What made him feel that way?

WHITLOCK: So, I think he was frustrated. He had served in Afghanistan, but he felt, as a military intelligence official, that the reality on the

ground, they were getting these reports from low-level military officials on the ground saying the war was not going well.

The Taliban was resurgent. The Afghan Army was not capable of fighting them back. They were getting all these bad reports out of the field. But

by the time they made their way up the chain of command, up to the Pentagon and to the White House, they were then being released to the public, the

American people and the world, as saying, things are going just fine in Afghanistan, we need to send more troops, and we need to keep this up.

So he was essentially saying this is similar to what happened in Vietnam with the United States, where the lead, the senior officials and, the

military commanders in the field were spinning a much different story of the war than the reality on the battlefield.

AMANPOUR: You did an interview with John Sopko, who is this the special inspector general in this, as you call it, obscure agency, but one that

watches and reports and writes up what's happening, the accountability agency for the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.


Just going to play this little bit of the interview between you two.


WHITLOCK: But you have senior officials, four-star generals, ambassadors, senior White House officials telling your staff on the record, we didn't

know what we were doing. We didn't have a strategy. If there is a definition of mission creep, it's Afghanistan.

JOHN SOPKO, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION: I think a lot of that comes out in the Lessons Learned report.

It's a theme in probably every audit and every report we issue, bad planning, bad understanding, not talking to experts before we go in. If

you pull not just our lessons learned reports, but pull all of our audits, that's a common theme coming through.


AMANPOUR: So he basically said that they have been reporting these.

And I know, because of the details of that particular one with Michael Flynn -- it was meant to be confidential because of who Michael Flynn was

and what the White House said and all the rest of it.

I have covered Afghanistan, obviously, for decades. And I have always been surprised by how forward-leaning John Sopko was -- and you probably were a

recipient as well -- in terms of regular e-mails about the latest of he called it corruption or waste of money and things that were in fact going

wrong in Afghanistan.

I was always quite staggered and impressed by how he got away with actually revealing so much of what wasn't going right. Did you feel that way? Or

were you digging for more?

WHITLOCK: Well, we were digging for more. And we were surprised when his office resisted for so long releasing these public records about what

senior U.S. officials and NATO officials were saying about the war.

So he was -- Sopko was releasing public reports, but they were omitting and sanitizing all the most blistering criticism that senior commanders were

saying in these confidential interviews.

The Michael Flynn interview, by the way, was on the record. This wasn't meant to be confidential. It was just the inspector general sat on it.

And it wasn't just Flynn. You had General David Richards, who later became the head of the British military and was the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

He was saying things like, we didn't have a strategy at all. We had a lot of tactics, but we didn't have a proper strategy.

Another general was Dan McNeill, an American U.S. Army general who's a two- time commander in Afghanistan. He also said, we didn't have a strategy, that people from NATO just told me to go there and do some good.

And he said he was asking, what does winning mean in Afghanistan? And he never got a response.

AMANPOUR: So I want...

WHITLOCK: These are all senior...

AMANPOUR: Go ahead.

WHITLOCK: These are all senior commanders on the ground telling the inspector general that essentially the emperor has no clothes. They had no

strategy. They didn't know who the enemy was. And what they were doing just didn't make any sense.

But yet the inspector general kept those interviews under wraps until we went to court to pry them loose.

AMANPOUR: And it's obviously incredibly fascinating, because it's America's longest war. And it happened because of a direct attack on

American soil bought by al Qaeda in 2001.

And, again, I just wondered what you thought of the fact that it actually was going pretty well after the U.S. did, in fact, defeat the Taliban and

al Qaeda, got them on the run. And then George W. Bush pulled all the expert hands out, military, civilian, and moved them onto a phony war in


And I just wonder, when the slide, as you know, started back then -- but Ryan Crocker, who is a longtime American ambassador and has been -- spent a

lot of time in Iraq and Afghanistan, he had said: "Eight million Afghanistan were in school, a third of them girls. Does that sound like a

disaster? It's about American values. It's about American national security."

And then he said: "What is it exactly about nation-building that we must avoid at all costs? Does it extend to looking into the eyes of hopeful

Afghan girls of kindergarten age and saying, sorry, kid, you're on your own?"

I wonder, Craig, whether you are as frustrated as me when you see these major military interventions, where, actually, leaders in the field can't

talk honestly about them, because somehow nation-building is a dirty word in America? But that's exactly what's required.

And so the government, whether it's Obama or Trump or whoever it is, is always spending money and blood and treasure playing a short game.

WHITLOCK: Well, that's right.

In these interviews we obtained, I think what people are saying is that the United States went about it all wrong with the nation-building. At first,

Bush was so reticent to spend money or to get stuck in Afghanistan, that he didn't do nearly enough at a time when Afghanistan needed it the most.


Back in 2001, as you recall, Afghanistan was just a devastated country. It was in rubble. This is a country that had been at war continuously since

the 1970s. And Bush was very reluctant to spend much money then. He was hoping the United Nations and European allies would take over.

He came around later, but he was reluctant at a time when it needed it the most. Then, when Obama became president, he was pushing very hard for a

quick resolution to the war. So they went in the opposite direction.


WHITLOCK: And they overspent by billions and billions of dollars, more than the country could absorb.

So they really went from one extreme to the other. And that, I think, more than anything, is why it hasn't worked as well as they had hoped.

AMANPOUR: I know. It's a tragedy. But, again, there's so much that has been accomplished. But it's so difficult to have this grownup


Craig Whitlock, thank you so much for all your investigative work and for joining us.

And that is it for now. You can always catch us online on our podcast and across social media.

Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.