Friday, June 24, 2016

My comments live on CNN right after the Brexit result was announced

The transcript of my CNN comments on Brexit in the early hours of June 24th, 2016:

QUEST: To the houses of parliaments now, Christiane Amanpour is there with guest.

And Christiane, one thought, though, no matter what the pundits and experts say, you know, tonight the people have spoken. They have made their decision. And the establishment may hate it, but they have to respect it.

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, Richard, you are absolutely right. And therein, lies the dilemma. Because this is unprecedented, because it has never happened before, no country has ever withdrawn voluntarily from the European Union. We were going to be in a period of some uncertainty, which we we'll discuss with our guest here, about how it goes forward in the parliament behind me and how it goes forward in negotiations with Europe.

So, we're going to talk now quickly to Pieter Cleppe. Now, he is the Brussels Head of the office known as Open Europe.

Pieter Cleppe, thanks for joining me. In your heart of hearts, were you expecting this?

PIETER CLEPPE, OPEN EUROPE BRUSSELS OFFICE HEAD: I was definitely thinking it could be a possibility. The race was extremely tight.

AMANPOUR: What happens next? I mean, is it going to be Europe sort of, you know, getting ever closer, battening down the hatches, standing against Great Britain in order not to tempt other countries to do the same? Or is it Europe trying to do everything it can to make this easy for a Brexit Britain?

CLEPPE: I suspect the second will happen. You will see some instincts, especially at the E.U. level among E.U. commissioner officials, who think that now they should punish U.K. in a bit to try to avoid that other countries may consider leaving as well. But, of course, given the stakes, if you would restrict financial trade from the U.K. into the continent, you would actually drive up the cost of investment on the continent.

If Britain in retaliation would impose tariffs on, for example, German cars, this will, of course, cause a lot of damage for German industry. So you would see a massive development now to try to deal with this and to try to keep trade as open as possible. AMANPOUR: So that's for that aspect. What about the political aspect? Because all we have heard from European Leaders is that they are very concerned about a so-called "run on the bank". I don't mean literally, although you can see what's happening to the sterling right now. But in terms of other similar movements in Europe, doing the same kind of thing?

CLEPPE: Well, there's exchange rate volatility. But I don't think this is directly related to the health of the banking system. However, the political fallout will be enormous.


Basically, what has happened is that British people have not expressed so much desire against the idea of trades. Those ultimately responsible for all of this are to be found in Brussels. They have basically diverted a project that was oriented on removing trade barriers into something that was much more political, a project that was intent on mingling into national budget decisions into organizing transfers between European countries and even intermingling into what is a sensitive issue all over the world, asylum policy.

AMANPOUR: So we have already heard in the run-up to this vote the very powerful German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble saying that there is not going to be an ever closer more Europe response to this. Because he said people will think we're nuts if we go into that. That we haven't heard what the British people have said. So what are they going to do? You just say, you know, it's up to Europe to fix itself. How will that happen? How can you see that happen? Is it possible?

CLEPPE: Well, European Council President Donald Tusk has already committed that within a few months there will be a major conclave to deal with the future of the European Inion. And then I think when the E.U. asks itself the question, "Why are we so unpopular?" The obvious conclusion is not that it provides a framework so cheap airlines can offer services all over the continent. People tend to like that aspect of the E.U. So the E.U. should keep that aspect.

But clearly, people don't like interventions into very sensitive national budget policy, which is closely interrelated with democracy, also transfers asylum policy. These kinds of aspects of the E.U. project should be ditched to put it bluntly.

AMANPOUR: Pieter Cleppe of the Open Europe there in Brussels, thanks for joining me. We go back to Hala and Richard in the studio now.

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