period to ensure a smooth separation process between britain and the rest of the european union. she's promised to meet the uk's budget commitment. prominent figures elsewhere in the eu have praised her tone but asked for more detail. us officials say intense rain and flash floods have caused a dam to fail in puerto rico, causing an "extremely dangerous" situation. tens of thousands of people are being evacuated. hurricane maria brought torrential rain, swelling rivers to record levels, and knocking out power to the whole island. the people of new zealand are voting in a general election. the prime minister, bill english from the conservative national party is fighting to stay in office. he's faced a determined opposition. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk.
welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. has the eu got its mojo back? after a bleak decade of economic stagnation, internal dysfunction and public discontent, officials in brussels claim the tide has turned, but is there really a renewed appetite for deeper european integration while britain is still fumbling for the exit door? my guest is former italian prime minister, eu commissioner and ardent integrationist mario monti. are reports of the eu's revival somewhat premature? mario monti, welcome to hardtalk. pleasure.
why is there a new integrationist spirit abroad in the european union? i don't quite understand it. last year i was writing articles and giving speeches on the process of disintegration of the eu. which looked very real as a prospect. which looked very real. the main reason why it looked real last year was, in my view, the cynical behaviour of most heads of governments of member states concerning the eu. they went to brussels to take together decisions supposedly in the interests of the eu, but really each of them was narrowly minded on his or her domestic affairs. essentially with a selfish perspective. i would put it to you that hasn't changed at all, whether it be on migration issues,
whether it be on basic economic issues, or of course, let's not forget it, brexit as well. there are all these issues were the dis—integrationist principle still seems to be alive and kicking. i don't completely agree with you because the various heads of governments have become much more prudent in playing with the eu for domestic purposes. you know why? because they have seen the catastrophic outcome of the most cynical of them all on the occasion, prime minister cameron. he played with the eu, certainly not in the general interests of europe, not in the national interest of the uk, which would have been very noble, not in the general interest of the conservative party. hang on. what right do you have to call it a catastrophic decision? first of all it hasn't happened yet, second of all the british economy
is doing 0k. the catastrophic outcome for mr cameron himself. that's certainly true. but in terms of the lessons learned by the decision of the british people to vote to leave the european union, but other indicators we've seen, not least in opinion polls across europe, of deep disconsent of many european peoples with the european union and its institutions, i just wonder why you and more particularly i suppose jean—claude juncker, the president of the european commission, are talking about launching a new wave of deeper institutional integration. it seems you haven't learned the lessons of the last ten years. well, of course the president of the commission, jean—claude juncker, insists very much on institutional integration. to remind people, he wants a finance minister, he wants pan—eu taxes, he wants a defence union, all of this much deeper federalising institutional rearrangement.
can i correct you when you say the public opinion across europe has turned and the eu because of brexit. on the contrary. in all member states except italy i'm afraid, the public opinion on europe has improved after the 23rd ofjune last year, also because people have seen for the first time that once the temptation to go alone prevails, then it is terribly difficult. we have seen a whole political apparatus in the uk fading away. a disconnect between the public administration and the politicians. we, i, we in continental europe, have always been great admirers of the anglo—saxon system in the uk, in the us, as the kingdom of rationality, pragmatism, ability to found decisions
on good analysis. for some reason, in both places, in a matter of a few months, this wonderful situation, which i hope will come back soon for both of them, and also in the interests of europe, has passively vanished. let's not get stuck on brexit, let's look at whatjuncker said in that state of the union speech at the european parliament, he talked about extending the eurozone right across the member states so there couldn't be members in and members out. he said we've got to spread the currency further, tax harmonisation, a real eu president. he came up with all these different reforms and, to quote the dutch prime minister, who, is part of a country who is committed to
the european union, mark rutte said, "mrjuncker is a romantic but i am more of a when you have visions go and see a doctor kind of guy." what a damning a indictment ofjuncker and what some are calling his fairytales. mr rutte, who is a tremendous prime minister, isn't perhaps the bestjudge. he himself campaigned for the european union and in march he was able to contain what was expected to be a much larger electoral success... that is precisely my point, he's not a traditional eurosceptic but he's a man who listens to people like jean—claude juncker, and i have to say yourself too, the insistent and consistent integrationist confederalists and say, that's not what the european people want any more. we will see in the various elections. after brexit i and many others were fearing a round of similar results. this has not been the case. we have seen the dutch case, we have seen france.
it's amazing what macron has done, jumping against all the positions of marine le pen. by the way, i'm not jean—claude juncker, i'm a modest private citizen right now. i do not want more institutional and deeper integration in all aspects of eu life. but in certain aspects. i give you one example. i was competition commissioner in the early 2000s. a major reform we put in place in 2004 was the decentralisation of eu competition policy. it's now done no longer out of a high cathedral in brussels, the european commission, but through a network which comprises all the national competition authorities and it
works marvellously well. in other areas, though, like the policy on refugees, the policy on migration, the fight against climate change, and some aspects of tax harmonisation, you speak of tax harmonisation... yes, not me, jean—claude juncker does. let me quote to you, because it's a rather neat quote, der spiegel, a respected german news organisation, they editorialised saying, "have we not learned from the lesson of greece? there is no convergence of europe, economic reform and efficiencies haven't closed the productivity gap between north and south and the euro precludes the weakest southern economies devaluing to gain competitiveness. " there is still this fundamental
lack of convergence inside the european union that all this talk of new fiscal integration ignores. why are the greeks, in spite of many problems, which by the way largely generated through decades of bad government in greece, not by the euro. the euro was the litmus test of all the misconduct in their economy, the greeks have in their public opinion a high favour for europe. you aren't really addressing my point. you said yourself in a recent statement, you said year after year the eu countries of north and south mistrust each other more and more. yes, absolutely. i do not see the eu as a paradise, you may believe i do, i don't, i don't.
i've been working a long time from within the eu, from within italy, to make things better. but the mistrust is there and it's a fundamental problem, and in my view, to overcome this mistrust, it's not so much the institutional reforms that we need, but it is some concrete policy change. for example, the germans should become slightly more open and accept a wider and better treatment for public investments under the fiscal rules throughout europe. and, on the other hand, the southern countries, like italy, should stop asking always for greater and greater flexibility in sort of circumventing the rules. it's interesting you talk about the germans. of course we're speaking on the eve of a german election where mrs merkel is widely expected to get re—elected. there is talk of the revival of the franco—german motor driving europe forward, but if you look specifically at what macron
and merkel have said about their vision of the next phase of european reform, they're not actually quite on the same page, are they? do you see the french and the germans acting in lockstep or do you see the differences between them? the differences are considerable. but i must say i have seen, because i was there with them at the same table, i've seen two franco—german couples at work. the sarkozy—merkel and hollande—merkel couples. of the three, i think macron is the one who is, number one, willing to risk more in terms of domestic reforms and budgetary consolidation, which is good for france and good to open up germany. and secondly, he has a vision for europe which does not coincide 100% with that of merkel. that's the point.
the french it seems have huge ambition for a much more integrated tax and spend policy across the european union, with a very powerful treasury and finance minister based in brussels. the germans are still deeply suspicious of that because they fear that means the highly successful german taxpayer will be on the hook for the irresponsible behaviours of countries such as yours, italy, and of course greece and many others too. and the germans won't stand for it. and mrs merkel in the end is the key player and power in the european union. no question about this.
of course, now you are integrating europe much more than you believe because you put greece and italy on the same account. italy has been the only country in southern europe to have come out of the eurozone financial crisis five years ago without asking for any support from germany or any other countries. and already in the spring of 2013, italy came out of the so—called excessive deficit procedure because we were below the 3%. i don't want to spend too long on italy but all i'll say is you've still got a lot of dodgy banks and a national debt more than 130% of your national income, you are still in a profound mess in italy and should a few things go wrong in europe over the next year or two, you might not just be in a mess but in a severe financial crisis.
so the situation of italy financially, when i was asked to become prime minister in november 2011, was way above today, in terms of gravity, and we have come out without asking for help from europe or the imf. in a funny sort of way, i'm less interested in that now well—established fault line between the north of europe and the south. i am actually really interested in the fault line between the mainstream of the original european member states and those in the east, central europe and the east, who are the accession members... i agree, that is now the real problem. ..where, you know, we see for example just to quote the polish prime minister, he says, "if measures are now being considered to create the eurozone's own political structures, talk of a finance minister, a common budget, an investment programme for the eurozone, this could end up splitting the eu, it could spell the end of the eu, because the poles for one simply won't wear it." well, maybe the poles one day
will decide to leave the eu. would you like them too? no, no. given what you see from eastern europe today, the visegrad four, and all of their objections to migration policy and, you know, the pan—european approach to all sorts of issues — are you sick of the east europeans? not at all but have a look at their public opinion polls. some of these governments, like in poland and hungary, are certainly, as governments, really bad partners of the eu, they depart from the common values, et cetera, but look at their public opinion polls. they are among the warmest... exactly, they‘ re actually very popular. no, public opinion... mr 0rban is very popular. public opinion polls on the european union... oh, but no, never mind that, i'm more interested in the real polls that come with elections. mr 0rban wins elections, with a very sceptical, negative approach to much of what the eu does. when it comes to an assessment
of whether the integrationist ambitions of people like commission chiefjunker are realistic, one has to remember that the poles, the hungarians and maybe the slovaks and the czechs as well, have the ability to block reform and it looks as though they will, so yet again we are looking at a dysfunctional eu. it is, sir, precisely, if the eu is not to be an overarching empire suppressing national will, there will be always member states which will be able, if they want, to block certain decisions because it's not a dictatorship coming out of brussels. this is all the beauty and the difficulty of constructing a european union. if you want my view, it will never be the united states of europe. i don't want it to be
the united states of europe. will it be a multispeed europe? it is already. well, it has got several speeds but it could go to all sorts of different levels, on all sorts of different issues, whether it be freedom of movement or whether it be schengen, whether it be, um, fiscal consolidation. to a larger sense it is already. you could have sorts of different groupings and different platforms — what a confusing mess it would be. well, with all respect, i hope we will be able to call this country, in the future forever and ever, the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland. but i see here, too, very vigorous signals of fragmentation and of profound differences of opinion as to the identity, as to be idea of what the uk should be relative to europe.
so this is a much wider problem which does not simply concern the european union. look, president trump, when he was elected, he almost explicitly set out to destroy european integration. you think? you think that was a motive for his? he largely said so he invited 0rban, farage. and his advisers said, well, one predecessor of ours, president reagan, was able to disintegrate, and that is true, the soviet union, with the help of europe, but he was very successful in disintegrating the soviet union. now perhaps it is the turn of the european union. one year, less than one yeaafter that, well, one year, less than one year after that, well,
i'm afraid, he is quicker in disintegrating the united states of america. believe me, we spend plenty of time what is happening in the us. we have already alluded to the impact of brexit and we cannot end this interview without going into a little more detail. you are, if i may say so, very well—connected in european capitals, you talk to a lot of the current leaderships in europe. theresa may appears to believe that she can offer a certain amount of money, and it now seems it is around 20 billion euros, to tell europe, look, that will mean that your eu budget, through the 2020, will be fine, we will give you this money as we leave, in 2019, and as a result will you please give us preferential access to the single market, customs union and make sure we have a smooth transition. is that going to work? no. it's not going to work. we will see what the prime minister says in florence but there is a bit of a misconception there, at least in the public opinion in the uk, that the sum to be put up
is a fine for having decided to divorce, is a penalty, is a punishment. nothing at all. by the way, i think that the eu will be considerably worse without the uk. not only because it will be smaller, because there will be some gap in the budget, but if you want my view, largely because a voice which has always been the strongest and the loudest, in terms of proposing opening gaps, globalisation, market and competitions, will no longer be there. that will be a loss also to the eu so i'm farfrom happy, of course, of this departure. but the sum is not — it's simply the mechanical consequence of the uk complying with the obligations that, like other member states,
it has taken for the future. what you see and what you hear, does it lead you to suggest that there is going to be what we in britain are calling the hard brexit? that is britain walks away, in march, 2019, with no deal negotiated and with, in essence, britain then just playing by world trade organization rules when it comes to trading with the european union? no special deals or access at all? is that what's going to happen? it can happen. it can happen and it is urgent to avoid that happening. and i think it will, again, be bad for the eu, bad for the uk. i think if the uk wants to be part of the single market, benefiting from it, et cetera — which i understand is a paradox — the paradox is that the single market in europe is a british conservative creation —
it was margaret thatcher, and now a british conservative government...it‘s a paradox. but isn't the truth today, from the european union, that the leaderships in all of the different member states believe they cannot and will not give britain a good deal because they feel a good deal will send a signal to other european citizens that actually, you know what, it's ok to leave, to exit, because you can still have a strong economy and a good life without the obligations and duties that come with being an eu member. well, if the notion of a good deal from the uk side is that one, that cannot be a good deal. already, the deal that was achieved by mr cameron, in february, last year, a few months before the referendum, on the basis of which he went to the referendum, in my view, was an excessive concession.
will there be a positive negotiated settlement, do you believe, to make sure that brexit is a smooth transition, or not? if commonsense prevails, there will be. i see that we are not yet there at commonsense and if you allow me, as always a great admirer of the uk and its positive influence on europe, i believe that the distance between the current positions and commonsense is greater this side of the channel than in brussels. we have to end there. mario monti, thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you very much. the autumn equinox may be behind us now but the weather is feeling reasonably summery for some of us over the weekend. this was the scene on friday afternoon.
as we head through the course of the weekend, many of us will have largely dry conditions, particularly on saturday. by sunday there will be rain heading into the west of the uk and temperatures will be on the rise as well. as low pressure sets out towards the north—west with tight isobars here but at the moment high—pressure is dominating the south—east. as we start saturday morning, there will be a little cloud and drizzly rain across southern parts of the country. some low cloud, mist and murk first thing. it should brighten up during the day. if we have a look at saturday morning, nine o'clock, after a chilly start in scotland and northern ireland it should be dry and reasonably bright with a little sunshine into northern england and a little more cloud and drizzle and hill fog across the southern half of england and south wales. waking up to a grey morning here but certainly mild, fair weather as it brightens up during the day. a fresh start for northern
parts of the country, moving towards the south. through the course of the morning this cloud and drizzly spots of rain willjust ease towards the east. for many of us it will brighten, particularly along the south later in the day. a little more cloud pushing into northern england and scotland and the breeze picking up across northern ireland. all in all, a decent day with temperatures for most of us around 17 to 19 degrees. it should feel quite pleasant. into saturday evening, most places end the day on a dry note. on saturday night and into sunday you will notice a band of rain working towards the west. that is a weather front and the breeze peaks as well. across much of england and wales you should begin the day on a dry note once again. it will be mild, certainly. through the day on sunday, the weather front tries to move in from the west, bumps into high pressure in the east so it will tend to fizzle out somewhat during the course of the morning. there will be some rain for northern ireland, scotland perhaps the western fringes of wales in england. later in the day, a chance
of a few heavy bursts working in but further east across much of england and wales remains dry and bright and pretty warm. 22, 20 three degrees in the sunshine. just a little cooler in the north—west. we still have a weather front lingering around on monday that will fizzle out during the day. the east should stay warm and dry with temperatures 19 or 20 degrees. hello and welcome to bbc news, i'm duncan golestani. britain's prime minister has tried to inject new energy into the brexit talks with a distinctly warmer tone in a key speech in italy. theresa may says she wants the uk to be the eu's strongest friend and partner, and has called for a two—year transition deal after britain officially leaves the eu. 0ur political editor, laura kuenssberg, has this report from florence. waiting, waiting and waiting. it's months since the prime minister gave anything away on brexit.