The current frontrunner in the race to be PM is pursuing reckless politics in the Johnsonian style
As her opponent in the race to become prime minister has not infrequently pointed out, Liz Truss voted remain. To Rishi Sunak’s chagrin, this heretical past (and an earlier disreputable association with the Lib Dems) has failed to unduly disconcert Conservative party members. Ms Truss has confessed to error and now pursues the ever elusive benefits of Brexit with the zeal of a convert. Unfortunately for the former chancellor, who needs to come from behind in the polls, the transformation appears plausible because Ms Truss’s political style – if not her past policies – gels naturally with the disruptive vibe of Vote Leave.
This week, this “move fast and break things” approach arguably led to Ms Truss’s first major misstep of the leadership contest. An ill thought out but radical sounding policy to slash civil service wages outside London was withdrawn within hours, after a predictably furious response from “red wall” Tories. But if Mr Sunak fails to capitalise on the moment, it will confirm the continued hegemony of what one might call the “insurgent style” in British politics.
Despite serving three successive Tory prime ministers in five cabinet positions, culminating in her current role as foreign secretary, Ms Truss has successfully cast herself as the “change” candidate in the party leadership race. To pull this off, she has shown a considerable appetite for confrontation (she blamed media misrepresentation for Tuesday’s policy fiasco) and a gymnastic gift for repositioning. Mr Sunak’s traditional Thatcherite focus on deficit-cutting has been derided as part of a failed “orthodoxy” in the Treasury, where Ms Truss served for two years as chief secretary (after previously backing the austerity policies of the Osborne era). The Northern Ireland protocol bill has become an anti-Brussels totem to brandish before the members as evidence of crusading authenticity. At the second hustings in Exeter on Monday, Ms Truss spoke about the EU in terms more appropriate to discussing Vladimir Putin’s Russia, suggesting that: “We’ve learned from history that there is only one thing the EU understands and that is strength.”
To a country facing rampant inflation, possible recession, an accelerating climate crisis and an ever-more threatening energy crunch, Ms Truss and Mr Sunak offer different kinds of wrong answers. Mr Sunak’s dry economic instincts are hopelessly inappropriate for the times, and are already leading to a shortfall in the assistance needed to help those suffering at the sharp end. Ms Truss’s libertarian iconoclasm, and distrust of the state and public sector – at a time when collective solidarity and solutions are required – would sow division and social strife. But her status as favourite as voting begins – bolstered by the support of supposedly moderate figures such as Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat – suggests that aggressively paraded convictions and having it both ways still cuts through, however contradictory and inconsistent the claims being made.
Disastrously, this brand of politics has come to dominate since the Brexit referendum. It enables Ms Truss to pledge to curtail Britain’s economic dependency on China, Britain’s third-largest trading partner, while simultaneously risking a trade war with its biggest, the EU. In the middle of a cost of living crisis. If the tone is right – a kind of belligerent boosterism which condemns all criticism as “talking Britain down” – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t add up. Boris Johnson pioneered this style in Downing Street. For the time being, it seems that a majority of Tory party members may be minded to go again.
A new report by the ex-leader of Tory MEPs, Lord Timothy Kirkhope, today warns Mr Johnson’s plan for a new UK-only rulebook on data security could cut Britain off from the free exchange of information within Europe, and undermine protections against international crime and terrorism.
Businesses could be locked out of lucrative markets and may relocate outside the UK in order to avoid the additional barriers to trade, while police and security agencies could lose access to vital information on suspects’ criminal records, fingerprints, DNA or car registrations, the report warns.
Author Lord Kirkhope, who led the Conservative group in the European Parliament for six years and played a key role in drawing up the EU’s GDPR data security system, told The Independent that Mr Johnson’s “ideological” proposals appeared to be driven by the impulse to demonstrate benefits from Brexit.
And he said Johnson’s lighter-touch regulatory system could mean personal data ending up in the hands of corporations without citizens’ consent, in a way which is prevented by GDPR.
Former home secretary Amber Rudd cautioned against allowing UK agencies to be locked out of EU-wide security arrangements, such as the Prüm convention on co-operation in the fight against counter-terrorism and cross-border crime, which rely on data adequacy agreements with Brussels.
Backing the report, she said: “In the interests of security, both for the UK and the EU, we should seek to maintain the free flow of data.
“As a former home secretary, I saw for myself just how important it was to have access to Prüm, the European Criminal Records Information System and other databases to help tackle serious crime.”
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Lord Kirkhope stressed he was not taking sides in the Tory leadership race and hoped both contenders would favour “pragmatism” over a commitment to tearing up ties with Brussels.
But he said: “I hear Liz Truss saying ‘we can get rid of all this EU red tape’. Getting rid of the EU red tape in relation to data would seriously harm business and in international terms would make us stick out like a sore thumb and be less attractive to investors.”
His warning was backed by the Institute of Directors, whose director of policy Roger Barker said: "The pursuit of regulatory divergence from the EU for its own sake makes little sense to business.
“Maintaining a high level of equivalence between the EU and UK data protection regimes is highly desirable for UK business, given the huge magnitude of UK-EU imports and exports that depend on the free flow of data. The government has yet to persuasively demonstrate how regulatory divergence on data protection would deliver a net benefit to UK business"
And the British Chambers of Commerce said that the “data adequacy” agreement reached with the EU in 2021 provides “a vital foundation for continued data flows between both markets” and the UK government should be careful not to put it at risk.
Head of trade policy William Bain told The Independent: “Business would need to see a full impact assessment, details of proposed phase-in periods, and legal guarantees that any plans for regulatory divergence would be commensurate with maintaining our data adequacy relationship with the EU.”
While acknowledging business gripes that GDPR is “overly restrictive”, Lord Kirkhope said there was no appetite from industry to add another competing enforcement system.
“I can’t see a situation where if we’re going to do our own thing, we wouldn’t have to be at least as tough and probably with less flexibility than we have now,” he said.
“In the present economic climate, anything that actually has an adverse effect on our trade really seems to me to be completely unacceptable.”
And he was backed by Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who urged whichever of Sunak or Truss becomes the next prime minister to abandon Mr Johnson’s approach.
“Free flow of data is essential: for our economy, for our national security and for the future relationship between the UK and the EU,” said Mr Grieve.
You might have heard that Boris Johnson is resigning. Let me give you a bit of an inside scoop. The real story? It’s about how a wave of nationalism, verging suspiciously on fascism, swept the globe. And reached right into the heart of what were once considered civilized countries — like Britain.
Pity poor Britain. Never has a country once so envied fallen so low, so fast. Never, too, has a country fallen for a Big Lie so eagerly — one which has left it shattered.
Let me begin with the comedy. Scandal after scandal — of incredible proportions — couldn’t bring Boris down. He had a Trumpian spell on the British working class — despite being a toff, an elite, of the textbook variety. For some reason — was it the goofy hair? The winsome smile? the Fawlty Towers level comedy routines? The bad jokes? Nobody could figure it out. The demagogue held the working class, and much of the middle class in, in the palm of his finely manicured hand — just below the sleeve of his Savile Row suit.
The joke, thought, wasn’t even to be on Britain. It was to become Britain.
Just some of the scandals? The time when Johnson was investigated for giving a woman — who said she’d had an affair with him — public funds for her tech firm. Then there was the time he ignored a report that the Home Secretary had breached ministerial conduct. Then of course there was the time his aide was found to have breached lockdown to go to a castle. And of course, there was Partygate, where it turned out Johnson’s government was busy having parties while the nation was in lockdown, unable to even visit their families in hospital. (By the way, that makes Johnson the first PM to have broken the law while in office, and his punishment for it? A £50 fine.) This behaviour led the government’s anti-corruption tsar to resign in disgust.
But what brought Boris, down, finally, was one of those things that, for a reason nobody can quite say, finally turns the tide. A scandal that’s actually funny. Boris appointed a man named Chris Pincher as the Chief Whip. Pincher, it turned out, had been accused of groping men. Boris, it appeared, lied about not knowing that bit. The inside joke? “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.”
Imagine. After all the scandals. Groping was what brought Boris down. No wonder the world laughs at Britain. Don’t woke police me and say I’m making light of sexual assault. It’s surreally comical. Pincher? Come on.
All that, though, is almost besides the point. What really destroyed Britain?
Boris was elected for a very simple reason. To, as he said, and the gullible masses willingly believed, to “Get Brexit Done.” How did Boris try to get Brexit done? By proceeding to rip up the very Brexit deal that…Britain had agreed on…with the EU. That deal meant there had to be customs borders in Ireland. That was proving too costly for Britain. Britain wanted to be back in the EU, and have frictionless trade again — it just couldn’t admit it.
How head-shakingly stupid is that? Infuriatingly backwards? Why was Britain trying desperately to undo Brexit…to “get Brexit done”?
Because it was a Big Lie. Brexit.
And nobody could deliver it. Hence, Britain had cycled furiously, pathetically, through a series of the most disastrous governments in modern history, in any country. David Cameron, who foolishly made Brexit happen, Theresa May, who tried to figure out how to deliver it, then Boris, who vowed to get it done…by undoing the very deal he’d signed just a few short months back.
What does the above tell you? That even Britain was desperately trying to “get Brexit done” by — LOL — undoing Brexit? Brexit can’t be done. Ever. It is as it always was, a Big Lie. Brits won’t like me saying that, but…what does that say about them?
When people are seduced by Big Lies, you see — they don’t often want to admit they were wrong. And yet today, the majority of Brits oppose Brexit. They’re being thoroughly sensible. They’re beginning to understand the head-shattering calamity of it. To illustrate to you, just think.
Imagine that your country was…in the EU. That you could buy European goods, at European prices. That means everything from the world’s best food to its finest fashion to ultra high quality manufactured goods to musical instruments to medicine and beyond. Goods of incredibly high standards, from French cheese to German machinery…tax, duty, tariff free. Most people in the world would celebrate in a giant roar. For Americans, who pay immense prices for terrible food to criminal banking…it’d be a massive, massive boon. It’d be a lot like almost living in Europe.
But now imagine that because your country was in the EU, you could go and live in it. Anywhere in it. Not just live, but belong to it, as in enjoy the privileges of being an EU citizen, which includes healthcare, retirement, media, transport, and so on. Americans? They’re desperate, the smart ones, to find ways to move to Europe. It’s almost impossible for them — and yet they try and try because the standard of living is so much immensely higher. Imagine being able to just..go…and live in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Holland.
That’s what Britain gave up.
Is the utter insanity of Brexit becoming clearer to you? Who on earth would give all that up? Why? What force in the world could convince people all that was a bad thing? If I went to any country in the world — literally any country, from India to Chile to Mali to America — and told people “now you have the right to just go and live and work anywhere in Europe you like,” can you imagine what the result would be? Cheers of disbelief and roars of life-changing delight.
People would be thrilled, and that’s an understatement. So how did Brits end up painfully stupid enough to think all that was a bad thing?
Big Lies. They were told, through a series of carefully orchestrated, viciously planned, ultra sophisticated propaganda campaigns that…Europe was the bad guy. An enemy, a rival, an adversary. A cheater and liar and thief, even. Lie after lie — like leaving the EU would deliver back hundreds of millions of pounds a week to the NHS, Britain’s National Health Service (What? Why? the EU doesn’t take money from the NHS and never has!), or that the EU was ripping off towns in the heartland (in fact it was a net investor), or…the biggest, most foolish one of all, other trade and movement deals would replace the EU and be even better for Brits.
What happened next? Brits had been reduced to shattered lives at this point, wrecked by a austerity, conservative governments slashing budgets, unemployment rising, living standards free falling. What do desperate people growing poorer do? Believe the Big Lies.
Big Lies are about scapegoats. How do you get people to believe something as incredibly foolish as “the right to live and work in the EU is a bad thing?” You scapegoat Europeans for their problems. And that is what the Brexiters, clever as Mephistopheles, did.
Brits didn’t know they were signing a deal with the devil, though. They just hurriedly penned their signatures on the bottom line — and then, when the devil said so, began to sneer at Europeans in spite and hatred. Europeans — gentle and friendly people — were baffled by all this. They hate us? Since when? But why?
The effects of Brexit, at this point, can’t be overstated. Trade’s cratered. Businesses have shut down. People can’t retire or study in Europe just like that anymore. As a result, Britain has the poorest economic performance of any rich country, by a very, very long way. Even worse than America. That’s what happens when you suddenly break up with your biggest trading partner for no reason. It’d be like America dumping China, if China was a nice, happy, civilized social democracy with excellent coffee and fine museums.
But nobody can say the word Brexit in Britain now. Because the Big Lie still has to be told. Even the opposition won’t come out against Brexit. Somebody still has to…get Brexit done.
The truth — which stands against the Big Lie — is this. Nobody will ever be able to get Brexit done. Ever. What is Britain, without the EU? It’s a small island. A medium sized economy. Which doesn’t make much, doesn’t do much, and doesn’t offer the world much. Its culture industry — music and film and literature and dance and so forth — is by far its greatest asset, but that’s not really bought and sold per se, except in Harry Potter books. Mostly, people take it with them — star actors and directors and so forth. Britain without Europe…isn’t much.
That’s OK. What would, I don’t know, Holland be without Europe? Again, not a whole lot. That’s not meant to sound mean. It’s the point of a union. Nations come together and form larger political entities precisely to provide public goods and make trade easier and create more opportunities for people.
But Britain, out of hubris, arrogance, the pride of a lost empire, can’t accept this humble truth.
And so increasingly absurd things are happening. The idea was to “level up.”
Let me translate Brexit doublespeak for you: that means signing trade and movement deals with “other” countries apart from the EU. Only Britain found, LOL, that nobody much was interested. The US rejected it, and so it went hat in hand to individual states. And even those weren’t interested. So far, the only state that’s signed a deal with Britain is Indiana. LOL — I hope Brits like corn.
How about deals for movement, replacing the right to live and work in the EU? Well, apparently nobody much wants Brits, either. The only one of those deals Britain’s signed is to…uh… “send”…refugees…to Rwanda. Rwanda is a dictatorship, a faux democracy whose President plans to be in power for thirty years. Its human rights scores are abysmal. If anyone but a government decided to “send” refugees to Rwanda — against their will — we’d call it “human trafficking.” But hey, when you make the law, I guess you can call it what you like.
To add the Fawlty-Towers-meets-1984 level of dark comedy of all this, Boris appointed Britain’s first “Leveling Up” Minister. Brexit requires its whole own level of doublespeak. The newly created position of Levelling Up Minister’s job is to try to find, desperately, trade and movement deals, with a world that laughs at Britain, when it isn’t yawning at it. Nobody can do that job, because it can’t be done. What is Britain going to sell the world, exactly? Can you think of a single thing it even still makes? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
So the Leveling Up Minister goes out there every few weeks, and sternly announces: “We’re Leveling Up!” Nobody even asks anymore what the hell it means. Even the media’s complicit in this bizarre charade, all of it. Nobody even says: “My man, even a country like Pakistan would laugh at the idea of a ‘Levelling Up’ Minister.”
The Leveling Up Minister is there to hide the truth, really. The bitter poisonous one. Brexit didn’t level Britain up — it leveled it down. It was a member of the most sophisticated, powerful, wealthy, and advanced political union in human history. Lucky that. One of a very, very small number of members. Most of the world’s nations — even America — would have given their eyeteeth for that privilege. But not being a member of this exclusive club? Going it alone, in a world beset by everything from climate change to ecological collapse to fascism to inflation? It’s rough out there.
Going it alone for Britain would be like, I don’t know, Joe Pesci deciding to leave the mob. George Costanza trying his own hand at stand up comedy. Like when Jermaine — not Michael — Jackson left the Five. And trying to make it in the world all alone for Brits is kind of like France deciding to give free guns to everyone. They’d sit around at the bistros, baffled, wondering, what the hell do I with this, butter it and eat it? Brits are just as baffled now.
Britain isn’t America, though it often thinks of itself that way. But it doesn’t have an Apple, Google, a Manhattan or Silicon Valley, a Californian agriculture, a Midwestern Plains, an East Coast full of Ivy Leagues. Britain doesn’t have the power centers America does, and its economy is a fraction of the size. Britain’s more like one of America’s states. Imagine, I don’t know, Ohio trying to make it in the world on its own. Good luck, Cincinnati. Well, I don’t know — these days, maybe Ohio would be better off without Texas, but I digress. The point is that Britain is not really a global superpower anymore. And it’s finding that truth out the hard way.
It’s OK not to be a superpower. Better, even. Canada? Amazing, wonderful place, full of sane, thoughtful people. And poutine. Excellent. Great. Everyone has a great life, more or less. It’s totally OK to be a boring, average country, in that sense. What’s foolish, though, is leveling down.
Britain’s story goes kind of like this. Not so long ago, it was a member of the world’s most exclusive club. Someone slipped it a pill, and told it life was way, way better out there. It lost its senses. It threw a huge tantrum, insulted everyone in the club, smashed a few bottles against the wall, puked on the sofa, and then proceeded to throwing itself out on the street, homeless. And now it doesn’t like life out there on its own. It’s not so nice on the street all alone, now that the delirious euphoria of the pill of Big Lies is wearing off. So it’s doing something like this: trying to knock down the door of the club, shouting at it that it doesn’t want to be let back in.
Fawlty Towers has nothing on Britain 2022. Its most recent sane PM — Gordon Brown — described it recently as a “failing state.” That’s what leveling down means. Brown — and even the much maligned Blair — have been the only ones, really, out there telling Brits the truth about what happened to them. They fell for a Big Lie — the biggest since the 1930s. And though the effects of the pill are beginning to wear off, the consequences of its fatal mistake aren’t. Nobody can get Brexit done. Ever. That’s exactly why even Boris ended up trying to break the EU’s door down, while screaming at it that he didn’t want to be part of the club anymore. And that’s why, in the end, he had to resign, too.
Because the only people who can keep selling a Big Lie to a country? Are liars. Boris was undone by lies, in the end — lying about “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.” When a nation is still attached, even if half-heartedly, to a Big Lie, it can only be led by liars.
This is the most fatal, damning consequence of Brexit of all. The one Brits still don’t understand. The link they don’t get, and don’t see. Brexit has undone them from the inside, destroying the integrity of their democracy, because Big Lies need liars, just like hate needs demagogues. Even though Boris is going — the Big Lie? Well, that’s staying.
And so Britain’s future, my friends, is a downward spiral. The one which began with Cameron’s Brexit, continued with May’s confusion, and proceeded through Johnson’s chicanery. It doesn’t end here — because neither does the Big Lie. A new liar is needed, and will soon enough emerge. So this, for Britain, is social collapse, too, just like in America. But do Brits get it yet?
Breeding programmes designed to save critically endangered species are being jeopardised by Brexit, with zoos warning they are being prevented from transferring animals such as rhinos and giraffes by red tape created by the UK’s departure from the EU.
Zoos’ small populations mean it is essential that they swap animals for breeding programmes to keep the gene pool as broad as possible.
Before 31 December 2020, an average year saw about 1,400 transfers between the UK and other EU countries. But in 2021 there were just 56, and so far this year there have been 84, according to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza).
Data shows that just 43,000 EU citizens received visas for work, family, study or other purposes in 2021, a fraction of the 230,000 to 430,000 EU citizens coming to the UK a year in the six years to March 2020, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.
The United Kingdom has lodged a dispute with the European Union over its exclusion from the bloc's scientific research programs.
The British government said in a statement late on Tuesday that it had had applied to join several programs back in 2020, but had been met with "persistent delays."
"The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicize vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programs," UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
The dispute marks the first legal proceedings launched by the UK against the EU since Brexit.
The dispute stems back to a December 2020 trade agreement which provided British scientists with a way to take part in range of EU programs including Horizon Europe, the €95.5 billion ($97 billion) fund for research grants, Copernicus, the earth observation program, and Euratom, the nuclear research program.
The agreement was designed to continue cross-border scientific collaboration after Brexit. However, the trade accord does not oblige the EU to include the UK in specific programs, nor does it specify a deadline.
Although both sides said the agreement was "mutually beneficial," relations have soured 18 months on, particularly over the post-Brexit agreement covering trade in Northern Ireland.
European Commission spokesperson Daniel Ferrie said the body "takes note of the UK's request for consultation and will follow up on this in line with the applicable rules, as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement."
zc/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Liz Truss is said to be considering a bold move to trigger Article 16 action against the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol next month if she wins the Conservative leadership contest.
The foreign secretary – strong favourite to become the next PM on 5 September – is mulling whether to invoke the mechanism in a potential escalation of the post-Brexit row with Brussels.
Triggering Article 16 immediately would allow the UK to unilaterally suspend all or parts of the protocol agreed in the Brexit deal before a September 15 deadline of legal action by the EU.
Liz Truss is contemplating the move “within days” of entering No 10 if she defeats Rishi Sunak in the Tory race, according to the Financial Times – citing several government insiders.
The world remembers the hyperinflation that undermined the Weimar Republic a century ago; only older Germans recall the hyperinflation after the Second World War, which lasted longer. For three years Germany’s only stable currency was American cigarettes.
The EU has warned the incoming British prime minister, likely to be Liz Truss, that any unilateral action to scrap part of the Brexit deal is legally and politically of “great concern” across the continent.
The warning by the European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, comes just days before the new prime minister is expected to confirm they will press ahead with new laws to dismantle the arrangements for Northern Ireland.
Truss and Sunak have both committed to carrying through with the Northern Ireland protocol bill in their leadership campaigns, despite the threat of a retaliatory trade war with the EU.
“The unilateral action is naturally of great concern,” Šefčovič told an audience that included invited ministers from the British and Irish governments.
“It is not for the UK government alone to change our bilateral agreement and modify the conditions under which goods can enter the EU’s single market and reach our consumers.”
He added: “This is simply legally and politically inconceivable. The clear breach of international law is extremely damaging to mutual trust and respect between the EU and the UK.”
Speaking at the British and Irish Association conference in Oxford, Šefčovič said the two agreements the UK has with the EU were founded on “trust” and depended on “legally binding commitments being respected”.
“There are no two ways about this,” he said, adding that a unilateral move would send a signal to the rest of the world that the UK leadership is not interested in cooperation with the EU at a precarious time of war and a cost of living crisis.
He also put forward a counter-narrative to Truss, who claimed earlier this year that the UK had no option but to take unilateral action because talks over 18 months had come to nothing.
Šefčovič said the UK had failed to engage with proposals the EU made in October or the prospect of further compromises beyond those plans. “In short they were dismissed without consideration. The UK has not even engaged in any meaningful discussions with us since February,” he said.
“They are not a ‘take it or leave it’ offer,” he added, but the proposals “have however never been seriously picked up by my counterparts.”.
Šefčovič said the talks had been paused in February after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, instead of resuming, the UK took unilateral action. And he reminded the audience that some of what Brussels proposed addresses the UK concerns but they have not been discussed seriously.
These include the “express lane” or “green lane” in Truss’s demands, for goods destined for the Republic of Ireland, and an 80% reduction in checks on farm produce and plants and a 50% reduction in customs checks.
He said the EU had been calling on the UK government to engage with Brussels on the issues in Northern Ireland for “over a year” and that request still stands for the new prime minister.
The protocol, which required checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, was designed to avoid a border on the island of Ireland as a quick way of Boris Johnson delivering Brexit.
But it is deeply opposed by Conservative Eurosceptics and the unionist community, and has led to a paralysis in power-sharing at the Stormont assembly.
The recently deceased David Trimble had said the protocol “rips the heart” out of the Good Friday agreement.
The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, who is expected to speak to Truss by phone in the coming days, tweeted her congratulations, referring to common challenges, from climate change to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
She said: “I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements.”
Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s top official in charge of relations with the UK, said a positive relationship between the two was of great strategic importance. “I stand ready to work intensively and constructively with my new UK interlocutor to foster such a partnership, in full respect of our agreements.”
Behind the scenes, EU officials have low expectations of an improvement in relations with Truss, the architect of a bill to override key aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol, which could lead to a trade war.
“The wish on this side is for things to improve, for there to be a more constructive relationship, but I don’t think anybody is holding their breath,” an EU diplomat said.
The diplomat suggested that Truss’s reliance on Eurosceptic MPs in the Conservative parliamentary party did not bode well for her ability to strike compromises. They added: “Looking at where Liz Truss got her support I don’t really expect her to have that much room for manoeuvre. But I would gladly be proved wrong.”
ources hope that once installed in No 10, Truss will take a different tack to EU relations.
“Obviously the reservations that were there beforehand remain given that she was the foreign secretary that brought through the [Northern Ireland] bill before the summer,” one EU diplomat said. “From an EU perspective, there is always a window of opportunity with the new prime minister, because the EU will be open to talks and negotiations.”
Nathalie Loiseau, a French MEP who co-chairs the EU UK parliamentary partnership assembly, said she wished Truss the best of luck “because the success of the UK is important for its allies and neighbours”. Loiseau, a former Europe minister, added: “I hope she will refrain from making things more difficult between the EU and the UK and engage in a strong partnership.”
David McAllister, a German centre-right MEP, who chairs the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee, congratulated Truss, while pointing to the agreements the British government had signed. He said: “The EU is keen to have stable and positive relations with the United Kingdom based on our agreements, mutually negotiated, signed and ratified by the EU and the UK. Facilitating the practical implementation of the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland is of key importance.”
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, the architects of the landmark peace deal in Northern Ireland, have been working behind the scenes to try to get the UK and the EU back to the negotiating table over Brexit and the collapse of the Stormont government, it has been revealed.
The Northern Ireland minister, Conor Burns, thanked them for their support in the House of Commons on Thursday. He revealed he had spent the summer north and south of the border in dozens of meetings with parties and civic representatives to try to break the double impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol and power-sharing, which the Democratic Unionist party has been boycotting since May.
“I want to place on record, Mr Speaker, in the house today, my thanks to the former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the former prime minister Tony Blair for their assistance in the work that I have done over the summer,” he said.
Ahern and Blair continue to take a keen interest in Northern Ireland and are determined to make sure the fragile peace accord is not ruptured before the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday agreement next Easter.
The former taoiseach will meet the European Commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, in Brussels on Thursday night on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion about Northern Ireland involving MEPs and representatives from all parties including Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Some have suggested that Ahern should be appointed a special envoy to try to resolve the dispute over the protocol, with warnings that history will not forgive Irish or British leaders if the peace deal collapses.
Talks between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol have been paused since February when Russia invaded Ukraine with the already strained relations deteriorating further in June when Liz Truss introduced a bill to enable the UK to unilaterally remove some of the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
Despite the risk of a retaliatory trade war if the bill becomes law, Burns believes there is room for a deal. Earlier this week, he advised Truss that there is an appetite to return to talks and have “another go” at negotiations.
Hopes of a thaw in UK-EU relations have also been fuelled by the absence of the Lord Frost from Truss’s new cabinet.
Liz Truss’s government has ditched the dedicated role of Brexit opportunities minister, confirming that Jacob Rees-Mogg would not be replaced in the job.
Mr Rees-Mogg, the former Brexit opportunities and efficiency minister, has been given a significant promotion to business secretary in the new prime minister’s first cabinet.
The PM’s official spokesperson said the mission of hunting out Brexit opportunities would now be “taken across departments”.
Handed the role by Boris Johnson in February, Mr Rees-Mogg spent six months trying to interest his colleagues in ditching EU regulations and launching attacks on the civil service over working from home.
His office listed scrapping Brussels-era regulations on vacuum cleaners as one of the “most interesting” ways to capitalise on the UK’s Brexit “freedoms” after asking tabloid readers for ideas.
However, Mr Rees-Mogg did succeed in putting EU rules and regulations on the agenda for the recent Tory leader battle between Ms Truss and rival Rishi Sunak.