1st Mar 2024

EU warns Truss to stick to Brexit deal

  • New British PM and Liz Truss and EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič earlier this year during post-Brexit talks in Brussels (Photo: European Commission)
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EU top officials on Monday (5 September) warned Liz Truss, the newly-chosen UK prime minister, to stick to the EU-UK agreement on Northern Ireland, just hours after she was elected by her Conservative party members.

The former foreign minister was the one who introduced Northern Ireland protocol bill in the UK parliament earlier this year, which would allow the government in London to abandon parts of the protocol, in breach of its divorce agreement with the EU.

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Truss beat former finance minister Rishi Sunak after a divisive leadership contest over the summer, in which only the circa. 180,000 Conservative Party members had a vote.

The foreign secretary won 81,326 votes (57.4 percent) of the vote byTory members, while the former chancellor received 60,399 votes (42.6 percent).

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen reiterated that the EU and the UK are partners when quickly congratulating Truss on Twitter.

"We face many challenges together, from climate change to Russia's invasion of Ukraine," von der Leyen said.

The EU is keen to watch how Truss will handle the post-Brexit trade relations in Northern Ireland, which are governed by the mutually-agreed protocol. The EU has already launched legal proceedings for the UK's breaches of the Brexit agreement.

"I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements," von der Leyen added, referring to that divorce deal.

The commissioner in charge of negotiations with the UK over Northern Ireland, Maroš Šefčovič, also congratulated Truss.

"A positive EU-UK relationship is 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," he tweeted.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also emphasised the need for "full compliance of the Brexit agreement".

There has been irritation in Brussels at Truss' frequent EU-bashing during the summer campaign, against the backdrop of Russia's war against Ukraine.

It also rang alarm bells across European capitals when, during a public campaign event last month, Truss was asked whether French president Emmanuel Macron was a "friend or foe" of Britain, and Truss replied: "The jury's out."

Her compere said it was a "joke", but it underlined the sour relations between Paris and London.

Fighting reality

Truss takes over from Boris Johnson, who was ousted by his own MPs earlier this summer.

Truss, 47, will become the Conservatives' fourth prime minister since a 2015 election, and the third female prime minister of the UK — following Margaret Thatcher, and Theresa May.

"I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy" she told her supporters as her victory speech.

"I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people's energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply, she added without going into detail.

The UK faces a long recession triggered by steep inflation which hit 10.1 percent in July.

The Bank of England expects that inflation will reach a 42-year high of 13.3 percent in October.

The average annual household utility bills are set to jump by 80 percent in October, the country's energy regulator said last Friday, following a record 54-percent spike in April.

Truss also hinted during the campaign at reviewing the mandate of the Bank of England, which prompted investors to get rid of government bonds, hitting the pound.

The leader of the Labour party opposition, Keir Starmer, described Truss as "out of touch", saying the new prime minister talked about tax cuts, but not about the cost-of-living crisis.

Truss also said the general election would not be until 2024.

Truss is expected deliver another speech on Tuesday afternoon, this time in front of 10 Downing Street, her first formally as prime minister, after her audience with the Queen.

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