The EU has urged Liz Truss to stick to the Brexit deal, while calling on Britain’s new prime minister to take a broader view of Britain’s relationship with Europe.
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, senior EU official in charge of relations with the UK, said a positive relationship between the two was of great strategic importance. “I am ready to work intensively and constructively with my new British interlocutor to foster such a partnership, in full respect of our agreements.”
Behind the scenes, EU officials expect little improvement in relations with Truss, the architect of a bill to overturn key aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol, which could lead to a trade war.
“The wish on this side is for things to get better, for there to be a more constructive relationship, but I don’t think anyone is holding their breath,” said an EU diplomat.
The diplomat suggested that Truss’ reliance on Eurosceptic MPs from the Conservative parliamentary party did not bode well for his ability to find compromises. They added: “Looking at where Liz Truss got her support, I don’t really expect her to have that much leeway. But I’d be happy to be wrong.
Sources hope that once installed at No 10, Truss will take a different approach to relations with the EU.
“Obviously the reservations that existed before remain given that she was the foreign minister who pushed the [Northern Ireland] bill before the summer,” said a European diplomat. “From an EU perspective, there is still a window of opportunity with the new Prime Minister, as 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 well “because the UK’s success is important to its allies and neighbours”. Loiseau, a former minister for Europe, added: “I hope she refrains from complicating things between the EU and the UK and commits to a solid partnership.”
David McAllister, a centre-right German MEP, who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, praised Truss, while highlighting the agreements signed by the British government. He said: “The EU is keen to maintain a stable and positive relationship with the UK on the basis of 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 paramount importance.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was one of the first leaders to offer his public congratulations, in a tweet that avoided mentioning the UK-EU dispute. He said: “I look forward to our cooperation in these difficult times. The UK and Germany will continue to work closely together, as partners and friends. »
Truss, who will become prime minister on Tuesday, will be tested on her openness to working with the EU when she is asked to join EU leaders for a summit in October. She will be invited to discuss the creation of the European Political Community, a pan-European body dedicated to promoting security and other ties between the nations of Europe.
His elevation to 10 Downing Street has been overlooked by the Kremlin, which has said dire relations with Britain could get even worse. “I would not like to say that things can change for the worse, because it is difficult to imagine anything worse,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied when asked if Moscow expected a change in its relationship with Britain, Reuters reported.
“But unfortunately that cannot be ruled out.”
In Moscow, Truss is best known for her meeting in February with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who complained that her interventions were “just slogans shouted from the stands”.
At the meeting, which took place two weeks before the Russian invasion, Truss challenged Lavrov on the reinforcement of 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, which Moscow denied was preparation for an attack. She was also mocked by the Russian government for confusing Russian regions with Ukrainian territory and apparently confusing the Black and Baltic Seas.
Truss received a warmer reaction from traditional UK allies. In a congratulatory statement, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke of New Zealand’s “exceptionally strong relationship with the UK based on our shared values, history and culture”.
In her roles as Trade and then Foreign Secretary, Truss was “a strong supporter of the UK’s ‘swing’ to the Indo-Pacific and played a pivotal role in promoting our historic free trade agreement” , Ardern said.
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo hailed Truss’ role in negotiations over the post-Brexit future of the British Overseas Territory, which voted to remain in the EU.
“Liz was instrumental in securing trade deals for Gibraltar and as Foreign Secretary we worked closely together on all issues including negotiations for a UK/EU Treaty on Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU,” he said.
Additional reporting by Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington and Sam Jones in Madrid.