Truss set to plunge UK into deeper division as he takes over Tory leadership – The Irish Times

By midday on Monday, unless all opinion polls and surveys of Tory members are totally wrong, Liz Truss will become the party’s next leader and succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister the following day. If the outcome is predictable, the campaign was anything but, leaving Britain poised to dive deeper into groundbreaking Brexit politics behind the unlikely figure of a former Liberal Democrat who eloquently campaigned in 2016 against the exit from the European Union.

Sunak’s supporters were eager for him to face Truss rather than Penny Mordaunt in the final stage of the contest, expecting the Foreign Secretary to implode. A notoriously awkward public speaker, Truss appeared painfully light on details compared to the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.

But when party members saw the proposed candidates, many grew nostalgic for Johnson and blamed Sunak’s resignation from the cabinet as having triggered the prime minister’s downfall. Truss not only became the candidate for loyalty, but she doubled down on her most radical view of Brexit and took the crudest position possible on culture war issues such as LGBT rights and critical interpretations of history. British.

At the same time, she made promises on the economy that horrified orthodox economists but delighted right-wing party members such as Iain Duncan Smith and John Redwood. While Sunak called for a cautious approach to public finances, Truss promised tax cuts that would be funded by tens of billions of pounds in new borrowing.

Critics say deficit-funded tax cuts will fuel inflation, drive up interest rates and wreck public finances without helping the most vulnerable cope with the cost of living crisis. Julian Jessop, a former chief economist at the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs and a supporter of Truss’s policies, told The Spectator this week that markets would recognize his strategy as one that will spur growth.

“The Treasury was too quick to believe it needed to start paying down the debt by raising taxes, both personal and corporate. It is much better to let the deficit take over,” he said.

“If tax cuts mean more short-term borrowing, I’m completely relaxed about that. I suspect the markets will be too. If that results in a stronger economy and stronger public finances in the long run, that’s a positive outcome that the markets will actually appreciate.

Kwasi Kwarteng, who is expected to become Chancellor of the Exchequer under Truss, will present an emergency budget later this month to reverse some of the tax hikes introduced by Sunak. It will also have to propose a set of support measures for people threatened with destitution as energy prices rise by 80%.

Truss initially ruled out what she called “handouts”, but she is expected to offer direct aid to the most vulnerable, forcing her to borrow tens of billions more.

Another pressing matter concerns the Northern Ireland Protocol, with a September 15 deadline for Britain to respond to EU legal action over London’s failure to fully implement the OK. The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which gives UK ministers the power to unilaterally scrap most of the deal, will take months to pass through the House of Lords and back to the Commons before becoming law .

In the meantime, Truss would consider triggering Article 16, which allows either party to unilaterally suspend parts of the protocol in certain circumstances. The invocation of Article 16 triggers a negotiation process and Truss presented his unilateral approach as an effort to put pressure on the EU, saying that all they understand is force.

There is no appetite in European capitals to renegotiate the protocol, especially under duress following a British breach of international law. The European Commission has drawn up a plan to step up the retaliation as Britain takes each new step towards abandoning the protocol, first passing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and then putting it into effect. implemented.

At the high end of the scale of possible retaliation are trade sanctions and even termination of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, actions that would further undermine market confidence in Britain’s economic future. . But Truss may be trapped by her reliance on the wilder eurosceptic elements within her party, so she is unable to back down even if she wants to.

If Truss took advantage of the tale of betrayal surrounding Johnson’s downfall, the incumbent prime minister could quickly become a problem for her. As long as he remains an MP, he has the potential to undermine his successor and rally the opposition if they try to make painful choices.

Her backbenches will already be overloaded with bitter ex-ministers and other MPs who feel unfairly ignored after she reshuffles the cabinet pack next week. If Johnson remains a viable political force, he can only get him in trouble.

Truss’ point is that his predecessor’s reputation be ransacked as quickly and completely as possible. The privileges committee over his alleged lying in parliament about Downing Street parties offers an opportunity to remind the Tories of the problems with Johnson.

But revelations from inside Downing Street about other irregularities uncovered after he left could be even more effective. The new Prime Minister could not stoop to such misdeeds. But she knows people who can.

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