The election of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister will only add to the government’s concerns

Adding to the long list of challenges facing the Government today is the expected statement by Liz Truss as the new leader of the UK Conservative Party ahead of her formal inauguration as Britain’s new Prime Minister tomorrow.

s Truss appears to have an approach to the task of leading our nearest neighbor that would risk souring relations with that country and the European Union, thereby exacerbating Ireland’s forthcoming economic woes.

The signals emerging from an extraordinary leadership campaign that left it up to the “selectorate” of 160,000 party members to choose the UK’s next leader offered little encouragement.

Outgoing Foreign Secretary Truss, a former Liberal Democrat who campaigned against Brexit, now owes much of her success to right-wing MPs who want the toughest possible UK-EU split. The campaign between her and former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak contained some fleeting references to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit special trading status.

Now there are fears Ms Truss could prolong a rowdy battle with Brussels to distract from the many economic woes that lie ahead.

Who she appoints to her first cabinet this week will be a key focus, as some vehement EU opponents – including hardline Brexit negotiator David Frost – are predicted by many.

The situation poses many challenges for Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Secretary of State Simon Coveney in the coming weeks.

Mr Coveney has previously dealt with Ms Truss as his counterpart and relations between the two have been difficult at times. It will be up to Mr. Martin to telephone the new prime minister as soon as possible and seek a face-to-face meeting.

Relations between Dublin and London reached a high point of good neighborliness a few years ago. But the Brexit vote in June 2016 ushered in a process of declining relations that has worsened under outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took office in July 2019. Mr Johnson’s decision to effectively tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol, which defined what was special about the region’s trade status, caused understandable anger in Ireland and across the EU.

Eventually, Mr Johnson’s government negotiated the protocol as part of the general UK divorce terms. He publicly praised it and had his party MPs support it in Parliament. His unilateral action to then disregard this agreement is nothing less than a violation of international law.

The bill to unilaterally repeal the Protocol is now before the UK Parliament and will soon face a very violent passage in the House of Lords. Meanwhile, reports from London suggest Ms Truss could soon claim an “emergency break” of the protocol as part of the so-called Article 16 process, putting the Northern Agreement on hold.

Such a move would further hamper prospects for a compromise between London and Brussels.

Mr Martin and his cabinet must use all their diplomatic skills to help defuse these potentially very damaging developments. The election of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister will only add to the government’s concerns

Fry Electronics Team

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