Liz Truss Gets Off to an Uneven Start in Her Global Debut

Liz Truss Gets Off to an Uneven Start in Her Global Debut
British Prime Minister Liz Truss meets with U.S. President Joe Biden during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 21, 2022, at the U.N. headquarters (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Liz Truss, who succeeded Boris Johnson as British prime minister on Sept. 6, has experienced a baptism by fire since she took office. Days after taking the reins at No. 10 Downing Street, she had to lead the country through the period of national mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Then, almost immediately after the late queen’s funeral on Monday, Truss flew to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where she held her first series of bilateral meetings with world leaders. The two most significant of those meetings—with U.S. President Joe Biden and European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen—offered insights into how London might approach key relationships with Washington and Brussels under Truss.

Truss’ first major bilateral meeting on Tuesday was nevertheless with French President Emmanuel Macron, marking the first time the two leaders have met since Truss won the race to lead the ruling Conservative Party and succeed Johnson as prime minister. The meeting was part of an effort to smooth tensions between London and Paris after Truss declared during the leadership race that “the jury is out” on whether the French president is a friend or foe of the United Kingdom. Speaking after the meeting, Macron indicated a desire to “move on” from Truss’ diplomatic slight, having already gone out of his way several times over the past month to make clear France’s friendly inclinations toward the U.K., including with a warm message of condolence following Elizabeth’s death.

But the two leaders mostly stayed away from the thorny issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, as the EU continues to wait and see if Truss will follow through on her threat to tear up that essential part of the Brexit divorce deal, potentially sparking a trade war with Brussels. Instead, they talked about whether London will sign up to Macron’s proposal for a “European Political Community” comprising EU member and candidate states, as well as nonmembers and, if the U.K. participates, one former member. Truss has not yet declared whether she will attend the first “exploratory” summit of the club next month in Prague.

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