Liz Truss to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom: is this bad news for France?

4:30 p.m., September 1, 2022, modified at 2:26 p.m., September 2, 2022

Emmanuel Macron, friend or foe? To this question from a reporter at an election meeting, Liz Truss responded with a pirouette: “The jury is still deliberating,” she said to laughter from the audience. “I will judge him by his actions and not his words. » On Tuesday, she should, unless surprised, become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Polls give him an overwhelming lead over his rival, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, in the duel for the succession of resigned Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

With this exit to France, should we fear the probable appointment of Liz Truss at 10 Downing Street? Last Friday, Emmanuel Macron reacted without ever mentioning the name of the candidate: “If we are not able, between French and British, to say whether we are friend or enemy – the term is not neutral – we are heading towards serious problems. » And to add: “The British people, the nation that is the United Kingdom is a friendly, strong and allied nation, whoever their leaders are, and sometimes despite and beyond their leaders or the little mistakes they may make in their words. dais”.

A damaged relationship

Between London and Paris, the Entente Cordiale has been broken since Brexit. Fishing quotas, illegal crossings of migrants, checks at the entrance to the Eurotunnel… Litigation issues poison relations, even more than with the rest of the European Union. Latest: the announcement of the AUKUS pact between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, in September 2021, which deprived the French of a mega-contract for submarines.

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Added to this is a clash of personalities between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron. “Confidence is at rock bottom” confirms with the JDD Elvire Fabry, researcher at the Jacques-Delors Institute and Brexit specialist. “Johnson and Truss maintain the idea that France seeks to punish the British, she continues, although there has never been any concrete materialization of this position. »

little optimism

In this context, Europeans are little inclined to optimism. “They don’t expect a reset of the relationship, says Elvire Fabry. It may get more complicated. » For the researcher, the candidate’s short sentence on Emmanuel Macron is revealing: “Liz Truss wants to be the reincarnation of Thatcher and intends to reconnect with the traditional liberalism of the Conservative Party. She will want to be tougher than Johnson and take up the sword in a very personal confrontation. »

Liz Truss ran an extremely populist campaign that suggests an unaccommodating attitude

“It’s not necessarily good news”adds Patrick Chevallereau, associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris). “Liz Truss has led an extremely populist, anti-Brussels campaign, with a latent Francophobia, which suggests an unconciliatory attitude on all the issues that divide us”, explains to the JDD this specialist in Franco-British relations

The risk of a trade war

Starting with the Northern Irish protocol. This is THE subject of tension between the United Kingdom and the continent. Within the government of Boris Johnson, Liz Truss was the architect of a bill which consists in removing the essential of this protocol on the modalities of post-Brexit movement at the Irish border. Legislating on this subject would be a casus belli for Brussels, which is already preparing its judicial response. “The scenario of a trade war should not be ruled out at all, warns Elvire Fabry. Liz Truss is threatening to activate Article 16, which would allow the application of this protocol to be temporarily suspended until the British parliamentary debates are over. It is approaching the red line. »

Rishi Sunak, on the other hand, is seen as more pragmatic and constructive. “Under Johnson, when it came to activating Section 16, he had been more cautious and critical,” recalls the researcher.

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Both intend to abandon certain European regulations. A way to stimulate competitiveness, at the risk of depriving British companies of access to the European market. “Both promise to get much more out of Brexit by actually starting to diverge from European regulations, deciphers the researcher from the Jacques-Delors Institute. This would discourage the development of trade between the UK and the EU, which has already greatly diminished. »

A “hawk” in foreign policy

The policy pursued by Liz Truss also risks penalizing Europeans beyond the continent. Faced with Russia or China, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, described as a “hawk” by the British press, adopted an offensive tone and aligned herself with the United States, where the Twenty-Seven are trying to carry another voice. “This can have consequences for the internal dynamics of the EU”, believes Patrick Chevallereau. For him, his nomination would be “a good thing for Vladimir Putin” : “Truss is the continuation of strong support for Ukraine but also the assurance that Western divisions will continue. »

Between French and British soldiers and diplomats, the dialogue continues, he reassures. But this vice-admiral fears that the lack of political impetus between the two countries will weaken cooperation on defense issues. “The Lancaster House Treaty, for example, signed in 2010, is regularly reinforced in high-level political meetings, he specifies. But since Brexit and Boris Johnson, these have stalled. »

Test of power

Could Liz Truss moderate her speech once in office? “Either what she said is part of a campaign strategy and in this case we can hope for a kind of return to reality which will lead her to seek compromises, or she really believes in it and we are moving towards an accentuation of the arm-wrestling, evaluates Patrick Chevallereau. On the Northern Irish protocol, the debates in the House of Lords will last for months, leaving time to find an arrangement. “Truss had campaigned against Brexit, he continues. Maybe she’s someone who spins with the wind? You would have to be a diviner to tell. »

The election deadline will prevent them from lowering their guard on a very hard pro-Brexit speech

For her part, Elvire Fabry does not believe in a change of course. “As a recent Brexit convert, she needs to be even more convinced,” argues the researcher. Especially since the battle for the elections – scheduled for January 2025 at the latest – has already begun. “We can expect her to seek to stir up anti-European sentiment. »

Same firmness expected on the Channel crossings, Truss like Sunak carrying a strict policy on immigration. In an interview at Sunthe favorite indicated that she “would ensure that we provided him with funds [à la police aux frontières française] only if they are used correctly”. “The election deadline will prevent them from lowering their guard on a very harsh pro-Brexit speech, Judge Elvire Fabry. They have too much to lose vis-à-vis an electorate for whom the refusal of immigration was a major motivation. »

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Liz Truss to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom: is this bad news for France?

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