The favorite of the fight for the positions of the leader of the Tory party and the British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, was marked by another scandalous statement on the foreign policy topic. At the end of last week, during a debate with second contender Rishi Sunak, at a meeting with rank and file members of the party, the presenter asked the question: is Macron a friend or an enemy of Britain? Truss replied with a smirk, "The jury hasn't ruled yet." Then she added: " But if I become prime minister, I will judge him by his deeds, not words ." Truss' statement was met with cheers and applause from the audience.
Political scientist Oleksandr Ivakhnik comments on the situation:
“In general, it seems that after Brexit, pro-European-minded people left the ranks of the Tory party, and now its membership is dominated by isolationists, nostalgic for former imperial greatness. They are not too friendly to France after conflicts in recent years over illegal migrants crossing the Channel by boat, fishing rights in British waters, truck lines at ferry crossings and in the wake of a general confrontation with the EU over customs checks in Northern Ireland. And it seems that Liz Truss is oriented towards such people.
However, on the part of British politicians, not only Laborites, but also in the conservative establishment, Truss's defiant words on Friday met with sharply critical assessments. Attention was drawn to the fact that Truss is not just a contender for the post of party leader, but also the current foreign minister, and must adhere to diplomatic language. And Macron is not even a prime minister, he is the head of state, personifying the sovereignty of France. One government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that Truss' remarks had "completely undermined our relations with France" and called her "a fake imitation of Thatcher". Former Deputy Foreign Minister Alistair Burt said Truss made a "very serious mistake". Another ex-secretary, Gavin Barwell, commented: "We thought the Foreign Secretary knew about our military alliance with France." Another former minister, David Gauck, noted: " You play for the gallery and then let the prejudices of the gallery get into your head, which is especially dangerous now, at the worst of times, for trying to split the West ." Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson has attempted to remedy the embarrassing situation somewhat. He stated that relations between Britain and France were of great importance. “ I have always had a very good relationship with Emmanuel Macron ,” Johnson said not quite sincerely, adding in French that the French president is “a very good friend of our country.”
On Friday, it was Macron's turn to comment. He spoke politely but meaningfully. Answering a question from journalists during a visit to Algeria, the French President said: “You should never lose your bearings in life. If I were asked that question, then whoever would be the next leader of Great Britain, I would not hesitate for a second: Britain is a friend of France. Macron continued: “We live in a complex world. There are more and more illiberal democracies, authoritarian democracies, destabilizing powers. If France and Britain cannot tell whether they are friends or enemies, then we are heading for serious problems.” Further, Macron felt it necessary to emphasize: “ Therefore I say that the British people, the United Kingdom is a friendly, strong and allied state with us, regardless of its leaders, sometimes despite their leaders or the little mistakes they can make when playing on the public ."
Maybe Liz Truss realized that she had made a false step. But there is no doubt that after the almost inevitable imminent arrival of the British Prime Minister, she will maintain her inherent tough approach in relations with both France and the European Union as a whole. Brussels is already waiting for a sharp escalation of confrontation over the fate of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which Boris Johnson agreed to sign in 2019 and which provides for customs checks of British goods in Ulster ports…”