Queen’s death both challenge and reprieve for new British leader

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LONDON (TBEN) – British Prime Minister Liz Truss took office less than two weeks ago, impatient to make her mark on the government and faced with a crowded inbox of crises: soaring inflation, a plummeting national currency and skyrocketing energy bills.

When the death of 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II tore apart Truss’ carefully crafted plans.

The groundbreaking event was both a challenge and a reprieve for the UK’s untested new leader. The monarch’s demise has put daily politics in the UK on hold as the country entered an emotional period of mourning.

“It has given her the space to think without the media, to make plans,” says political historian Anthony Seldon. “The only thing that (a) prime minister is missing is time to think.”

Truss won a Conservative Party leadership contest on September 5 and was appointed Prime Minister by the Queen at Balmoral Castle the following day, in one of Elizabeth’s last acts.

Truss was told that the Queen was seriously ill when she announced in the House of Commons on September 8 an emergency energy package designed to mitigate the impact of the sharp rise in fuel bills caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The monarch’s death was announced a few hours later, leaving many questions about the aid package unanswered as parliament was suspended for 10 days of official mourning.

The Prime Minister’s appearances have been largely ceremonial ever since. She has attended memorial services for the Queen in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and attended the accession ceremony of King Charles III. On Monday, Truss will join hundreds of political leaders and dignitaries from around the world in the 2,000-strong congregation for the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.

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After that, politics will take revenge and Truss will try to make up for lost time. She will launch herself on the world stage and travel to New York next week to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Even before the funeral, Truss quietly becomes acquainted with other world leaders. She is holding private meetings this weekend with key allies, including the prime ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Irish leader Micheal Martin and President Andrzej Duda of Poland, whose country is on the front lines in support of Ukraine.

A planned weekend meeting with US President Joe Biden will now be held at the UN in New York on Wednesday, Truss’s office said Saturday.

“The fact that so many leaders from all over the world… are pouring into London gives the new Prime Minister plenty of time for soft diplomacy, those quiet conversations before and after the funeral, which will help her achieve her goal – if it is feasible – – of ‘global Britain,’ said Seldon.

Truss wants to reassure allies that she will continue the strong political and military support for Ukraine started under her predecessor Boris Johnson. At the UN, she will also likely urge the world’s democracies to work more closely together in what she has termed a “network of freedom.”

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But Truss also has some bridges to build, especially with Biden. The US leader has expressed concern about the impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union on the delicate peace in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland shares a border with EU member Ireland, and Brexit has led to new controls on goods leading to a political crisis in Belfast. British Unionist politicians refuse to form a government that shares power with Irish nationalists, saying Brexit border controls are undermining Northern Ireland’s place in the UK

Johnson’s administration announced plans to suspend controls and tear up part of the Brexit treaty with the EU — a move that infuriated the bloc and alarmed Washington. Biden has warned that no side should do anything to undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the cornerstone of the Northern Ireland peace process, in which the US played a major role in the negotiations.

Truss says he wants to reach an agreement with the EU, but will continue with Johnson’s plan to rewrite the rules if that fails. It is unclear whether relations between the UK and the EU, which bottomed out during Johnson’s turbulent tenure, will improve under Truss. She shook French feathers last month when she said the “jury is out” on whether French President Emmanuel Macron is a friend or an enemy.

At home, Truss — a small-state, free-market conservative — has been forced to leave her political comfort zone and spend billions to cover energy prices for homes and businesses, which would rise by 80% next month as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine. energy prices rise.

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The government will reveal more details about its energy package — and ask sharp questions from the opposition — when lawmakers return to parliament on Wednesday.

On Friday, Truss-appointed Treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng will issue an emergency budget statement to address the UK’s deteriorating economic picture. Inflation eased slightly in August but remains at 9.9%, the highest level in four decades, while the pound is at its lowest point against the dollar in 37 years. The Bank of England predicts a long recession later this year.

Kwarteng is likely to announce personal or corporate tax cuts – or both – in the hopes that this will spur economic growth, although critics say such measures help the wealthy more than the poorest.

Newspapers report that Kwarteng also wants to lift a limit on banker bonuses imposed after the global financial crisis of 2008. That would be highly controversial, and would abruptly end the political truce that followed the death of the Queen.

“We are starting to see signs of what Liz Truss’ new economy is all about,” opposition Labor MP Margaret Hodge told the TBEN. “To think of bankers at this stage is obscene.”

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Follow Queen Elizabeth II’s TBEN coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii