Boris Puts Remain-Voting Former Liberal Democrat in Charge of Brexit

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Boris Johnson has put Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Secretary Liz Truss, a former Liberal Democrat and Remain voter, in charge of Britain’s relationship with the European Union following the resignation of Lord Frost.

Frost, a career diplomat until 2013, had remained the Johnson administration’s point man in dealings with the European Union after helping to negotiate the Prime Minister’s deals with the bloc in 2018, but left the government over the weekend due to misgiving about increasingly restrictive coronavirus restrictions, the green agenda, and higher taxation.

Truss, who as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has earned some good press in recent days for striking Britain’s first from-scratch post-Brexit trade deal with Australia, takes over the brief as something of a rising star in the Conservative Party, regarded by the establishment media as one of the two main contenders to succeed Boris Johnson as leader along with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

While some among the largely Brexit-supporting, right-leaning Tory grassroots regard Truss as one of them, based largely on the fact that she professes enthusiasm for free-market economics — like Boris Johnson did before he became Prime Minister — and was recently pictured riding a tank in blatant imitation of the late Margaret Thatcher, others are wary of her reputation as a political chameleon.

The Independent noted in October that she has “adopted more political positions than most people have had hot dinners”, for example, and she was once a senior Liberal Democrat activist and gave a speech against the monarchy at a party conference.

In terms of her Brexit credentials, in 2016 she was a vociferous opponent of Brexit, not just offering supposedly reluctant support to the Remain campaign, like for example Sajid Javid or Theresa May, but helping to launch the Conservative anti-Brexit campaign’s ‘Women for Remain’ group alongside Tory left-leaners Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, and Nicky Morgan.

She also campaigned for Remain across the country on its so-called “battle bus”, including in Northern Ireland, where British Unionists are increasingly unhappy with the way the Northern Ireland Protocol of Johnson’s Brexit deals is being abused by the EU to disrupt intra-UK trade, and left their region as something of an EU province.

Fixing the Protocol — or not — will be a major part of Truss’s new brief once negotiations with the EU resume in January.

Like Theresa May, Truss claimed she was committed to delivering Brexit after losing the referendum, not least because the Project Fear doomsday predictions crafted by the Treasury at which she was a minister during the campaign failed to materialise.

However, she also backed Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU — condemned by Boris Johnson as “vassalage, satrapy, colony status for the UK”, and strongly resisted efforts by Leavers who saw it as Brexit-in-name-only to oust the then-Prime Minsiter, insisting that she was “the right person to deliver Brexit and has shown herself to be strong and determined.”

The deal Johnson accepted was ultimately not much better than the one May negotiated, of course, as it included the multi-billion-euro “divorce” settlement Brussels had demanded and permitted free trade only in goods, where the EU had the advantage, and not services, where the UK had the advantage, and cut out out British Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.

The chances of Truss doing anything about this, or the much more contentious issues of continued EU control of Northern Ireland and continued EU plundering of British fisheries, seem low, considering she had been happy with the even worse terms that had been offered to Theresa May.

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