Reports suggest that Brussels will work to use the Tory Party leadership election to its advantage in an ongoing post-Brexit row. Some French and German officials are hoping the next occupant of Number 10 will be more willing to back down to EU demands, which they would like to remain in place.
Negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol stalled under Boris Johnson’s watch.
As Foreign Minister, now Tory leadership contender Liz Truss had run talks for the UK.
Because of this, EU sources told the Telegraph they would prefer to restart talks with a fresh face – someone who, perhaps, might be more easily persuaded to sign a Brussels-favoured deal.
One source told the paper they believed Ms Truss’s stance hardened after it became clear that Mr Johnson was on his way out of Downing Street.
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They said: “She wanted to do a quick deal with Brussels, but that soon changed.”
Most recently, she has threatened to tear up the Protocol with a bill, in response to which Brussels has touted a trade war.
Ms Truss has, however, noted that it remained her and the Government’s “preference” that an agreement was reached, which could open the door to a solution.
Even if the leadership hopeful does not follow on from Mr Johnson as prime minister, Brussels has signalled it is not hopeful a change in course in the UK’s negotiation stance will straight away become clear.
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Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak have both also worked to paint themselves as appropriate handlers of Brexit.
Both have, however, received criticism at home over their capability of making the most of our withdrawal from the EU.
Former Brexit Minister Lord Frost last week issued a major blow to Ms Mordaunt regarding her competence in a former Brexit-related role.
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He told LBC: “She was my deputy – notionally, more than really – in the Brexit talks last year.
“I felt she did not master the detail that was necessary in the negotiations last year. She wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the European Union when that was necessary.
“She wasn’t fully accountable, she wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was.”
Either way, one EU source told the Telegraph: “Of course we’re not expecting the UK’s approach to the protocol to change overnight.”
Because of this, bloc leaders appear focussed on changing their own stance – not on their deal but regarding their approach to negotiations.
The paper reports: “Paris and Berlin have warned the European Commission that there will be a backlash from EU countries if it grants any concessions to the next prime minister.
“Their tough stance ties the hands of the bloc’s negotiator Maros Sefcovic and further heightens the risk of a trade conflict breaking out in the autumn.”
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