New Brexit minister said exiting EU would be an economic disaster

Liz Truss is a former Remainer who announced a series of dismal warnings about the consequences of Brexit during the 2016 referendum campaign.

Liz Truss

Following the surprise resignation of Lord Frost over concerns about the government’s “current direction of travel”, Boris Johnson has promoted the foreign secretary Liz Truss to take over post-Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

During the referendum campaign, Remain-backing Truss had spoken of the merits of staying in the bloc. Explaining her reasons for supporting remain, she had said: “I believe it is in Britain’s economic interest and means we can focus on vital economic and social reform at home.”

Truss warned against voting leave

During a speech to the Food and Drink Federation in May 2016, Truss warned against voting leave, saying it would be detrimental to the hospitality industry, harm the wider economy, and ultimately make the people of Britain poorer.

“I do think it’s in all of our interests to communicate the real impact on the ground; the real impact this would have on jobs, livelihoods because what we now is less trade would mean fewer investments, it would mean fewer jobs and that would feed through to people’s incomes,” Truss had told delegates.

“And that just doesn’t affect me and you in this room, that affects everyone in the overall economy. So even if you’re in a company that doesn’t export, the company that does export will be buying less of your services and I think that’s a message we really need to get across in the closing weeks of this campaign.”

“But I have great faith in the British people; I think the British people are sensible people [and] they understand fundamentally that, economically, Britain will be better off staying in a reformed EU,” Truss continued.

Referring to the shortcomings of Leavers’ arguments, the new Brexit negotiator had tweeted:

“Leave cannot name one country we would get a better trade deal with if we left the EU.”

Brexit U-turn

Truss’s tune on Brexit began to change after the was appointed chief secretary to the Treasury by Teresa May, claiming she had “also seen the opportunities” of the withdrawal process. The newfound Brexit enthusiast made repeated suggestions that the UK should become less dependent on trade with the EU.

During her roles as international trade secretary and foreign secretary, Truss stated that none of the world’s fastest growing economies were in Europe – a reversal of previous remain-supporting comments about the economic implications of Brexit.  

Brexit ‘downgrading’ accusations

Following the appointment of Truss as Frost’s replacement, the Prime Minister has been accused of “downgrading” Brexit by putting the task of leading Brexit talks with the EU on the foreign secretary’s workload.

As The Telegraph reports, senior members of the European Research Group (ERG) met privately over the weekend to discuss concerns about the appointment.

 Today – December 21 – the foreign secretary is holding talks with her European counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Truss says she wants to negotiate a “comprehensive solution” to the agreement.

Amid calls from a large number of Conservative MPs for a tougher approach to the Northern Ireland protocol, the new Brexit negotiator has told colleagues she will not abandon Frost’s hard-line position of the role of EU judges in Northern Ireland and that she plans to eliminate trade frictions in the Irish Sea.

As the talks get underway, the pro-Brexit, right-wing press has been quick to jump on the new foreign secretary’s Brexit credentials. Listing a series of comments made by Truss in the past about Brexit, the Express posed the question – is she a true Remainer?  

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward.

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