Macron says UK is a friend of France ‘in spite of its leaders’ after Truss remarks – UK politics live | Liz Truss

Macron: the UK is a ‘friend’ of France ‘in spite of its leaders’

The French president Emmanuel Macron has responded to Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss’s comments that the “jury’s out” on whether he would be considered a friend or foe of the UK.

He told FranceInfo:

Listen, it’s never good to lose your bearings too much in life. If one asks the question – which is how I will answer you – whoever is considered for the leadership in Great Britain I won’t ponder it for a single second.

The United Kingdom is a friend of France, and you know we live in a complicated world, there are more and more liberals, authoritarian democracies, so there is a sense of imbalance.

If the French and British are not capable of saying whether we are friends or enemies – the term is not neutral – we are going to have a problem.

So yes, of course the British people, the nation which is the United Kingdom, is a friend, strong and allied, whoever its leaders are, and sometimes in spite of the leaders, and the small mistakes they can make in their speeches.

President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press after visiting the cemetery of Christians and Jews in Algiers, Algeria on August 26, 2022.
President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press after visiting the cemetery of Christians and Jews in Algiers, Algeria on August 26, 2022. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Truss told the hustings in Norfolk on Thursday that as prime minister, she would judge Macron by “deeds not words”. But Macron said the UK remained “a friendly nation, a strong ally – regardless of its leaders, and sometimes in spite of its leaders and whatever little mistakes they may make in their speeches from a podium.”

Former senior diplomats and a former French minister condemned Truss’s remarks, saying it was irresponsible of someone likely to be Britain’s next prime minister to disparage a key ally and the comment would further harm cross-Channel relations.

Key events

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Boris Johnson has said the next prime minister will “plainly” have to give people extra cash for their energy bills but the wealthiest should not see their bills capped.

The prime minister put pressure on his successor, who is likely to be Liz Truss, saying the cash handouts are “clearly going to be augmented, increased, by extra cash that the government is plainly going to be announcing in September”.

But he also said overall energy bills should not be subsidised for everyone, as Ofgem announced an increase in the price cap to more than £3,500.

“What I don’t think what we should be doing is capping things for absolutely everybody, the richest households in the country,” Johnson said.

Read more from Rowena Mason and Aubrey Allegretti here:

The UK Tory leadership’s are “playing to their own grassroots” and have “no regard for the damage” that possible unilateral action to suspend the Northern Ireland protocol is causing, says a Sinn Fein minister.

Finance minister Conor Murphy said triggering the Article 16 mechanism to suspend elements of the post-Brexit protocol would only further complicate the job of resolving issues with the Irish Sea trading agreements, PA news reports. It’s a move the EU has said would breach international law.

I think they have had a reckless approach to their dealings with the EU for some time now and the casualty in all that is unfortunately us here. And the triggering of Article 16 is not going to resolve that. These issues around the protocol need to be resolved through dialogue, not through unilateral action in terms of protocol legislation or unilateral action in terms of triggering Article 16.

Murphy added: And so it seems that the British Tory leadership are simply playing to their own grassroots and they have no regard for the damage that that is causing the economy here, or the uncertainty that’s creating for businesses and for households here.

Murphy’s remarks come amid reports Liz Truss may trigger Article 16 proceedings against the European Union within days of becoming prime minister, as a legal war with Brussels looms over the Northern Ireland protocol.

The foreign secretary and Tory leadership frontrunner is understood to have received fresh advice from trade and legal experts about invoking the emergency clause contained in the post-Brexit deal.

It has long been threatened by Truss, but there is renewed interest as the deadline approaches for the UK to respond to legal proceedings launched against it by the EU for failing to implement proper Irish Sea border checks.

The deadline for doing so is 15 September – 10 days after the next prime minister will be announced.

When the British government act unilaterally, and then start to crank it up by talking about invoking Article 16, then they damage the prospect of dialogue to resolve these issues and that is not in our interest,” said Murphy.

Here is a video of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, responding to Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss’s comments that the “jury’s out” on whether he would be considered a friend or foe of the UK.

Macron responds to Truss saying ‘jury’s out’ on whether French president is friend or foe – video

“If we are not able, between the French and British, to say whether we are friends or enemies – the term is not neutral – we are headed towards serious problems,” said Macron during a state visit to Algeria.

Libby Brooks

Libby Brooks

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of favouring appearances at the Edinburgh festival over resolving an ongoing industrial dispute that is causing rubbish to be piled high on the streets of Scotland’s major cities, and early closures of schools and nurseries being announced.

Talks are resuming on Friday to resolve the strikes, as overflowing bins and piles of food waste accumulate in Scotland’s capital, where crowds have gathered for the Edinburgh festivals.

Refuse workers in Edinburgh are midway through a two-week strike as part of an almost nationwide pay dispute with local authorities, while staff across more local authorities walked out on Wednesday and others joined them on Friday, affecting cities including Aberdeen, Glasgow and Dundee as well as more rural areas such as the Highlands, Orkney and Angus.

With unions planning up to eight more days of strikes to waste services in September, last night Glasgow city council announced that all primary schools, additional support needs facilities and nurseries will shut across three days early next month because of industrial action by cleaning, janitorial, catering and pupil support workers, with many more councils expected to follow.

Covid infections falling across all regions

Covid infections in the UK are continuing to fall and are now at their lowest level for more than two months, figures show.

A total of 1.4 million people in private households are estimated to have had the coronavirus in the week to 16 August, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is a drop of 16% from 1.7 million the previous week, the Press Association reported.

Infections hit 3.8m in early July during the spread of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the virus but have fallen in recent weeks. Health experts have warned levels are likely to rise again in the autumn and winter, however.

A new booster jab will be offered to everyone in the UK aged 50 and over from next month, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to increase protection ahead of future waves.

Sarah Crofts, the head of analytical outputs for the Covid infection survey, said:

Infections continue to head in the right direction across all of the UK and are now at levels similar to those last seen in mid-June.

Rates remain lowest in school-aged children and we will closely monitor the data to see how the return of schools in September may affect this.

Total UK infections are now at their lowest level since the week ending 11 June, when the BA.4/BA.5 wave of the virus was beginning to grow.

Meanwhile, the outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said Emmanuel Macron is a “tres bon buddy” of the UK.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre in Surrey, the prime minister was asked about Liz Truss’s comments about the French president.

He said:

I think I’ve always had very good relations with Emmanuel Macron. Emmanuel Macron est un tres bon buddy de notre pays.

I think the relations between the UK and France are of huge importance. They have been very good for a long time, ever since the Napoleonic era basically, and I think we should celebrate that.

As for Emmanuel, I’ve had very good relations with him and I can tell you something: he’s a great, great fan of our country.

Johnson was also asked about Rishi Sunak’s comments that the government was not honest about the effects of lockdown during the Covid pandemic.

Johnson said:

I’m just giving you my view, which is that the … about the decision to try to stop the spread of Covid, and with all the things that we did.

Of course, the inquiry will have to look at those decisions. I’m very confident that they were the right ones. I just want to remind people of the logic because I think there’s a bit of … it all gets turned upside down.

People say ‘oh, well, it was because of the lockdowns that people’s health was impaired’. Actually, the purpose of using those methods, imperfect though they were, to restrict the spread of Covid, was to reduce the huge numbers in the NHS.

Forty-thousand people at one stage occupying beds in the NHS because of Covid, and therefore, to reduce the numbers of patients with other complaints, other sicknesses, other needs, who were displaced by Covid, and are now coming back into the NHS. That was the purpose of what we were doing.

Boris Johnson speaks to the media during a visit to South West London Orthopaedic Centre in Epsom, Surrey
Boris Johnson speaks to the media during a visit to South West London Orthopaedic Centre in Epsom, Surrey. Photograph: Reuters

Macron: the UK is a ‘friend’ of France ‘in spite of its leaders’

The French president Emmanuel Macron has responded to Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss’s comments that the “jury’s out” on whether he would be considered a friend or foe of the UK.

He told FranceInfo:

Listen, it’s never good to lose your bearings too much in life. If one asks the question – which is how I will answer you – whoever is considered for the leadership in Great Britain I won’t ponder it for a single second.

The United Kingdom is a friend of France, and you know we live in a complicated world, there are more and more liberals, authoritarian democracies, so there is a sense of imbalance.

If the French and British are not capable of saying whether we are friends or enemies – the term is not neutral – we are going to have a problem.

So yes, of course the British people, the nation which is the United Kingdom, is a friend, strong and allied, whoever its leaders are, and sometimes in spite of the leaders, and the small mistakes they can make in their speeches.

President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press after visiting the cemetery of Christians and Jews in Algiers, Algeria on August 26, 2022.
President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press after visiting the cemetery of Christians and Jews in Algiers, Algeria on August 26, 2022. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Truss told the hustings in Norfolk on Thursday that as prime minister, she would judge Macron by “deeds not words”. But Macron said the UK remained “a friendly nation, a strong ally – regardless of its leaders, and sometimes in spite of its leaders and whatever little mistakes they may make in their speeches from a podium.”

Former senior diplomats and a former French minister condemned Truss’s remarks, saying it was irresponsible of someone likely to be Britain’s next prime minister to disparage a key ally and the comment would further harm cross-Channel relations.

Liz Truss may trigger article 16 days after becoming PM

Aubrey Allegretti

Liz Truss may trigger article 16 proceedings against the European Union within days of becoming prime minister, as a legal war with Brussels looms over the Northern Ireland protocol.

The foreign secretary and Tory leadership frontrunner is understood to have received fresh advice from trade and legal experts about invoking the emergency clause contained in the post-Brexit deal.

It has long been threatened by Truss, but there is renewed interest as the deadline approaches for the UK to respond to legal proceedings launched against it by the EU for failing to implement proper Irish Sea border checks.

The deadline for doing so is 15 September – 10 days after the next prime minister will be announced.

With a lengthy parliamentary battle expected over the Northern Ireland protocol bill, a senior Truss ally quoted in the Financial Times described the triggering of article 16 as a “stopgap” until the legislation is passed.

Though the source said Truss would prefer a negotiated solution with Brussels, triggering article 16 remained an option as long as the talks remained deadlocked.

Speaking at Conservative party hustings on Thursday, the UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said she was not certain whether French president Emmanuel Macron was a friend or foe of the UK.

“If I become prime minister, I’ll judge him on deeds not words,” Truss told party members in Norwich to loud applause.

Liz Truss: ‘jury’s out’ on whether Macron is a friend or foe of UK – video

Ministers criticised for media absence after UK energy price cap rise

Matthew Weaver

Matthew Weaver

Now for more on the widespread anger and disbelief at the refusal of government ministers to appear on TV and radio to answer questions about the increase in the energy price cap.

Broadcasters and opposition parties criticised the TV and radio silence of ministers after it was confirmed at 7am that the price cap was increasing in line with predictions to £3,549.

Kate Garraway, one of the presenters of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, said: “Who we’re not hearing from so far this morning is the government themselves, and we would love you to come on and give us some guidance.

“I know there is a leadership election currently there, so there will be issues about who is actually going to be at the helm come the week, 10 days when that decision is made, but we would love to hear from you this morning, because there are a lot of people that want clarity.”

Labour said the ministerial no-show was a “dereliction of duty”, while presenters pleaded with members of the government to appear.

The chancellor has denied that there is a lack of government action amid the Tory leadership contest.

Broadcasters put it to Nadhim Zahawi that it was “intolerable” to “leave people in the dark” at the moment. Zahawi said: “That sounds like we’re not acting on this.”

Setting out the work of his team over the last month, he said:

We know Putin has now worked out that actually this is quite a potent lever. You look at what’s happening in Germany and the rest of Europe.

We need to make sure there’s more support. My preference is for it to be targeted.

Why? Because it will give us a much longer, more leeway, to be able to face down Putin and send a very important message to him that this is not going to work.

Nadhim Zahawi.
Nadhim Zahawi. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Government ministers were absent from the airwaves early on Friday, even as the news that the energy price cap will increase to £3,549 from October prompted concern across the country.

Presenters on breakfast news programmes, shows where government ministers are usually booked to appear, pointed out the absence to listeners and viewers.

The Press Association reported:

Earlier this week, the government put up schools minister Will Quince to speak about GCSE results, but no ministers were on any of the main broadcasters on Friday morning to speak about the increase in the energy price cap.

Kate Garraway, one of the presenters on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, urged the government to put forward a representative to speak to them.

“Who we’re not hearing from so far this morning is the government themselves,” she said. “And we would love you to come on and give us some guidance.

“I know there is a leadership election currently there, so there will be issues about who is actually going to be at the helm come the week, 10 days when that decision is made, but we would love to hear from you this morning, because there is a lot of people that want clarity.”

The Treasury issued a statement from Nadhim Zahawi, with the chancellor expected to speak to broadcasters at some point on Friday morning.

Zahawi, who could be replaced by the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, in days if Liz Truss emerges victorious in the Tory leadership contest, released a short statement in which he said “help is coming” from the government:

I know the energy price cap announcement this morning will cause stress and anxiety for many people, but help is coming with £400 off energy bills for all, the second instalment of a £650 payment for vulnerable households, and £300 for all pensioners.

While Putin is driving up energy prices in revenge for our support of Ukraine’s brave struggle for freedom, I am working flat out to develop options for further support. This will mean the incoming prime minister can hit the ground running and deliver support to those who need it most, as soon as possible.

Rishi Sunak has said he would back his rival for prime minister over Boris Johnson while Liz Truss shunned the former chancellor in favour of her outgoing boss as they squared up at the penultimate Tory leadership hustings.

The pair made now-familiar swipes at one another’s economic plans as they faced questions on a range of topics including spiralling energy bills, crime and Net Zero at the event in Norwich, the Press Association reported.

The former chancellor vowed not to pursue policies that “risk making inflation far worse and last far longer” – especially if they “amount to borrowing £50 billion and putting that on the country’s credit card”.

The foreign secretary, meanwhile, said raising corporation tax – something Sunak announced as chancellor – would “stop economic growth and put this country into a recession”.

Both candidates were asked who would make a better prime minister out of their rival or outgoing leader Boris Johnson. Sunak said he would prefer Ms Truss, as he called for the country to “move forward”.

However, the foreign secretary said she would rather Johnson had the top job, which drew loud applause and cheers from the audience.

In a quickfire round of questioning, Sunak also said he would prefer to “take the stairs” than be stuck in a lift with either Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon. But Truss said she would pick Scotland’s first minister in that scenario, as the idea of being trapped with the Labour leader was “extremely boring”.

Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party leadership election hustings at the Holiday Inn Norwich North, Norwich.
Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party leadership election hustings at the Holiday Inn Norwich North, Norwich. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Damien Gayle

Environmental protesters have taken action at petrol stations in central London, vandalising pumps, blockading entrances and spraypainting “no new oil” across signs.

The Just Stop Oil campaign said 51 of its supporters took part in the protests at seven petrol stations on Friday morning. Some groups staged sit-down protests at entrances or glued themselves to pumps, while others moved from station to station damaging pumps.

“Today’s action was timed to coincide with the announcement by Ofgem of a massive increase in electricity bills for October which will push millions more into poverty, forced to choose between heating and eating,” the group said in a statement.

We will of course have coverage as Westminster reacts to today’s news that households in Great Britain face a leap in energy bills from October after the regulator raised the energy price cap, taking the average gas and electricity bill to £3,549 a year.

My colleagues on the Guardian’s business desk are doing a stellar job of bringing you all the latest in news and reaction from that story. Follow along with that live blog here.

At last night’s Tory leadership hustings in Norwich, Liz Truss pledged “immediate support” to ease the sting of spiralling energy bills. The foreign secretary acknowledged the strain is “clear” at the checkout and the petrol pump, but insisted that Britain will “get through these tough times” – vowing to ensure help is “on its way”.

The final two in the race for No 10 have repeatedly come to blows over their economic policies, with Rishi Sunak warning his rival’s tax-cutting plans risk driving up inflation, while she has insisted they are key to addressing the cost-of-living crunch, the Press Association reported.

Truss previously signalled she could help firms and households with soaring energy bills with direct support this winter. She was looking at assistance “across the board” despite in the past insisting she was focused on slashing taxes, rather than what she termed “giving out handouts”.

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss answers questions at a hustings event, part of the Conservative party leadership campaign, in Norwich.
Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss answers questions at a hustings event, part of the Conservative party leadership campaign, in Norwich. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has also faced a rebuke from the German ambassador to the UK, who warned that the relationship with France is of “crucial importance”.

Miguel Berger, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, was asked about comments by the foreign secretary after she said the “jury’s out” on whether French president Emmanuel Macron is “friend or foe” to the UK.

“I would say that the relationship with France is of crucial importance for the United Kingdom, so my recommendation would be really to look for a relationship that is as close as possible,” he said.

Pressed on whether Truss’s comments were wise, he said: “The relationship with France should be as close as possible.

“I think there needs to be an effort to reach a good understanding and cooperation with our French neighbours.”

Truss criticised for saying ‘jury’s out’ on Macron relationship

Good morning. As we head into the bank holiday weekend, the Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss was accused of “playing to the gallery” and risking worsened diplomatic relations with France after she said the “jury’s out” on president Emmanuel Macron.

The foreign secretary told Tory members at a leadership hustings in Norwich on Thursday that she was undecided as to whether her counterpart in Paris was “friend or foe”.

A number of issues have affected the UK and France in recent months, including boat crossings in the Channel and travel chaos around Dover, which Truss blamed on a lack of staffing by the French authorities.

TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, the event host, asked Truss: “President Macron, friend or foe?”

“The jury’s out,” she responded to loud applause. “But if I become prime minister, I would judge him on deeds, not words.”

By contrast, her rival the former chancellor Rishi Sunak quickly answered “friend” when asked the same question.

Labour warned that the comment, which could be seen to risk straining tensions with France, showed a “terrible and worrying lack of judgement”.

Meanwhile, the former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell also questioned the remark, tweeting: “You would have thought the Foreign Secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France”.

  • I’m Tom Ambrose, covering for Andrew Sparrow today and throughout much of next week too. If you want to message me directly, you can find me on Twitter @tomambrose89.

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