How have European leaders reacted to Liz Truss winning the Tory leadership race?

(left to right) France's president Emmanuel Macron, UK's incoming prime minister Liz Truss and and German chancellor Olaf Scholz Credit: AP/PA

Ask European officials about the prospects for relations with Britain under Liz Truss and they will sigh wearily and say they hope for the best, but right at this moment they have more important things to worry about.

It seems incredible to those across the Channel that as the unity of the West is under its greatest threat since the Cold War; Putin cuts off gas supplies indefinitely; energy prices go stratospheric and governments make contingency plans to ration gas this winter, this should be a moment for aggravating relations between London and the rest of the EU.

But central to Ms Truss’ pitch to Conservative party members was that she would press ahead with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, that the only thing those pesky Europeans would respect was strength. Also central was that she cared so little for rebuilding relations with the continent that she wasn’t even sure if France and its president were friends or foes.

So expectations across the EU's 27 capitals are low. Maybe it was all campaign bluster, to be quietly parked as soon as her hold on Number 10 is secure, but they’ve learnt a thing or two about the current Conservative party in the last six years, and that is that there is no constituency within it urging a rapprochement with Europe. Far from it.

They have sent messages of congratulations today, all expressing hopes of future harmony with the new administration, but they are unlikely to be holding their breath.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen added to her congratulations a pointed: “I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements”.

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Those agreements, of course, include the Northern Ireland Protocol that Liz Truss may be about to scrap.

They all wait to see whether she will carry through with that threat. There have been noises in her camp that she may first trigger Article 16 of the Protocol, effectively suspending it, rather than press ahead with scrapping it altogether.

That has the advantage of not being a breach of international law, one step short of the ‘nuclear option’, but it would nonetheless cause considerable anger because it would be seen as unjustified.

There are also recent suggestions that she might, to avoid a potentially disastrous trade war with Europe at the worst possible moment, instead continue with unilateral extensions of the ‘grace periods’ that mean many of the agreed rules on the GB/Northern Ireland border are not implemented. Given where we are, that may be considered as quite a good result.

President Macron has refused to be riled by her campaign comments, saying France is “ready to work together as friends and allies”. He and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will give her every opportunity, and the first sign as to whether she’s interested may come next month when she is invited to join European leaders to discuss the creation of a European Political Community.

That is all about security co-operation and broader ties across Europe. It’s the sort of thing even some Brexiters used to say they were keen on. Whether Ms Truss turns up will be a big pointer towards how the next couple of years might go.