Truss ready to join Macron’s new EU club as she urges for unity
Truss warned of ‘extreme difficulty’ if Tories cannot unite
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Liz Truss will plead for unity from European leaders to “address the fundamental causes” of energy and migration challenges as she attempts to move beyond splits within her party. The Prime Minister will attend a summit of European leaders in Prague on Thursday, with French President Emmanuel Macron among those she is expected to meet.
It comes as the new prime minister is facing challenges at home, having had to make a U-turn on Monday on some tax plans that helped spark turmoil in financial markets. She also takes over as the country is facing soaring energy bills and a cost-of-living crisis.
In an opinion piece for the Times, Ms Truss encouraged European leaders to end their reliance on Russian energy supplies. The war in Ukraine has made clear just how dependent Europe is on Russian supplies.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is hoping he can divide us in a scramble for energy supplies. We must show him that he is wrong,” she wrote.
Ms Truss asked for help from France, Belgium and the Netherlands to guard against winter blackouts, saying Britain and its neighbours should commit to keeping the links through undersea cables and pipelines open during winter to keep “the lights on across the continent.”
She wrote: “The UK sends and receives both gas and electricity through the undersea cables and pipelines that link us with neighbours like France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“Today we must all commit to keeping those connections open this winter so we keep the lights on across the Continent.”
Talking about the migration challenges that Britain is facing, Ms Truss wrote, “we are proud of the way that we have opened our homes to 130,000 Ukrainian refugees. But we need a stronger response to the crime gangs that exploit desperate people.”
Britain will deepen its joint working with France, Netherlands and other countries along the migration route to step up collective response to “this trans-national tragedy,” she wrote.
The British government has been under pressure to deal with the rising number of people making dangerous journeys across the English Channel.
The summit gives Britain an opportunity to shape a new European forum from the inside after Brexit, and could shift some of the spotlight away from financial and political turmoil at home.
Ms Truss is expected to meet Mr Macron for a bilateral meeting on Thursday after holding talks with him during a UN summit in New York last month.
Downing Street said Ms Truss’s talks with Mr Macron and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte will focus on migration and aim to secure progress on joint operations to disrupt people-trafficking gangs.
No 10 added that the Prime Minister will encourage countries to act more quickly to end Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies in light of its invasion of Ukraine.
Ms Truss is expected to tell the opening plenary session in Prague: “Europe is facing its biggest crisis since the Second World War. And we have faced it together with unity and resolve.
“We must continue to stand firm – to ensure that Ukraine wins this war, but also to deal with the strategic challenges that it has exposed.”
Ms Truss will seek to stress the UK’s role in European matters – including Ukraine – despite leaving the EU, Downing Street said.
The Prime Minister will say: “The threat was left to fester for far too long. Now, at last, we are tackling Putin’s aggression head on.
“And we should take the same approach with other challenges before us – including long-standing regional issues like energy and migration.
“Instead of the old approach which merely dealt with the symptoms, it’s time to address the fundamental causes.”
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It comes as energy regulator Ofgem warned this week that the UK faces a “significant risk” of gas shortages this winter and a possible emergency due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Although Russia only meets about 4 percent of Britain’s gas needs, a disruption in supply to Europe has contributed to driving up British prices and makes it harder for Britain to secure gas from others.
In a letter to power company SSE, regulator Ofgem said Britain faced the possibility of a “gas supply emergency” in which gas supplies to some gas-fired power plants are curtailed, which can stop them from generating electricity.
Responding to the publication of the letter, Ofgem said in an email: “This winter is likely to be more challenging than previous ones due to the Russian disruption of gas supplies to Europe.”
In the event of gas supply issues, the regulator and Britain’s National Grid could be forced to curb supply of gas to gas-fired power stations to make sure enough supply remains available to households.
“We need to be prepared for all scenarios this winter,” Ofgem said in the email.
“As a result, Ofgem is putting in place sensible contingency measures with National Grid ESO (Electricity System Operator) and GSO (Gas System Operator) as well as the government to ensure that the UK energy system is fully prepared for this winter,” Ofgem said.
A government spokesman said: “The UK is already in a strong position. We are not dependent on Russian energy imports and have a strategic advantage through access to our North Sea gas reserves, steady imports from reliable partners like Norway, the second largest liquefied natural gas port infrastructure in Europe and massive investment in clean energy sources.”
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