Liz Truss: jury out on whether France’s Macron is ‘friend or foe’

Labour says comment shows ‘terrible and worrying lack of judgment’

Conservative leadership contender Liz Truss has been 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 UK 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 United Kingdom and France in recent months, including boat crossings in the Channel and travel chaos around Dover, which Ms Truss blamed on a lack of staffing by the French authorities

Ms Truss and her rival candidate Rishi Sunak were asked a series of quickfire questions at the Norwich hustings.


TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, the event host, asked Ms 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.”

The former chancellor had 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 judgment”.

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”.

Elsewhere in the hustings, Ms Truss conceded that if it were a choice between relying on France or China for nuclear expertise, she would pick France.

Ms Truss also distanced the United Kingdom from the prospect of a project of being part of a wider European political community following a meeting between outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson and the French president in June.

France insisted Mr Johnson had expressed interest in the idea, which would see non-EU states such as the United Kingdom involved.

Ms Truss denied the UK had ever been on board with such a proposal, saying afterwards: “That is not true”.

“I don’t know the exact words that President Macron has used, but we have not agreed to that.” Asked whether she bought into “his political and economic community”, she replied: “No.” — PA