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Brexit Britain wants to come back

Brexit Britain wants to come back

Six years after the Brexit vote, Euroskeptic PM Liz Truss wants to lead the UK back into Europe’s political arena.
Times must be hard in London: Brexit Britain wants to rejoin Europe’s political community.

According to three officials present at a meeting on Thursday, the United Kingdom told its European partners that Prime Minister Liz Truss is not only willing to attend the first gathering of the European Political Community in Prague next week, but that she is also willing to host the next summit in London.

The European Political Community is a nascent configuration of European countries whose leaders aim to meet regularly. The club, which will meet for the first time on October 6, includes the leaders of the EU, candidate countries such as Ukraine, the Western Balkans and Turkey, as well as neighbors that do not want to join the Union, such as Norway, Switzerland and the U.K.

It was first proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who touted the new club as a way for European leaders to discuss questions that affect their continent.

The U.K. made the announcement that it is willing to host the next meeting, which has not been reported before, at a closed-doors meeting of sherpas on Thursday, the two officials told POLITICO.

According to the officials, the U.K.’s sherpa proposed to change the name of the club to “European Political Forum.” Moldova — another non-EU country — has also offered to host the next summit, according to one of the officials.

A U.K. government source confirmed the country is potentially interested in hosting further meetings but noted others are also keen.

The first meeting next week will focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine and energy security. Truss is keen to take part in discussions on migration and energy security, according to U.K. officials, but remains skeptical of the need for another multilateral forum.

For Truss, the move to rejoin a European political project is a high-risk option at a sensitive time. Her euroskeptic Conservative Party chose her as its new leader less than a month ago, and she is already battling to save her skin after a disastrous first few weeks.

With the U.K. facing a full-on financial crisis thanks to Truss’s announcement of sweeping tax cuts, she cannot afford to anger her colleagues. It remains to be seen how far Conservative members, voters and colleagues in parliament support her plan to get close to Europe once again. Former Cabinet minister David Lidington – who backed Remain in Britain’s referendum — said Thursday night that such a move would be a “very welcome development.”

For the past six years since the U.K. voted to leave the EU in 2016, successive governments — in which Truss has served — have sought to distance themselves from Brussels. As foreign secretary before she became prime minister, Truss took a hard line with Brussels over Brexit disputes, including the ongoing disagreement over trade rules for Northern Ireland.

Truss and Macron discussed his idea for a political community that included the U.K. when they met earlier this month in New York. Yet there were reasons why the U.K. side seemed reluctant to sign up, not least the desire to avoid looking like Truss was re-joining something that looked like the EU. That is likely to be why the U.K. representatives proposed changing the name from a “community” to a “forum” during the talks on Thursday.

On Monday, the U.K. opposition Labour party weighed in to the debate, urging Truss to go to the meeting next week. “These are our allies, our partners, there’s war in Europe. I certainly would go,” said Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Lammy.
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