Monday, September 25, 2023

Liz Truss out of office with no cherished India-UK free trade agreement

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British Prime Minister Liz Truss described India as a “great, big opportunity” and believes the UK and India are “in a good position from the trade dynamics that are building”.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London on Thursday, October 20, 2022. Truss says he will resign as leader of the British Conservative Party (Photo: AP)

By Press Trust of IndiaBritain’s third female Prime Minister, Liz Truss, resigned on Thursday after one of the shortest terms in office at 10 Downing Street in London and without a cherished India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) as a Brexit prize.

Truss, who insisted in parliament until Wednesday that she was a “fighter and not a quitter”, resigned just six weeks after her position became untenable after a series of policy changes, cabinet turmoil and an open rebellion against her ability to lead. a deeply divided conservative party.

Truss, who fought for stronger bilateral ties with India in her innings as foreign and trade minister, took the lead at 10 Downing Street last month after beating Indian ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership race.

The 47-year-old faced one of the toughest in-trays in the top job due to the rising cost of living in the country, which rivaled all the problems her female predecessors faced in the office. Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

She also struggled with a fragile party that gave her a narrower margin of victory of 57 to 43 percent than the most recently elected Tory party leaders.

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On India’s front, the former minister of international trade, who signed the Boris Johnson-led India-UK Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) in May last year, was determined to push the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations to a deadline. of the year as a major post-Brexit achievement for the UK.

She has described India as a “big, big opportunity” and believes the UK and India are “in a good position from the trade dynamics that are building”. “We are looking at a comprehensive trade agreement that covers everything from financial services to legal services to digital and data, as well as goods and agriculture. We think there is a good opportunity for us to quickly reach an agreement, cutting tariffs on both sides and seeing more goods flow between our two countries,” she said shortly after signing the ETP.

During the campaign, Truss reaffirmed that she remains “very, very committed” to strengthening bilateral ties at a husting event of the party’s Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) diaspora group. She also pushed for the India-UK free trade agreement to be completed, preferably by Diwali – the deadline set by predecessor Boris Johnson – but “certainly by the end of the year”. She has repeatedly pointed to strengthened defense and security cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region to achieve its “network of freedom” goals as a counterbalance to the aggressions of Russia and China, and also pledged to ensure that the British visa regime continues to attract the “best and brightest” from India.

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As Foreign Secretary, she has been at the forefront of the UK’s response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, imposing tough sanctions and cracking down on Russian assets in the UK. It is this crisis that marked what has been described as one of the worst in-trays a new British Prime Minister has faced, given rising energy costs that have led to a cost of living crisis in the UK, largely due to the ongoing conflict in Europe.

“I took office at a time of great economic and international instability,” she said in her resignation speech.

“Families and businesses were concerned about how to pay their bills. Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine threatens the security of our entire continent. And our country was held back for too long by low economic growth. I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this. However, I recognize that given the situation, I cannot fulfill the mandate to which I was elected by the Conservative Party,” she said.

While Sunak insisted that tax cuts are not the answer to get a handle on the country’s soaring inflation, Truss stuck to her low tax pledge throughout the campaign – a move that clearly paid off with the conservative party’s historically low taxes. advantaged, but not for long, as the British economy plunged into crisis.

While UK-born Sunak relied on his personal immigrant story and Indian heritage during a slick campaign, Truss repeatedly admitted that she may not have been the brightest candidate but had a clear vision of how to “get the job done”.

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Ironically, both candidates went back to Tory grandee Margaret Thatcher as their inspiration. While Sunak belonged firmly to one end of the party wing as a Brexiteer, Truss was one who had voted for the UK to remain in the European Union (EU). She was also frequently addressed about her membership and campaigning for the Liberal Democrats as a young student at Oxford University.

But in the end, the MP for South West Norfolk won the Tory membership base, which had her as a clear frontrunner since she was chosen as a finalist by her party colleagues.

Born in Oxford to the father of a mathematics professor and a nurse and teacher, Truss grew up and lived in various parts of the UK including Paisley in Scotland and Leeds, Kidderminster and London in England. Truss is married to accountant Hugh O’Leary and has two teenage daughters.

She faced an arduous task of governing the various parts of the United Kingdom and ruling in division within her own party, and it clearly proved too much for her to contend with.

ALSO READ | ‘Unable to deliver mandate’, says Liz Truss after resigning as British Prime Minister

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