Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, is planning a reset of Britain’s foreign and trade policy to conclude further security and technology pacts in the style of the recent Aukus agreement between Australia and the United States.
Truss, who was promoted to the Office of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth and Development in last month’s relocation, is also planning diplomatic visits to several EU capitals in the coming months in an attempt to reset relations in Europe.
Foreign Ministry insiders, aware of Truss’ plans, told the Financial Times that she will focus her diplomatic efforts on regions of paramount importance to Britain’s security and commercial interests. She is expected to concentrate on stronger relationships with a smaller number of key allies.
“Liz has been impressed by the incredible expertise of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but thinks we are scattered too thin. We can not prioritize everything, ”said an official.
“Her plan is to create this strategic framework based on deeper financial, developmental and security ties and set a positive, energetic tone for the department’s work.”
Truss is looking at further security and trade relations in the Indo-Pacific with India, Japan, Indonesia and Australia among the countries with which she will aim to build better ties.
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She would seek to enter into more “strong security-style security partnerships”, according to an official, although there was no suggestion that these would be as expansive as the tripartite agreement that would enable Australia to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Officials said she would bring “a strong economic focus” to the role and would carry out joint diplomatic missions with Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who replaced her as international trade secretary.
“Liz believes that the way to challenge our opponents and increase Britain’s global influence is to build deeper economic ties with other countries,” said a senior Foreign Office official. “She has focused on deepening trade relations, forging new technological partnerships and working with allies to increase infrastructure investment in developing countries.”
Sophia Gaston, director of the British Foreign Policy Group’s think tank, said Truss’s diplomatic approach was in line with the “adaptability doctrine” described in the integrated review of Britain’s foreign policy after Brexit earlier this year.
“The energetic new Secretary of State clearly believes that this needs to be extended to our alliances. Her focus will also be needed at home and identify clear priorities to restore bandwidth and reintroduce the influence of a more muscular FCDO, ”she said.
Truss’s plans for relations with the rest of Europe are complicated by the fact that Brexit Minister Lord David Frost is responsible for some of the most sensitive aspects of EU relations, including the Northern Ireland Protocol, as Britain seeks to renegotiate that part of the withdrawal agreement.
Frost is due to give a speech this week reiterating Britain’s demand that the European Court of Justice’s scrutiny of the controversial Northern Ireland protocol be scrapped, signaling that expected EU concessions on border controls between Northern Ireland and the British mainland were not enough.
The Foreign Minister’s efforts to improve bilateral relations with EU countries are expected to focus initially on the Member States, including Spain-Madrid is involved in post-Brexit relations negotiations with Gibraltar-Italy, the Baltic States and the so-called Visegrad Group: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Truss has told colleagues she expects the poor state of relations between Britain and France to continue until after next year’s presidential election. The expectation in London is that French President Emmanuel Macron is likely to win re-election.
Latin America is a region that is expected to fall on her priority list, according to leading British diplomats. Historically, imports in the UK accounted for a third of the region’s total, but in 2018 it came to less than 1 per cent. The region is now struggling with sub-Saharan Africa as the least significant for British trade globally.