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The Telegraph:Follow View Profile Liz Truss faces Tory backlash over Emmanuel Macron remarks

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Liz Truss faced a backlash from senior Tories on Friday after saying the “jury was out” on whether French President Emmanuel Macron was “friend or foe”.

Liz Truss faces Tory backlash over Emmanuel Macron remarks - Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Liz Truss faces Tory backlash over Emmanuel Macron remarks – Joe Giddens/PA Wire© Joe Giddens/PA Wire

They warned that Ms Truss’s remark at a Tory leadership hustings in Norwich was a “serious error” and risked undermining the UK’s relationship with France.

Responding to a series of quick-fire questions at the event on Thursday evening, Ms Tuss said that if elected prime minister, she would judge the French president on his “deeds not words.” When asked the same question Mr Sunak said Mr Macron was a “friend.”

It follows tensions with France over a number of issues including small boat crossings in the Channel and travel chaos around Dover, which Ms Truss blamed on a lack of staffing by the French authorities.

In a tweet, former foreign minister Alistair Burt said Ms Truss had made a “desperately serious error” and should have struck a more diplomatic tone.

Former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell questioned Ms Truss’s comment saying: “You would have thought the Foreign Secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France.”

Another ex-Tory minister, David Gauke, said: “There’s playing to the gallery and then there’s letting the prejudices of the gallery go to your head, especially when now is one of the worst times to try to fragment the West.”

One Conservative minister was quoted by the BBC as saying Ms Truss’s comments had “completely undermined our relationship with France”, calling her a “faux Thatcher”, a reference to the infamously Eurosceptic former Tory prime minister.

‘Woeful lack of judgement’

Labour’s David Lammy accused Ms Truss of “a woeful lack of judgement”, saying she had insulted one of “Britain’s closest allies”.

Ms Truss’s comments have been picked up by French media, who have highlighted recent tensions between Paris and London.

The UK and France have also clashed over a military pact between Britain, the US and Australia, and Brexit measures involving Northern Ireland.

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.

Taking questions in front of an audience of Tory members, she said: “I’m very clear that we need to boost our nuclear industry including Sizewell, including the small modular reactors that are produced in Derbyshire.

‘I’d rather rely on France than China’

“Frankly, I would rather that we do have more homegrown nuclear expertise, and regrettably we lost that because we failed to do these things 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.

“If it’s a choice between relying on France and relying on China, I would take France.”

It comes after Ms Truss distanced the UK from the prospect of a project of being part of a wider European political community following a meeting between Boris Johnson and the French president in June.

The Elysee Palace insisted that the Prime Minister had expressed interest in the idea, which would see non-EU states such as the UK 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.”

In July, she said delays to the journeys of holidaymakers near Dover were the fault of French authorities and had been “entirely avoidable”.

However, a French politician blamed Brexit for the chaos.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, the Republican MP for Calais, said the problems at the Kent port would reoccur, telling BBC News: “This is an aftermath of Brexit. We have to run more checks than before.”

Sir Peter Ricketts, former British ambassador to France and former national security advisor, wrote on Twitter: “Insulting our closest defence and security ally in Europe, especially in a time of war, is just irresponsible.”

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