The Tory leadership frontrunner’s suggestion that exiting the European Union was a smooth process may stick in the throats of many caught up in travel chaos or the friction caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which ministers now want to tear up.
When the UK voted on whether to leave the bloc in 2016, Truss and her leadership rival Rishi Sunak were on opposite sides.
Truss argued that the UK should remain in the EU, and Sunak was a leave supporter. Now that Britain has left, both are keen champions of Brexit.
Under questioning during a leadership hustings of Tory members in Cardiff on Wednesday, Truss said: “On the subject of the remain vote … yes, I was unsure at the time. I was pretty much on the fence.
“I’ve always said that if we weren’t part of the European Union, I wouldn’t want to join it.
“But I was concerned about some of the disruption. The fact is that disruption didn’t happen.”
The suggestion from the foreign secretary that she was “on the fence” in 2016 is in stark contrast to her position at the time. She tweeted six years ago: “I am backing remain as I believe it is in Britain’s economic interest and means we can focus on vital economic and social reform at home.”
The UK is already stuck in a summer of travel chaos, with queues of travellers trying to leave the country at Dover stretching up to six hours long. Huge delays at UK ports are being blamed on new Brexit trade checks, as well as post-pandemic staff shortages.
Meanwhile, the government wants to rip up parts of the UK-EU Brexit treaty governing trade with Northern Ireland, a move that has triggered legal action by the EU and could escalate to a trade war. Truss and Sunak both support the current position.
A Resolution Foundation study in June found Brexit has damaged Britain’s competitiveness, reducing productivity and workers’ real wages in the years ahead.
The report, in collaboration with the London School of Economics, said the immediate impact of the referendum result has been clear, with the cost of living increasing for households, and business investment falling.
Only sanctions-hit Russia is predicted to perform worse than the UK among the G20 leading economies next year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in June, with its chief economist suggesting “a bit of Brexit” was part of the reason why, along with inflationary pressures affecting much of the world.
A Wall Street Journal story last month was headlined: ‘Boris Johnson’s Successor Will Face Challenges With Post-Brexit Turmoil, Inflation, Energy’.
When TalkTV host Julia Hartley-Brewer asked: “What’s actually working in Britain today?”
He replied: “Our test cricketers didn’t do too badly against New Zealand, so test matches are going reasonably well.”