Monday, October 3, 2022

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UK considers joining new ‘European political community’

Liz Truss is considering whether to include Britain in a new “European political community” championed by Emmanuel Macron.

The club of “democratic European nations” will meet for the first time in October in Prague – a day after the Tory party conference.

The French president has said the group is a “new space” for cooperation and has suggested it could discuss issues such as security, energy, transport and cross-border traffic.

It would allow “democratic European nations who adhere to our values” to work together politically, he said, adding that the EU “given its level of integration and ambition cannot be the only way to structure the European continent”.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed enthusiastic about the organization, claiming her “fatherhood” to herself and declaring in late June: “There must be a role for all of us in a broader conversation on issues that concern us all.”

But Ms Truss is thought to be more skeptical of the idea, having previously told a parliamentary committee that the UK had not yet agreed to anything.

The tentative agenda for the October meeting suggests talks will focus on the war in Ukraine and the continent’s energy crisis, though there are few details about what it will do in the long run.

All 27 members of the EU are invited to participate, as well as non-members such as Great Britain, Ukraine and Turkey.

Countries in the European Economic Area or with similar tailor-made trade links such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland will also participate.

And states with ambitions to become full members of the bloc, such as the six Western Balkan countries, are expected to be invited – along with Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The issue could come up when Ms Truss talks with Mr Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the UN General Assembly in New York in the coming days.

European Council President Charles Michel said earlier this month that there was “no doubt” that Britain and the EU “were friends and that we must continue to act together”.

The UK has been excluded from European Council summits since it left the EU’s political structures on 31 January 2020. The meetings have often served as block-wide forums for discussing challenges from Covid-19, the war in Ukraine to the European energy crisis.

But Ms Truss will also consider whether the community will put her on the wrong side of the Eurosceptic Tory MPs, who are highly dubious about formal cooperation with the EU and could cause her problems at home.

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