New British PM Liz Truss promises to ride out economic storm

In an address to the nation, new British Prime Minister Liz Truss pledges to ‘ride out the storm’ of economic crisis.

Liz Truss
Truss promised to take action to tackle 'unaffordable energy bills' [Toby Melville/Reuters]

Liz Truss has promised to “ride out the storm” of economic crisis in her first address since taking over as British prime minister, pledging immediate action to tackle a set of challenges led by soaring energy bills, looming recession and industrial strife.

“I am confident that together we can ride out the storm. We can rebuild our economy, and we can become the modern brilliant Britain that I know we can be,” the 47-year-old former foreign secretary said outside her new Downing Street home and office in London on Tuesday.

Truss said she had three priorities: tax cuts to boost the economy, helping with rising energy costs, and sorting out the state-run National Health Service.

However, she has inherited an economy in crisis, with inflation at double digits and the Bank of England warning of a lengthy recession by the end of this year. Commenting on the challenges ahead, Truss referenced the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the continuing war in Ukraine.

Liz Truss
Truss was speaking after meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, who asked her to form a new government [Toby Melville/Reuters]

Truss was speaking after meeting Queen Elizabeth II, who asked her to form a new government in a carefully choreographed ceremony dictated by centuries of tradition. It came one day after the governing Conservative Party announced that Truss had been elected as its leader.

Boris Johnson, who announced he was resigning two months ago following a series of scandals, formally stepped down during his own audience with the queen.

Shortly after her address, Truss appointed close allies to top jobs including Kwasi Kwarteng as finance minister, Therese Coffey as deputy prime minister and health minister, and James Cleverly as foreign minister. Her appointments mark the first time a white man will not hold one of Britain’s four most important ministerial positions.

As soon as Thursday, she is expected to sanction a freeze on household energy bills to prevent steep increases this winter, and possibly beyond, at a cost of tens of billions of pounds.

Truss has also promised to scrap plans to increase corporation tax on big firms, and to reverse an increase in a payroll tax on workers and employers, designed to raise additional funding for health and social care, with the extra spending coming from general taxation.

‘Freedom and democracy’

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from London, said Truss faced a daunting series of challenges.

“The global picture is against her, the domestic picture is against her, but she says she has the will,” he said said.

During her short speech, Truss also lauded the United Kingdom’s continuing unity with its allies and her country’s support for “freedom and democracy around the world”.

“We can’t have security at home without having security abroad,” she said.

One key ally, US President Joe Biden, was quick to congratulate Truss on her appointment.

“I look forward to deepening the special relationship between our countries and working in close cooperation on global challenges, including continued support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression,” he wrote on Twitter.

The two leaders spoke on the phone later on Tuesday.

Truss’s office said they discussed deepening cooperation on NATO and AUKUS, the US-Australia-Britain security agreement set up last year as a counter to China.

Truss looks forward to “working closely with President Biden as leaders of free democracies to tackle shared challenges, particularly the extreme economic problems unleashed by Putin’s war,” the statement said.

They also discussed Northern Ireland, where Truss previously introduced legislation to undo the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was part of Britain’s withdrawal agreement from the European Union and prioritised protecting the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for peace in the British-run territory.

The British statement on the phone call said both leaders “agreed on the importance of protecting” the agreement.

US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel reiterated the US position on the peace accord.

The “US priority remains protecting the gains of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and preserving peace and stability and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies