UK Truss faces whirlwind week as politics resume after Queen’s funeral

LONDON (Reuters) – British politics returns to center stage on Tuesday after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, with Prime Minister Liz Truss signaling her priorities by heading to her first major summit and rushing measures to try to avoid an economic crisis.

Since the Queen’s death on September 8, politics – or at least the discussion of its ins and outs – has been on hiatus during a period of national mourning, out of respect for a monarch who reigned for 70 years.

The timing of the political pause was frustrating for some in government, after a two-month leadership campaign and when Britain faces a long recession and faces an energy crisis that threatens the finances of millions of people.

But it has, sources say, given some of Truss’ ministers time to settle into their new departments and fine-tune their policies. It’s just been a busy week ahead.

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New policies will be crammed in for the few days at the end of the week in parliament, which the government hopes will sit for an extra day on Friday before breaking up for the annual party conference season.

They will include a support package to help businesses cope with rising energy prices, a statement on the possibility of reducing waiting times for treatment at the UK National Health Service and very significant tax cuts. promised to try to stimulate growth.

She will also meet US President Joe Biden at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday after meeting several leaders who had traveled to attend the Queen’s funeral, which saw a congregation of 2,000 pay their last respects. .

“I think we’ll see a focused and impactful start, showing momentum and direction of travel without distractions or secondary dramas,” said a veteran member of the ruling Conservative Party. “The policies were already there, but they were anchored in the departments (during the period of mourning).”

On her second full day in office, Truss made a big announcement about measures to ease the pain of sky-high energy prices – but that was overshadowed by news hours later that the Queen had died.

The new Prime Minister had to change gears immediately, focusing on setting the right tone in speeches and tributes to the Queen, while keeping a certain distance to allow the royal family to take the lead. For some members of his ruling Conservative Party, the break has softened any criticism of his costly early moves.

And while his spokesmen have been diligent in refusing to make announcements during the period of national mourning, his government has continued its work, with a source saying his ministers were in the finance ministry even on Sunday.

Other institutions have also reduced their work with the public, with Britain’s financial sector canceling events and postponing meetings during the mourning, which culminated in a public holiday on Monday – which could reduce economic output by 0.2 points. percentage this month.

Truss’ overriding mantra for what she wants to achieve in government is “growth”, in the belief that by increasing the rate of economic growth she can solve many other long-standing problems.

This will come in his tax return, or mini budget, due to be presented by his finance minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, on Friday when he scraps a rise in National Insurance contributions and freezes corporation tax.

Kwarteng will also give an estimate of the cost of the energy package, but it will be up to the commercial department to offer the detail. He could also announce the end of the cap on bankers’ bonuses, but as of last week no decision had been taken.

On Thursday, the Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates to fight inflation, apparently moving in the opposite direction to Kwarteng whose tax cuts could fuel prices. His team have made it clear they don’t want the “distractions” that rocked the tenure of his predecessor Boris Johnson, who was eventually kicked out by his own party after months of missteps and scandal.

Kwarteng’s decision to sack the top finance ministry official caused some consternation, but was largely overshadowed by the Queen’s death.

But while Parliament will be very focused on solving national problems, Truss’ first port of call will be New York.

There she will attend the UN’s annual gathering of world leaders and take the opportunity to have what Downing Street described as a “full bilateral meeting” with Biden instead of an informal meeting in London on the sidelines of the funeral.

Britain has long welcomed the so-called special relationship with the United States, but ties have been tested, particularly over Brexit and Truss’s decision to introduce legislation to change unilaterally a post-Brexit trade deal with Northern Ireland.

Biden has long expressed concerns about the future of Northern Ireland, but the two will find common ground in their tough stance against Russia and China. While serving as Foreign Secretary, Truss described the relationship as “special, but not exclusive”.

For a woman who said she would be ready to rule on day one, she has set herself a tough agenda. ($1 = 0.8787 pounds)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, editing by William Maclean)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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