‘Anyone, but Liz Truss?’ Varadkar hits out at Conservative leadership election over EU row

Ireland: Varadkar 'not optimistic' about new UK Prime Minister

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Leo Varadkar admitted he was “not optimistic” when pressed on Irish TV on Tuesday morning about the prospect of either Mr Sunak or Ms Truss becoming the UK’s next Prime Minister. Ireland’s deputy Prime Minister went on to brand the UK a “funny country at the moment” as he reflected on the ongoing Brexit row. 

Asked if the Irish government’s view on the Conservative leadership election was “anyone but Liz Truss,” Mr Varadkar replied: “I don’t actually know either of them.

“[Ireland’s Foreign Minister] Simon Coveney he would Liz and [Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe} would know Rishi, I haven’t met either of them yet anyway.

“But to be frank, I’m not usually optimistic that it’s going to result in an improvement in relations.

“We’ll do our best to reset relations.”

He added: “But what the Conservative Party is fundamentally done is two things.

“They still seem to want a row with Brussels, and that makes an agreement on the protocol very hard, a row with Brussels plays well with the base, plays as well with the tabloid newspapers, unfortunately.

“Secondly, they’re not even-handed and dealing with Northern Ireland. They’re very much siding with one block of opinion the unionists over the other two blocks of opinion and unless that changes, I don’t think the personality or the identity of the individual actually is going to matter all that much.”

Mr Varadkar continued: “We did manage to negotiate a deal with Theresa May, unfortunately, she couldn’t get it through the House of Commons.

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“Liz Truss voted for that by the way, which Rishi didn’t, and then we did a deal with Boris Johnson which he got to the House of Commons, but he decided he didn’t want to not honour it.

“So, look, it’s a funny country at the moment, but we’ll do our best to work with them as best we can.”

Ms Truss, the front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, was forced to backtrack on one of her most striking pledges a day after announcing it following a backlash from fellow Conservatives and opposition parties.

In the first big misstep of her campaign, Truss set out plans to save billions of pounds a year in government spending in a pledge opponents said would require cutting the pay of public sector workers, including nurses and teachers, outside of the wealthy southeast of England.

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Truss had said late on Monday that she would introduce regional pay boards rather than having a national pay agreement, tailoring pay to the local cost of living.

But after criticism on Tuesday, Truss said: “I never had any intention of changing the terms and conditions of teachers and nurses. But what I want to be clear about is I will not be going ahead with the regional pay boards.”

The U-turn came as opinion polls showed widely varying pictures of the extent of Truss’s lead over rival Rishi Sunak.

A survey of 807 Conservative Party members by Italian data company Techne carried out July 19-27 found Truss was backed by 48 percent, compared with 43 percent for former finance minister Sunak.

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