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Liz Truss' journey from 'Remainer' to 'Brexiteer' in her own words

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By Alasdair Sandford
Liz Truss, then UK Foreign Secretary, leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Liz Truss, then UK Foreign Secretary, leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Frank Augstein

The newly chosen UK prime minister, Liz Truss, is a fervent supporter of Brexit. 

In her previous roles, at the Treasury and as trade and foreign secretary, she has passionately promoted the UK's "opportunities" outside the EU.

However, she was once an enthusiastic backer of the UK's EU membership. She voted "Remain" in the 2016 referendum having spoken out in particular of the need to remain in the EU's single market.

Below is a summary of Truss' Brexit transformation — in her own words:

  • "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." — February 20, 2016, on Twitter, referring to the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership.

  • I believe that farmers are better off remaining in a reformed EU. The vast majority of our exports are to the EU — for example, 97% of lamb exports and 92% of beef exports. As part of the single market, we do not face the tariffs and barriers that we face in trying to export to other countries. That is vital for the health of our farming industry." — as Environment Secretary, House of Commons, March 17, 2016.

  • "What I would say, on behalf of all farmers, is that the EU and the single market have brought about massive benefits for food and farming... There would be a real risk to the future livelihood of those industries if we were to leave and were not able to export our fine products to those European countries any more." — House of Commons, May 5, 2016.

  • "That European market is so precious, because we share the same regulations, we share the same rules over things like food safety, over animal health and welfare... If we were to leave that EU single market... those (UK) products would face additional costs in getting them into those markets, and it would mean in some cases that we could see markets close... I think we've got to be very careful about taking that single market for granted, and being outside that single market... it is really crucial to the amount of growth we've seen in food and drink exports over the past 40 years... The reason many of those investors want to invest in the UK market is because we have access to 500 million (EU) consumers... The 'out' campaign has been very clear, they've said they don't want to be part of the single market, I think that's a real worry for investment... It's in all of our interests to communicate the real impact on the ground, the real impact this would have on jobs, on livelihoods, because what we know is that less trade would mean fewer investments, fewer jobs, and that would feed through to people's incomes... that affects all of us in the overall economy." — address to the Food and Drink Industry annual dinner as Environment Secretary, May 19, 2016. (The UK left the EU's single market at the end of 2020).

  • "(The) Leave (campaign) cannot name one country we would get a better trade deal with if we left the EU." — Twitter, June 21, 2016.

  • "We say it's all Europe that's causing all these (British workers') problems... it's migrants that's causing these problems but actually, what needs to happen is, you know, a bit more... a bit more graft (she laughs). It's not a popular message." — leaked recording from 2017-2019 when Truss was Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
  • "I made a judgement thinking that it (Brexit) would be bad for the economy. Since we've left* it's been more positive, so the facts have changed and I've changed my mind... I believed there would be major economic problems, those haven't come to pass, and I've also seen the opportunities. And I think the other thing is that it was a big moment on June 23rd (2016) when British people voted to leave, and it was an expression about what kind of country we wanted to be, and I think that has changed the debate in this country as well." — BBC Daily Politics, October 11, 2017.

*The UK had not left the EU at this stage and trading rules had not changed.

The UK left the EU on January 31, 2020 and its single market and customs union when the Brexit transition period expired on December 31, 2020.

  • "Taking back control of our trade policy means the British people are back in the driving seat... As a newly independent trading nation, unparalleled opportunities lie ahead of us. Our economy can move into top gear after decades in the slow lane, stuck behind the EU’s high tariff wall... We can help innovation flourish more than under the innovation-phobic EU’s watch." — speech to Chatham House as International Trade Secretary, October 29, 2020.
  • "After almost 50 years in the EU, once again all the levers of international policy are in our hands — diplomacy, development, trade and security." — first speech as Foreign Secretary, December 8, 2021.
  • "Alongside the US, G7, EU and other partners, the UK is taking decisive steps to squeeze the Putin regime." — Twitter, March 1, 2022.
  • "The NI (Northern Ireland) Protocol is undermining the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The EU are unwilling to change the Protocol, therefore we must act." — Twitter, June 26, 2022.
  • "In the face of EU intransigence, I developed the Northern Ireland Protocol bill... This breaks the deadlock in a legal way, upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and preventing the tearing apart of our precious Union." — "Liz for leader" campaign launch speech, July 14, 2022.
AFP
Liz Truss as Environment Secretary alongside then finance minister George Osborne, Bristol, April 18, 2016, warning of the cost to UK households if the UK left the EU.AFP
  • "EU regulations hinder our businesses and this has to change... In Downing Street, I will seize the chance to diverge from outdated EU law and frameworks and capitalise on the opportunities we have ahead of us." — statement on pledge to ditch all EU laws by 2023, July 22, 2022.
  • "We will become greater still by seizing our newfound freedoms outside the EU." — Twitter, July 25, 2022.
  • "As Prime Minister I will remove onerous EU regulations and red tape to back our British farmers." — Twitter, August 1, 2022.
  • "The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes. We cannot allow this to continue." — government statement on UK formal appeal against exclusion from EU science programmes, August 16, 2022.