The next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will take office in turmoil: galloping inflation, war in Ukraine, degraded relations with China, climate change.
But not all of those issues are getting the same attention as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak vie for the votes of around 180,000 Conservative Party members. One of them will be elected on September 5 to replace scandal-ridden Boris Johnson, who stepped down as party leader this month.
With ballots due to be mailed out next week, polls put Truss ahead, and she won the endorsement of respected UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on Friday.
Here is where the candidates stand on the key issues:
As the UK faces its biggest cost-of-living squeeze in decades amid soaring energy prices and 9.4% inflation, the economy unsurprisingly dominated the competition – and this is where the two contestants differ the most.
Truss promises immediate tax cuts, saying she will scrap a 1.25% income tax hike introduced by Sunak to help fund the country’s health and social care, and reverse a planned increase in corporate tax. She says she will finance the cuts by borrowing.
Sunak said he would get inflation under control before cutting taxes, although this week he pledged to remove sales tax from national energy bills for a year.
Both claim high moral character. Truss says raising taxes amid a cost of living crisis is “morally wrong”, while Sunak says “it’s not moral” to pass the bills on to future generations.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent think tank, notes that “candidates have been less forthcoming about their intentions for public spending.” They made little mention of Johnson’s repeated promises to channel investment to deprived areas of central and northern England that lag behind the wealthier south. The IFS said Truss’ plans were likely to bring austerity because “at the end of the day, lower taxes mean lower spending”.
Both candidates doubled down on the Johnson government’s controversial plan to send asylum seekers arriving in the UK on a one way to Rwanda.
Under an agreement between the two countries, migrants will be considered asylum seekers in the East African country, rather than the UK. The UK government says the policy will deter gangs of people traffickers ferrying people across the Channel, but human rights groups say it’s immoral, illegal and a waste of people’s money. taxpayers.
The House of Commons cross-party Home Affairs Committee concluded that “the asylum agreement with Rwanda so far shows no evidence of being the deterrent it is intended to be”. Small boats continue to cross the Channel, no one has yet been sent to Rwanda, and the policy is being challenged in British courts.
Nonetheless, Truss suggested she could expand the program to other countries. Sunak says he will maintain the Rwandan policy and may cap the number of refugees admitted to the UK each year.
When the UK voted on whether to leave the European Union in 2016, Sunak and Truss were opposed. Sunak was a proponent of “leave”, while Truss argued that the country should stay in the bloc.
Now that the UK is gone, both are strong Brexiteers. They say they will seize the economic opportunities offered by leaving the country – but did not give many details of what these are. Both deny that Brexit is responsible for the delays of several hours faced by travelers and truckers at the Port of Dover last week, although many economists say new barriers to trade and travel are clearly a factor.
Truss and Sunak will both pursue a plan to tear up parts of the UK-EU Brexit treaty governing trade with Northern Ireland, a move that has triggered legal action by the EU and could escalate into a trade war.
Many Tories see Sunak as softer on the issue because as Treasury chief he worried about potential damage to Britain’s economy. The less emollient Truss has the backing of hardline Tory Brexiteers, despite her past as a ‘remainer’.
Both candidates promise to achieve the UK government’s goal of achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but green issues figured little in the campaign.
Sunak talked about using the technology and building more offshore wind farms. Truss says she will scrap a “green levy” on energy bills that is used to fund renewable energy projects, which critics say will slow progress towards net zero.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups have denounced the lack of attention to energy and climate issues in the campaign, especially as Britain this month experienced 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time ).
Russia and China
Both candidates say they will continue the unwavering support for Ukraine that has made Johnson more popular in Kyiv than in London. Britain has given Ukraine £4 billion ($5 billion) in military and humanitarian aid to help it fight off the Russian invasion and is training Ukrainian troops on British soil.
Sunak and Truss promise there will be no lessening of UK support if they take over, and both say they will keep defense spending above the 2% of GDP recommended by the UK. NATO. Truss pledged to go further and raise it to 3% by 2030.
Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, said Truss’ international experience and commitment to military spending gave him “the edge”.
Both candidates are also hawkish on China, though Truss’s criticisms are stronger. As Foreign Secretary, she has called for a ‘freedom network’ to counter China’s growing political and economic influence, and she opposes Chinese investment in UK infrastructure projects like nuclear power stations .
As finance minister, Sunak’s past comments on China have underscored the importance of maintaining a productive economic relationship. He hardened his tone, calling China “Britain’s biggest long-term threat”. He says if elected he will shut down the 30 Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes in the UK.
Beijing is not impressed by the rhetoric of the two candidates. This week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged British politicians not to “exaggerate the so-called Chinese threat”.
“Such irresponsible remarks will not help solve their own problems,” he said.