Why Liz Truss is right to go to first meeting of Macron's 'shadow EU'

Liz Truss and Emmanuel Macron met recently at the UN General Assembly in New York - Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street
Liz Truss and Emmanuel Macron met recently at the UN General Assembly in New York - Andrew Parsons/No10 Downing Street

What on Earth is the Prime Minister doing getting enmeshed in one of Emmanuel Macron’s grand visions for Europe?

Liz Truss joining the first meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) of EU and non-EU nations isn't betraying Brexit -  it is common sense and good politics.

The French president’s pet project was dismissed by some as a “shadow EU” when it was first suggested the UK may want to participate in Prague next week.

Why get trapped in another pan-European organisation after all the blood, sweat, tears and years it took to accomplish Brexit?

There's no question the EPC will be dominated by the more numerous EU member states. But there are no EU-style rules of membership, no legal obligations, no court or law-drafting commission, and no fee.

Leaving the EPC simply takes a "non, merci" and not a notification of Article 50.

Fears that this forum could be a rival to Nato are also, at this early stage, wrongheaded. The EPC is just a talking shop but sometimes it is good to talk.

EPC conceived with Ukraine partly in mind

Poland, the Baltic nations and even Ireland will be glad to have the UK at the table pushing for the toughest line on Putin’s illegal invasion possible.

So will Ukraine. The EPC was conceived with Ukraine partly in mind. Kyiv’s track to full EU membership could take decades but this new forum allows for immediate closer ties with the bloc.

Volodymyr Zelensky will address the gathered leaders of every major European country next week in Prague. Is it really conceivable that Global Britain, one of Ukraine’s most passionate supporters, could not also be present?

Offering to host the next summit in London sends out an overdue signal that British foreign policy is ready to move beyond Brexit.

The Northern Ireland Protocol remains an elephant in the room. But Ms Truss wants that dealt with quickly so the West can focus on shared challenges such as Russia.

Accepting Mr Macron’s invitation is a small step towards rebuilding tattered relations with France, which have suffered badly in the Brexit years.

It is vital that Europe’s two major military powers are as united as possible in the face of Russian aggression rather than taking pot shots at each other over fish and vaccines.

Migration will also be discussed, which could help along the bilateral deals the UK has had to negotiate since Brexit.

After Putin’s sham referendums, mobilisation and suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, it is a good time for a show of European unity.  The UK has, after all, left the EU and not Europe.

The best, and probably decisive, reason to go to Prague next week is the economic crisis.

This foreign jaunt might briefly distract from the complete mess Ms Truss has made of the economy in her unsteady start as prime minister.

Rubbing shoulders as equals with Europe’s big hitters may make her look more of a leader than a total disaster.

Whether they think she will be around long enough for the next summit is another matter.