NORWICH, Aug 26 — Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the favourite to become UK prime minister next month, said yesterday “the jury’s out” on whether French President Emmanuel Macron is a “friend or foe” to Britain.

“If I become prime minister, I would judge him on deeds not words,” Truss told a hustings event of applauding Conservative party members, when asked the question by the host. “The jury’s out,” she added.

Asked the same question earlier at the evening event, rival leadership contender Rishi Sunak had promptly replied “friend”.

Truss, 47, leads the former finance minister by wide margins in polls of the Tory grassroots set to chose their next leader, who will then become prime minister.

Around 200,000 members have been able to vote since earlier this month for their preferred candidate, before postal and online ballots close at the end of next week.

The winner will be announced on September 5, and replaces outgoing Conservative leader Boris Johnson as prime minister the following day.

Johnson has enjoyed an uneasy relationship with Macron during the British leader’s turbulent three-year tenure in Downing Street.

Despite appearing to have decent personal rapport in front of the cameras, tensions between Britain and France have been strained on various issues.

These include Brexit, soaring numbers of migrants crossing the Channel from French beaches and how to manage the war in Ukraine and deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In September last year, Paris accused London, along with the United States and Australia, of a “stab in the back” after a cross-continental diplomatic crisis centred on alleged deceit over a submarine contract with Canberra.

France dismissively called the UK a “junior partner” to Washington.

Meanwhile Brexit has led to several disagreements between the two G7 members, notably over fishing rights but also the issue of trade between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

In a sign ties could deteriorate further under Truss, the Financial Times reported late yesterday that she is mulling potentially provocative plans to trigger Article 16 of the Brexit deal, which would suspend the agreement, within days of taking charge. — AFP