From benefits to Brexit: the looming issues for Liz Truss | Politics

Liz Truss and her cabinet have launched a fresh bid for unity after the most difficult party conference the Conservatives have seen in years saw MPs and ministers openly attacking her policies.

However, the appeal for an end to infighting may only offer a temporary reprieve, given the headaches facing the prime minister this autumn.

Row over how much to raise benefits by

Ahead of the next cabinet meeting on Tuesday, ministers are ready to ambush Truss with a bid for her to rule out benefits rising as much as wages – about 5%, which would be a real-terms cut, given inflation is nudging 10%.

Though the prime minister is said to want to keep firm on the former, it would be politically challenging for her.

In the aftermath of the mini-budget, a real-terms cut in benefits would only bolster the view that the government is neglecting lower earners, many of whom are forced to claim universal credit due to low-paid jobs.

According to the Institute for Government, the rate of universal credit is changed by secondary legislation, meaning there would be no way for MPs to vote against it. However, discontent from all levels of the party would be bad for unity and morale.

Northern Ireland protocol concerns remain unresolved

Bubbling away in the background is the Northern Ireland protocol bill, due to face its next reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

Some peers are planning to try to delay it indefinitely until an impact assessment is produced of Truss’s plans to unilaterally override the protocol.

However, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party has vowed to perpetuate political paralysis in Northern Ireland until the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU is overhauled through the bill, or negotiations with Brussels.

Further controversial financial announcements planned

To help calm Tory MPs’ concerns, the Treasury is likely to bring forward the medium-term growth plan to be announced by the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, currently scheduled for 23 November.

If any parts of it are received badly or the accompanying report from the Office for Budget Responsibility sends further jitters through the markets, the two residents of Downing Street could quickly find themselves with another backlash on their hands.

They could face a rebellion by Tory MPs on parts of the eventual finance bill which will have to be introduced to bring into law some of the fiscal changes. Eyes will be on how hard the government seeks to whip backbenchers and make every vote on the bill a confidence one – with any dissent leading to the whip being removed.

There may also be MPs who cause trouble for Truss by speaking out about where promised spending cuts fall.

Planning reforms, scrapping retained EU law and changes to the online safety bill

There are a host of other pieces of legislation likely to prove thorny for Truss.

Planning reforms have traditionally met much resistance and could do so again, while the legislation that will mean all retained EU law will cease to apply after 2023 unless it is specifically carried over could also cause concern among those who fear a watering down of regulations and rights.

Truss has also committed to overhauling the online safety bill, which was within touching distance of passing through parliament but faces pressure from some MPs to keep key bits while others say it should be watered down.

Fracking remains unpopular among many Tories

Though the end of the moratorium in England on drilling for shale gas was lifted without the need of a vote of MPs, they may still make clear their disdain in other ways.

Labour is expected to hold an opposition day debate on the subject, which the government traditionally boycotts.

However, Tory backbenchers may still decide to vote with the opposition to demonstrate to constituents their strength of feeling.

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