Sunak v Truss: Where do the UK's two PM contenders stand on the Middle East?

Sunak v Truss: Where do the UK's two PM contenders stand on the Middle East?
The new contenders for the role of British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, have largely similar views on matters relating to the Middle East and its diaspora, voting data reveals.
3 min read
22 July, 2022
Sunak and Truss now take their case to Conservative party members and the results will be announced on 5 September [Getty]

Following Boris Johnson’s resignation as British Prime Minister, Conservative party rivals Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are set to battle it out in the coming weeks to nab the UK premiership.

Their stances on issues affecting the Middle East and its diaspora appear largely similar, according to parliamentary voting data retrieved from

Iraq Invasion

Both candidates voted in 2016 against holding investigations into the controversial 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which would have delved into the contrast "between public statements and private actions" in the run up to the war.

The invasion was justified by the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction which were never found, and the ensuing conflict killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced many more.

Military action overseas in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan

Sunak and Truss also both consistently voted in 2015 for military action against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

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Prior to Sunak's election as an MP in 2015, Truss also voted in 2014 for UK airstrikes against IS in Iraq.

Following the UK's involvement in anti-IS strikes in both countries, rights groups revealed that many civilians were killed as a result of international military assaults across Syria.

Furthermore, the official US-led military coalition against Isis stated there was credible evidence that British airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed many civilians, The Times has reported.

Truss also voted in 2011 for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya, to protect its people from military attacks by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

In addition, in 2010 Truss voted to support the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan - where British forces repeatedly killed unarmed men in what senior officers suspected were “unlawful” attacks, according to an explosive BBC investigation. 

Refugees and Asylum seekers

In May 2016, Sunak and Truss voted against contributing to the resolution of the refugee crisis in Europe, after catastrophic conflicts, violence and persecution led to an increase in refugees from countries including Syria and South Sudan.

Both candidates also voted in favour of a stricter asylum system in every vote they attended relating to the matter. 

This included their 2020 vote to remove a requirement for ministers to seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU to enable unaccompanied child refugees to join their relatives.

Truss also voted in 2020 to remove rights for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, spouses, vulnerable adults and dependant adults to join a family member who is legally present in the United Kingdom. Sunak was absent for this vote.

Truss and Sunak also voted in 2016 against giving asylum seekers permission to work if a decision on their application takes over six months, and voted in 2015 to restrict the support available to failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants.

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Both candidates also voted for stronger enforcement of immigration rules in every vote they attended relating to the matter. 

This included voting in 2015 to create criminal offences of renting a home, driving, and working, while disqualified from doing so due to immigration status, and for other measures in the Immigration Bill.

Next steps for the candidates

Sunak and Truss now have to win the votes of Conservative party members, who will decide the new leader and prime minister after a series of nationwide hustings in August.

The result will be announced on 5 September, when Britain is already guaranteed to get either its first prime minister of colour, or its third woman leader.

The New Arab contacted Truss and Sunak’s offices for further statements surrounding their policies and stances on the MENA region, but received no response at the time of publication.