THE FRONTRUNNER to become the next prime minister has insisted she will safeguard the “precious" United Kingdom as she pledged to deliver Boris Johnson's 2019 manifesto in full.

Liz Truss, speaking at a Conservative leadership hustings event in Belfast, told Tory members that the Union is “one of the key assets” of the UK, insisting: “I want our family to stay together and never split up”.

She told activists that she will “protect our precious United Kingdom” if she is named the next prime minister.

The Foreign Secretary added: “We are the Conservative and Unionist party – we believe in the Union.

“I’m very, very committed to delivering for the whole United Kingdom and I believe in it.”

Ms Truss, who insisted she is “a child of the Union” after living in Paisley as a child, warned the Northern Ireland Protocol was “causing unfairness” for communities in Northern Ireland.

She told Tory members that she is determined to “unlock the opportunities of Brexit, adding that “we need to be bolder”.

Ms Truss was asked whether her support for Mr Johnson put her integrity at risk.

The candidate rejected the claims and said that “Boris Johnson has been an excellent Prime Minister”.

She added: “He delivered on Brexit, he delivered on the Covid vaccine - I’m proud of what he did.

“We need to deliver on the promises we made in 2019. That is what I’m determined to do.”

Meanwhile her rival Rishi Sunak accused the Foreign Secretary of setting up a “moral failure” if she does not support the most vulnerable through the cost-of-living crisis.

The former chancellor said: “The most important issue facing our country in the short term is how are we going to get through this winter.

“I think millions of people are at risk of a very tough time and I’ve been very clear that my plan is to support them.

“I believe that we have to support vulnerable groups, those on low incomes and pensioners, directly with financial support, because a tax cut does not work for those people.

“Liz’s plan is to say ‘well, I believe in tax cuts, not direct support’. I don’t think that’s right because a tax cut for someone on her salary means £1,700 of help.

“For someone working really hard on a national living wage, in the care sector, that tax cut is worth about a £1 a week. For a pensioner, who is not working, that tax cut is worth precisely zero.

“That’s not a plan that I think is right for our country.

“If we don’t directly help those vulnerable groups, those on the lowest incomes, those pensioners, then it will be a moral failure of the Conservative government and I don’t think the British people will forgive us for that.”