Queen’s Speech punts October 31 Brexit date, sets out priorities

London – Queen Elizabeth set out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s agenda for his government on Monday, including an Oct. 31 Brexit, a new deal with the European Union, and a host of domestic policies designed to win over voters ahead of an expected election.

The so-called Queen’s Speech is the highlight of a day of elaborate pageantry in Westminster and is used to detail all the bills the government wants to enact in the coming year. It is written for the 93-year old monarch by the government.

But, with Brexit in the balance before a crucial week of talks, and an unpredictable election likely in the near future, rival parties said Johnson was misusing the politically-neutral queen by asking her to set out his election agenda.

The speech and accompanying notes set out an overview of more than 20 bills, including the legislation that is required to implement a Brexit deal – if Johnson is able to reach agreement with the EU this week.

"My government’s priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 October," the queen said from parliament’s gilded House of Lords debating chamber.

"My government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation".

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Queen Elizabeth II travels in a carriage to parliament for the official State Opening of Parliament in London. Picture: Frank Augstein/AP

The government’s plans included an outline of Johnson’s proposed post-Brexit immigration system, criminal justice reforms, healthcare changes, and a promise to invest more from the public purse to stimulate growth.

"People are tired of stasis, gridlock and waiting for change," Johnson said in a written statement accompanying the speech. "And they don’t want to wait any longer to get Brexit done."

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Lady Usher of the Black Rod Sarah Clarke takes part in the official State Opening of Parliament in London. Picture: Paul Ellis/Pool via AP

But Johnson’s political future and his ability to implement any of this agenda is highly uncertain. He runs a minority government and has been unable to win a single vote in parliament since taking power in July.

All parties want an early election, but disagree over when it should be held.

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The crown of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is carried to the official State Opening of Parliament in London. Picture: Hannah McKay/Pool via AP

The opposition Labour Party said the queen was being used to promote a Conservative Party election manifesto.

"What we’ve got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a Sky News interview broadcast on Sunday.

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Guests in the House of Lords await the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II for the official State Opening of Parliament in London. Picture: Toby Melville/Pool via AP

The speech is now subject to several days of debate, concluding with votes to approve it. While not an official vote of confidence, these could be used to further destabilise Johnson’s position. 

Reuters

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