BY BLESSING BATURE AND HUSSEINA IBRAHIM
…Queen of England’s traditionally ceremonial address, usually dominated by pageantry, was this year devoid of fanfare, as it became a crucial testing ground for May’s ability to run the country during its most challenging period for generations. Her authority has been badly damaged just as Britain begins Brexit negotiations. Four militant attacks have raised questions about her grip on national security, and the death of at least 79 people in a tower block fire has become a flashpoint for public anger at her party’s record in government
The 2017 Queen’s ceremonial address to the British parliament,
delivered on 21 June, was dominated by Brexit and will cover a two year period instead of one to give MPs time to deliberate on laws needed to leave the EU, irrespective of the final deal agreed with Brussels.
The contentious issues of Brexit dominated the speech by Queen
Elizabeth 11 as she addressed the parliament, unveiling the agenda of the newly appointed Theresa May government. She unveiled the government’s agenda at a scaled-down State Opening of Parliament in a speech which was dominated by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
In her speech, the queen highlighted post of new laws designed to prepare the UK for a smooth and orderly divorce for the European Union. Out of 27 Bills, 8 related to Brexit and its implication for key industries. At the heart of this is so-called great repeal bill, which will repeal the 1972 European communities ACT and end the jurisdiction court of justices. It will also copy existing EU legislation to the EU status, and parliament will decide which bits to retain.
At a scaled-down state opening of parliament, the queen laid out the legislative priorities for parliamentary proceedings and amidst the political uncertainty after PM Theresa May’s poll debacle earlier this month that saw May’s Conservative Party failing to garner a majority in the House of Commons.
As part of the dressed-down version of the grand state opening, the 91 year old monarch arrived in a car instead of a carriage and wore a day dress in stead of her traditional robes. She was accompanied by son and heir Prince Charles rather than husband Duke of Edinburgh, after he was admitted to hospital as a “precautionary measure” last night.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May led Conservatives are still trying to agree terms with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to secure their support for a minority government after the snap general election failed to win a majority for the ruling party. “The election result was not the one I hoped for, but this government will
respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent. We will work hard every day to gain the trust and confidence of the British people, making their priorities our priorities,” May said in the lead up to the Queen’s Speech. “My government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union. My ministers are committed to working with Parliament, the devolved administrations, business and others to build the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the European Union.
“A Bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and provide certainty for individuals and businesses. This will be complemented by legislation to ensure that the United Kingdom makes a success of Brexit, establishing new national policies on immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture, and fisheries.
“We will seek to maintain a deep and special partnership with European allies and to forge new trading relationships across the globe. New bills on trade and customs will help to implement an independent trade policy, and support will be given to help British businesses export to markets around the world. We will also strengthen the economy so that it supports the creation of jobs and generates the tax revenues needed to invest in the National Health Service, schools, and other public services.
My government will continue to improve the public finances, while keeping taxes low. It will spread prosperity and opportunity across the country through a new modern, industrial strategy and work to attract investment in infrastructure to support economic growth.
Legislation will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars and commercial satellites. A new bill will also be brought forward to deliver the next phase of high-speed rail.
And will also continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded. My ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.
My government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.
As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, committed to spending zero point seven per cent of national income on international development, my government will continue to drive international efforts that increase global security and project British values around the world.
My government will host the Commonwealth Summit in April of next year to cement its relevance to this, and future generations.
May’s gamble of calling snap polls spectacularly backfired as Conservatives won 318 out of 650 seats while the opposition Labour secured 262, leaving neither party anywhere close to the 326 seats required for an overall majority. The Tories will now have to rely on the DUP’s 10 MPs to form a minority government.
Her ministers have said some parts of the Conservative party manifesto would have to be “pruned” following the election result. Opposition Labour party and the Liberal Democrats each plan to put forward alternative versions of the Queen’s Speech.
“They have got the right to bring forward their own programme, but I don’t believe, actually, that they are legitimate in the sense that they have got a mandate that they asked for,” Labour’s shadow chancellor Jon McDonnell said.
The Liberal Democrats said their version would call for continued membership of the EU single market and customs union after Brexit. Aswell as a bill to convert EU rules into UK law, there are measures on trade, customs, immigration, fisheries, agriculture, nuclear and sanctions.
But other key manifesto plans have either been axed or delayed after the Conservatives lost their majority.
It was widely anticipated that the poor election result meant Theresa May was expected to abandon some of the party’s manifesto promises.
And missing pledges included grammar schools, fox-hunting and ending fixed-term parliaments. Plans to scrap free school lunches were also neglected.
But the speech made clear that the bulk of the business of parliament will be taken up by Brexit over the next two years, and it included no less than eight bills connected to withdrawing from the EU.
New legislation in line with the manifesto included the introduction of a new Digital Charter to replace the Data Protection Act.
The government said the Digital Charter would make Britain the ‘safest The shift to a more consultative tack drew a cautious welcome from business groups, which worry that May’s plan focuses more on controlling immigration than protecting the economy.
Her new approach will be tested almost immediately, when she travels to Brussels for a summit of EU leaders.
Lawmakers will have to approve the speech in a vote, expected on June 29, that will be a de facto vote of confidence. Minority governments are a rare occurrence in British parliamentary politics where the electoral system usually produces a governing majority.