Queen Elizabeth II opens parliament in a Britain dealing with Brexit

The monarch's speech outlined Prime Minister Theresa May's plans to take Britain out of the European Union and came after a string of tragedies struck the isles.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

While the queen reads the Queen’s Speech to lawmakers, it is written by the prime minister and her staff.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday presented eight draft laws to take Britain out of the European Union in a legislative programme read out in parliament by Queen Elizabeth II.

The state opening of parliament by Queen Elizabeth II came after a string of tragedies which have shaken the nation, and the election on June 8 in which May's Conservatives saw their parliamentary majority wiped out.

The queen, read out the watered-down list of proposed legislation which lawmakers will spend the next few days debating before bringing it to a vote.

May could be forced to resign if she loses the vote, expected on June 29, just as the country embarks on highly sensitive negotiations for Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

The Great Repeal Bill

The laws include the "Great Repeal Bill" to overhaul existing EU legislation and separate bills on customs, trade, immigration, fisheries and agriculture.

The queen said the "Great Repeal Bill" would repeal the European Communities Act, the 1972 legislation that enshrined Britain's membership of the European bloc.

"My government's priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union," the queen said in the speech.

She said her government would seek "to build the widest possible consensus on the country's future outside the European Union," amid divisions within her own cabinet over the best strategy.

Chastened by an election result that left her Conservative Party short of a majority in parliament, May watered down many of her pledges. (Reuters)

A diluted speech

The speech announced no fewer than eight bills to implement Brexit, and new legislation aimed at tackling extremist content online after the terror attacks.

But the speech was notable also for what it did not contain. 

There was no mention of May's hugely controversial invitation to US President Donald Trump to come on a state visit. 

Also absent were key pledges the Conservatives had given in their manifesto for the recent election which analysts said had bombed with the electorate – such as reform of social care for the elderly and more shake-ups in schools.

There was also no mention of May's controversial promise to allow a parliamentary vote to repeal a ban on fox hunting, which angered left-wingers.

Growing outrage

Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum last year but there is growing opposition to the government's "hard Brexit" approach of cutting immigration at the expense of trade ties.

After four terror attacks and a deadly tower block blaze that have darkened the national mood, anti-government protesters are also planning a "Day of Rage" in the streets that will converge outside parliament with temperatures forecast to hit 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) – London's hottest June day since 1976. 

This year's Queen speech there was no horse-drawn carriage procession, crown or ceremonial robes. (Reuters)

No mention of Trump

There was no mention of a planned visit by US President Donald Trump in the Queen's speech on Wednesday, when the British monarch set out the government's programme for the next two years.

Earlier, Britain said there had been no change to plans for Trump to come to Britain on a state visit after local media reported the trip had been postponed. But the date of the trip has never been confirmed.

The previously confirmed state visit by Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia in July was mentioned in her speech.

Devoid of the usual pomp and splendour

The Queen's Speech, normally a chance for a new government to show off an ambitious programme, is usually a high point of British pomp, but this year there was no horse-drawn carriage procession, crown or ceremonial robes.

The snap election plus the closeness to the monarch's official birthday parade last weekend meant it was deemed infeasible to prepare a second major event at short notice.

The speech took place as Prince Philip was hospitalised over an infection late on Tuesday night. 

TRTWorld and agencies