The government has used the Queen’s Speech to reiterate its “priority” to making sure Brexit will happen on 31 October, with several of the 22 bills announced this morning setting out the UK’s post-EU future.
Overarching the bulk of the state opening of parliament was the European Union Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which will ratify any deal secured by the government in Brussels in the coming days.
The Queen said it was government’s “priority to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 October” – somewhat more ambiguous than the government’s own language has been.
However the bulk of the speech flowed from Brexit taking place as is currently planned.
Top of the list was the Withdrawal Agreement bill, which would be the legal mechanism by which the UK can leave the EU with a deal on Halloween this year. This bill sets out for a transition period that will enable businesses to prepare for the new world order, while the government negotiates a free trade agreement (FTA).
It also sets out for “a new protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland following the removal of the backstop”.
Her Majesty went on to set out a string of bills that would follow from Brexit, including the long-awaited Immigration Bill, which will end free movement and “lay the foundation for a fair, modern and global immigration system” as well as protecting the rights of resident European citizens.
The speech also laid out plans for a Trade Bill, which will roll over trade agreements with third parties, alongside a Fisheries Bill and an Agriculture Bill.
Financial Services Bill
The Queen set out the Financial Services Bill – as exclusively revealed by City A.M. today – which she said would “provide certainty, stability and new opportunities for the financial services and legal sectors”.
The bill will commit the UK to “world-leading regulatory standards”.
It will simplify the process for overseas investment funds to be sold in the UK. It will also implement the Basel standards to strengthen regulation of global banks, in line with previous G20 commitments, and ensure Gibraltar-based firms have long term market access “as part of the UK family”.
NHS and Social Care
The Queen’s Speech picked up on commitments made during the Conservative party conference to ensure the NHS is future proofed. That includes legislation to establish an independent investigations body. The Queen also noted reforms would be made to adult social care “to ensure dignity in old age”. The Mental Health Act will also be reformed.
“For the first time, environmental principles will be enshrined in law”, the Queen said. The Environment Bill will introduce measures to “improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive”. The bill will also create legally-binding environmental improvement targets and establish a regulator to scrutinise environmental policy and law, as well as investigate complaints.
Separately, the Queen announced an Animal Welfare Bill, which will ban imports from trophy hunting, as well as other measures to protect animals.
The Pensions Schemes Bill announced today will provide greater powers to tackle irresponsible management of private pension schemes.
Violent Crime and the Criminal Justice System
New laws will be brought in to “strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system”, the Queen said. That includes sentencing laws that will keep serious offenders in custody for longer, improve the way foreign offenders are dealt with and improve safety and security in prisons. Victim support will also be enhanced with a new parole system that “recognises the pain to victims and their families”.
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