British Prime Minister Theresa May will set out her legislative programme for the next two years in a Queen’s Speech today, despite so far having failed to agree a “confidence and supply” agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party.
A DUP source warned that talks with Tories “haven’t proceeded in a way that the DUP would have expected” and a deal was “certainly not imminent”. The party “can’t be taken for granted”, the source cautioned. For the first time in decades, a British Prime Minister looks set to go into the event unsure of commanding the level of support among MPs needed to avoid defeat on a programme.
However, it is thought unlikely the DUP would vote down the Government’s programme in a way which would risk a fresh general election handing power to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. Even an abstention by the DUP’s 10 MPs would be enough to guarantee Mrs May’s survival. The State Opening of Parliament has already been delayed two days following the inconclusive election, and will take place without much of its traditionally lavish ceremony.
Now almost two weeks after the election, the programme set out by the Queen at today’s State Opening of Parliament will feature “a number of bills” geared towards making a success of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the Prime Minister said. She has promised to work with “humility and resolve”, insisting that the rest of government business will not be put on hold during the Brussels negotiations, promising measures to build a stronger economy, protect consumers, tackle domestic violence and fix a “dysfunctional” housing market.
Downing Street sources declined to be drawn on reports that the Speech will ditch headline promises from the Conservative manifesto, such as the scrapping of universal free school meals, means-testing of the winter fuel allowance and reforms to social care funding which were branded a “dementia tax” by critics. In a mark of the importance of Brexit to Mrs May’s agenda, the Queen will set out plans not for the usual one year, but for a two-year period taking the Government beyond the expected withdrawal date in March 2019.
Mrs May said the Speech would be about “recognising and grasping the opportunities that lie ahead for the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union” and “delivering a Brexit deal that works for all parts of the UK while building a stronger, fairer country by strengthening our economy, tackling injustice and promoting opportunity and aspiration”.
Having called a snap election in the hope of securing an increased majority to deliver Brexit in a “strong and stable” way, Mrs May acknowledged that the outcome was “not the one I hoped for”. “This Government will respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent,” she promised.
“We will work hard every day to gain the trust and confidence of the British people, making their priorities our priorities.” But she insisted there would be no going back on Brexit, pointing out that more than 80% of voters on June 8 backed parties promising to honour the referendum result. “While this will be a Government that consults and listens, we are clear that we are going to see Brexit through, working with Parliament, business, the devolved administrations and others to ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal,” she said.
Mrs May said last year’s referendum vote amounted to “a profound and justified expression that our country often does not work the way it should for millions of ordinary working families”.
In response, the Government will bring forward measures to build a stronger economy, improve living standards, build a fairer society and fund public services, she said.