News ID: 195230
Published: 1448 GMT 21 Jun 2017

Queen outlines UK gov’t agenda in scaled-down speech

Queen outlines UK gov’t agenda in scaled-down speech
AFP

Queen Elizabeth II outlined the UK government’s legislative program in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday after the prime minister slimmed down her plans and promised “humility” in negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union following a disastrous election that cost the ruling Conservative Party its majority.

The 91-year-old monarch carried on with her royal duties at the ceremonial opening of the new Parliament despite the announcement that her husband, Prince Philip, had been hospitalized. Buckingham Palace said Philip, 96, has been hospitalized as a precaution for treatment of an infection, AP reported.

While the queen reads the speech to lawmakers, it is written by Prime Minister Theresa May and her staff and offers a broad brush of goals for the future.

The nine-minute speech reflected May’s weakened position – a loss of stature that has emboldened those within her own party who want a “softer” Brexit which makes a less-sharp break with the EU.

Eight of 27 bills outlined in the speech deal with the complex process of Brexit. May omitted several policies touted in the Conservative election campaign, including plans to change funding for the care of older people, which opponents dubbed the “dementia tax.” Also missing was ending free school lunches and limiting winter fuel payments to low-income elderly.

Nor was there a mention of President Donald Trump’s a state visit. May’s invitation, extended with days of Trump taking office, had been sharply criticized by all parties.

May’s Downing Street office said nothing had changed: An invitation had been extended and accepted. It was not mentioned in the speech was because no date had been set, May’s office said.

Tempted a big lead over the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls, May had called the snap election expecting an overwhelming victory that would silence dissenters and give her a mandate to push ahead with plans to leave the European Customs Union and drastically limit immigration as Britain leaves the EU. Instead, she lost seats and still hasn’t secured a deal with another party to insure Parliament will back the government’s agenda.

“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,” May said in a statement. “We will work hard every day to gain the trust and confidence of the British people, making their priorities our priorities.”

Signaling the importance of Brexit negotiations with the EU, set to continue until the spring of 2019, the speech set out the government’s program for two years, rather than one.

   
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