Queen’s Speech: Eight bills proposed to prepare Whitehall for Brexit as union slams government's failure to end pay cap
Britain's departure from the EU dominates as a number of Conservative manifesto pledges are dropped from legislative programme
The Queen’s Speech has set out plans for legislation to develop new customs, trade, immigration and environmental policies to prepare government for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In the speech to mark the state opening of parliament – following the snap election at which the Conservatives lost their majority but remained the largest party – the Queen said the government’s priority would be to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the EU.
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In addition to the planned Repeal Bill, which will revoke the European Communities Act and place existing EU law into UK statute, legislation will also be introduced for new national policies on immigration, nuclear safeguards, agriculture, and fisheries, as well as trade and customs arrangements and international sanctions.
Brexit plans make up the bulk of the 27-bill programme, but legislation is also proposed for a new data protection regime, as well as for promoting the development of automated and electric vehicles and commercial satellites and the next stage of the High Speed 2 rail line.
However, a number of high-profile Conservative party election pledges, including the plan to reform social care funding and proposals to expand the number of grammar schools, were not included.
Under the controversial care reform plans in the Conservative manifesto, payment for residential or at-home social care would come from people’s estates until they were down to their last £100,000 in assets. The speech only said that the government would bring forward plans for consultation.
Legislation around Brexit is therefore expected to take up most of the parliamentary session, which has been doubled in length to allow the bills to be passed alongside the Article 50 negotiations with the EU over exit terms.
The government said the repeal bill will allow for a smooth and orderly transition as the UK leaves the EU, as well as creating temporary powers to replicate frameworks created by EU law in UK law and secondary legislation to correct laws affected by EU membership.
Ministers said new customs and trade arrangements would ensure the UK has a standalone policy upon exit, and would also put in place new powers concerning the immigration status of European nationals.
According to its Queen's Speech briefing, the government will be able to control the number of people coming to the UK from Europe, as well as making the migration of EU nationals and their family members subject to relevant UK law.
Responding to the speech, Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said this was “a government in denial and in name only”.
He added: “In refusing to end the public sector pay cap, the Tories are showing contempt for public servants who have suffered seven years of wage cuts. And more resources are urgently needed after more than 100,000 civil service jobs have been cut since 2010.
“Having lost her majority in a snap election that she called, Theresa May is leading a government that has no mandate and no authority.”
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