Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits on the Sovereign's throne ahead delivering the Queen's speech. Picture: TOBY MELVILLE / POOL / AFP
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sits on the Sovereign's throne ahead delivering the Queen's speech. Picture: TOBY MELVILLE / POOL / AFP

Queen backs Boris’ Brexit in speech

The Queen has been drawn into the Brexit debate, as her speech to open a new session of parliament doubled down on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to leave the European Union by October 31.

In a moment full of pomp and ceremony, the Queen outlined Mr Johnson's agenda in the House of Lords in her traditional speech on Monday, which had not happened for two years.

There had been speculation that the speech would focus on the government's domestic agenda, but it opened with a firm line on Brexit.

"My government's priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union on the 31st of October," she said.

"My government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union based on free trade and friendly co-operation."

The speech, written by the government but delivered by the Queen, also floated a New Australian-style points based immigration system - a major change from the current free work and residency rights for anyone with an EU passport.

"An immigration bill, ending free movement, will lay the foundation for a fair, modern and global immigration system," the Queen said.

There were also promises to improve the National Health Service, tougher action on murderers who refuse to reveal the location of their victims' bodies and support for the UK's financial sector after Brexit.

 

Prince Charles and Camilla joined the Queen in her carriage on the trip from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, sticking to his retirement from public engagements.

Mr Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn walked side-by-side from the House of Commons to the House of Lords to listen to the Queen's speech.

Meanwhile, a group of Remainer MPs and the Labour Party were plotting to box Mr Johnson into a corner when any deal goes to a vote of UK politicians.

They will tie their support for his planned deal to a second referendum on whether the UK leaves the European Union at all.

 

Mr Johnson currently does not have a working majority to push through Brexit, which was voted for in a 2016 referendum.

Talks were continuing on Brexit in Brussels last night, as frantic attempts were made to get a deal done that can be signed off by the EU on Thursday.

The EU has said that talks have been productive after a breakthrough between Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Johnson at a private meeting near Liverpool last week.

Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney called for caution yesterday in Luxembourg, saying that "we're not there yet" - but added that "a deal is possible".

"On Brexit the less we say now the better. But we need to give time and space to Michel Barnier and his taskforce and the British negotiating team," he said.

 

"I think it's pretty clear what we're trying to do, but there are pretty detailed technical discussions now and I think we need to give the time and space for that to happen."

Rebecca Long-Bailey, 40, a key Labour figure, has said that any deal should be attached to a new referendum.

Her intervention comes as Mr Corbyn, 70, faces a revolt in his ranks, with his party demanding he stop dithering and support a pro-Remain stance instead of his current fence sitting position.

Ms Long-Bailey was tipped as a leadership contender if Mr Corbyn was forced to step aside.

 

stephen.drill@news.co.uk