UK’s Johnson to unveil plans at lavish Parliament opening

Queen Elizabeth II will formally open a new session of Britain’s Parliament on Thursday, with a speech giving the first concrete details of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to do with his commanding House of Commons majority.

Johnson’s Conservative Party won an 80-strong majority in the 650-seat house in last week’s election on a pledge to “get Brexit done” by leaving the European Union on Jan. 31, and a broad promise to end years of public spending austerity.

Now Johnson has to turn his election pledges into political reality.

The Queen’s Speech — written by the government but read out by the monarch from atop a golden throne in the House of Lords — is set to include several dozen bills that the government plans to pass in the coming year.

Johnson’s Conservative Party won an 80-strong majority in the 650-seat house in last week’s election on a pledge to “get Brexit done” by leaving the European Union on Jan. 31, and a broad promise to end years of public spending austerity.

Now Johnson has to turn his election pledges into political reality.

The Queen’s Speech — written by the government but read out by the monarch from atop a golden throne in the House of Lords — is set to include several dozen bills that the government plans to pass in the coming year.

They range from a Brexit bill to take Britain out of the EU to commitments on healthcare, crime and infrastructure.

The speech is the centerpiece of the State Opening of Parliament, a blend of politics and pageantry that usually takes place about once a year. Britain saw its last state opening just two months ago, soon after Johnson took over as prime minister from Theresa May through a Conservative Party leadership contest and shortly before the early election that returned him to power.

For the queen’s second visit this year, the pomp is being toned down. There will still be officials with titles like Black Rod and lords in ermine-trimmed robes. But the 93-year-old monarch will travel to Parliament in a car, rather than a horse-drawn carriage, and will wear a hat rather than a diamond-studded crown.

A central piece of legislation will be Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the law needed to make Brexit a reality. It must become law before Jan. 31 if Johnson is to stick to his timetable, and the government plans to hold the first significant vote on it Friday.

The bill commits Britain to leaving the EU on Jan. 31 and to concluding trade talks with the bloc by the end of 2020. Johnson insists he won’t agree to any more delays — a vow that has set off alarm bells among businesses, who fear that means the country will face a “no-deal” Brexit at the start of 2021.

Trade experts and EU officials say striking a free trade deal within 11 months will be a struggle. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called the timetable “extremely challenging.”

Thursday’s speech is also set to include a bill to overhaul Britain’s immigration system after Brexit, when EU citizens will lose the automatic right to live and work in the U.K.