/News24.com | British PM sets out plan for power
News24.com | British PM sets out plan for power

News24.com | British PM sets out plan for power

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out his plans for government on Thursday following a sweeping election win, focused on delivering Brexit and supporting the health service.

Queen Elizabeth II will open parliament in a lavish ceremony where she will read out the Conservative leader’s legislative programme for the months ahead.

Top of Johnson’s to-do list will be a bill to ratify the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, which he negotiated in October but could not get through parliament.

Equipped with a majority of 80 in the 650-seat House of Commons, he hopes to push through the deal in time to “Get Brexit Done” on the next EU deadline of January 31.

He has also vowed to address concerns about public services, particularly among the many working-class voters who backed the Tories for the first time in this election.

There will be a bill to enshrine in law spending increases for the state-run National Health Service (NHS), which has faced cuts during a decade of Conservative austerity measures.

Brexit cliff-edge

The Queen’s Speech normally takes place about once a year but there was one in October, following Johnson’s election as Conservative leader in July.

Rebellions over Brexit left him without the support in the Commons he needed to govern, so he called a snap election – and won a landslide.

READ | How Boris Johnson plans to deliver Brexit in just six weeks

As a result, Thursday’s speech will be scaled down, with the 93-year-old monarch eschewing her horse-drawn carriage for a car and her crown for a hat.

The highlight will be the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to ratify the terms of Brexit, which will be put to a first vote among MPs on Friday.

It covers Britain’s financial obligations to the EU, the rights of European expatriates and new arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The bill will also enshrine the dates of a transition period, which will keep EU-UK ties largely unchanged until December 31, 2020, to allow both sides to sign a new trade deal.

The period can be extended for up to two years, but London insists this will not be necessary.

The WAB will also include plans to allow courts other than the Supreme Court to overturn European Court of Justice rulings, to ensure Britain can more swiftly extricate itself from European case law.

Health service pressures

At a reception for healthcare staff at Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson said the NHS was the “single greatest institution in this country”.

“But the pressures and demands are enormous and we have to help you cope with that,” he said.

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Aside from the spending increase, the Queen’s Speech will include plans for a new immigration system with fast-track visas for healthcare professionals.

Officials said there will also be commitments to boost education spending and tackle violent crime – and committing the government to the United Kingdom.

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