In Depth

Queen's Speech: Theresa May presents a shorter programme

Tory manifesto pledges are dropped, but the UK remains on course for a hard Brexit

Theresa May abandoned an array of manifesto pledges in the Queen's Speech, but the UK's Brexit strategy remains on course to leave the single market and the customs union.

A "humbled" May presented a "filleted" government programme, says The Times

Of the 27 bills put forward, eight concern Brexit and its related industries. In addition to the so-called "great repeal bill", which will transpose EU law into UK law, "there are bills on a new customs regime, a new immigration system, reforms to trade, a bill on agriculture and another on fisheries", adds the paper.

Elsewhere, five bills on consumer legislation include a data protection bill giving people the right to force social media companies to delete information held about them at the age of 18.

Alongside this are seven other bills, described by The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow as "non political, the sort of measures that could just as well turn up in a Labour Queen’s Speech".

But it is "the dogs that didn't bark, measures at the heart of the Tories' failed election gambit now dropped" that "hover like a cloud over proceedings". says Channel 4's Gary Gibbons. 

Social care is now a consultation with no outline plan decreed, while grammar schools aren't mentioned and are certain to be ditched, according to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

Also missing is anything on changes to the winter fuel allowance and the pension "triple lock". Meanwhile, Donald Trump's controversial state visit was conspicuous by its absence.

However, "despite the Queen's speech being diluted", says James Kirkup in The Spectator, "May has retained her political aim: to use domestic policy to reach out to voters beyond the Conservative base, while relying on her commitment to Brexit to lock in 'leave-voting' Tories and former UKIPers."

He adds: "These are policies and words aimed at the same people the Tory manifesto was intended to reach.

"She’s weak, and she’s retreated. But she hasn’t turned."

On Brexit, the proposal for putting EU law on the UK statute book showed "significant signs of growing hesitancy" in the government, says The Guardian's Dan Roberts. 

While the government's line remained that it would allow for a smooth and orderly Brexit transition, "there was an important new caveat", he writes.

"The bill does not put any constraints on the withdrawal agreement we will make with the EU and further legislation will be introduced to support such an agreement if and when required.

"In the context of a furious battle within the Conservative party over the type of Brexit that should be pursued," Roberts says, "the 'no constraints' line is recognition that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

But Business Insider's Adam Bienkov believes the speech confirms that "Britain plans to pursue a 'Hard Brexit' despite growing opposition to it within the Conservative party".

Politico agrees, saying the government's proposed trade bill "is the clearest evidence yet that the prime minister still intends to withdraw the UK from the single market and customs union".

Over the next two years, the Prime Minister "will aim to pass bills repatriating powers over both trade and customs, ending freedom of movement and ensuring Britain can strike its own free-trade deals outside the EU," the website adds.

Queen's Speech: What's in and what's out?

21 June 11:22 a.m.

Brexit is widely expected to be at the forefront of the Queen's Speech today, when the Queen will deliver an address covering a two-year parliamentary period instead of the usual one as the UK negotiates to leave the European Union.

The speech, which starts at 11.30am, is proving to be a major test for the minority Conservative government, which is still struggling to reach an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ten days after declaring a deal was done. 

This is Theresa May’s first Queen’s Speech - and possibly her last, following the difficult time she has had since the 8 June election. Failing to win support from a majority of MPs would be seen as a vote of no confidence in her government, the Daily Telegraph says.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats each plan to put forward alternative versions. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Conservatives had "no right to govern", having "junked their manifesto", the BBC reports, while the Lib Dems will call for membership of the EU single market and customs union post-Brexit.

Here’s what to expect:

What’s in?
  • Brexit will be at the heart of the Queen’s Speech, according to the BBC.
  • It is also likely to include the great repeal bill, which will convert all EU law into UK law, says the Telegraph.
  • There will be new laws to bring forward the HS2 rail link, a better network of charging points for electric cars and a law to allow space ports to open in Britain - which was also in last year's Queen's Speech, says the Daily Mirror.
  • There will be more spending for schools and an improvement to mental health policy, reports the London Evening Standard.
  • New immigration laws are expected, while counter-terrorism proposals are also likely to be included after three terrorist attacks in the UK this year, the Telegraph says.  
What’s out?
  • Controversial plans to reform social care - including the so-called "dementia tax" said to have caused May's dismal showing in the election - are expected to be axed, the Daily Mail says.
  • Foxhunting and cuts to winter fuel payments for pensioners are also forecast to be dropped as they are widely viewed as divisive.
  • A plan to provide free lunches for all primary school children is also expected to be quietly shelved because of the government's precarious position, Sky News reports.
  • Plans for a new generation of grammar schools are predicted to be scaled down to a modest pilot after Conservatives failed to secure a significant majority, the Telegraph says.
  • Previous Queen’s Speeches have considered Scotland’s constitutional future with measures to shore up support for the union, but the Tories may feel it is secure enough that it does not need legislative bolstering, The Scotsman reports.


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