The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill concluded its passage through Parliament on Wednesday and received Royal Assent yesterday. It is now an Act which sets out the terms on which the UK will leave the EU next week, on 31 January. It might be thought ironic in the circumstances that French language – albeit from the Norman era and meaning ‘the Queen wills it’ – is still used to signify this final legislative formality. An important provision of the Act concerns the interaction of the key dates of “exit day” and “implementation period completion day”.
The Queen’s Speech today is the second is as many months. The intervening election last week makes it dramatically different from that in October in that it sets out a full legislative programme of a-now-majority Government. Brexit looms large, with the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill arguably the flagship bill. Around forty other bills are mentioned in the official background papers which run to over 150 pages. Several of interest are highlighted in the body of this piece.
The outcome of the general election has given the Conservatives a healthy majority with which, for better or worse and regardless of one’s personal politics, they can and will “Get Brexit Done”. It could be said that swathes of the electorate have given the Prime Minister a mandate direct from the sportswear giant Nike* – “Just do it”.
In this sense at least, the Prime Minister has freed himself and his party from the limitations of minority government and also, perhaps, of the need to accommodate Brexiter ‘ultras’ in his own party. There is perhaps some irony that the price of the Conservative and Unionist Party achieving this is a significant electoral shift away from unionism (with a small u) in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.