The Queen has announced a Brexit-dominated legislative programme for the next two years of government at the State Opening of Parliament.
At the core of the Queen’s Speech – delivered without the usual pomp and ceremony due to the snap election – was the Great Repeal Bill. The bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, thus ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However, existing EU legislation will be converted into UK law, while Parliament decides which bits to retain.
While the speech didn’t outline specific Brexit terms, a bill to end of free movement from the EU will be introduced, making the status of EU nationals and family members subject to UK law. While no assurances have been made on the future of EU nationals already in the UK, the speech said that future immigration policy would aim to ensure the UK attracts the ‘brightest and the best’ to its workforce.
Other measures announced as part of the 24 bills mentioned, included the creation of a standalone domestic customs regime. This would give the UK the power to make changes to VAT and excises rates, which are currently set out by the EU.
Companies such as drink giant Diageo have already warned jobs may be lost at its Scottish production facilities after Brexit, with white spirits production to be moved to the company’s Italian and US plants instead.
Reacting to the speech, the British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, said: ‘It is clear that this session of Parliament will be dominated by Brexit, with limited room for other legislation. I am pleased that the speech specifically mentioned the importance of working closely with business, and support for exports and skills.
‘As the Brexit bills proceed, we will certainly be making clear our priorities; robust transitional arrangements, trading as freely as possible with frictionless customs arrangements, and future access to the skills we need with the rights of our existing employees swiftly safeguarded.
‘We will of course continue to campaign for our other key priorities, not least a more competitive tax regime for the future.’
Without a clear majority however, the Conservative government may struggle to pass all the bills announced. It is understood the Labour and the Liberal Democrat party are to put forward their own alternative versions of the Queen’s Speech.