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UK Parliament opening delayed as talks on government formation continue

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2017 Aditi Khanna

London: The formal State opening of British Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II is set to be delayed by a “few days” from the planned date of 19 June as embattled Prime Minister Teresa May struggled to form a minority government.

The opening is marked by the 91-year-old Queen’s speech, traditionally read out by the monarch to set out the government’s legislative agenda for the year. The event had already been scaled down as a result of the snap general election, with the Queen set to forego the traditional robes and finery.

In a briefing, the prime minister’s official spokesperson declined to confirm that the Queen’s speech would still be held on 19 June as previously announced, saying that the new leader of the commons, Andrea Leadsom, will soon be releasing a statement on the date.

Earlier, David Davis, re-appointed as Brexit secretary, had admitted that the Conservative Party election campaign “went wrong” and some manifesto pledges would be watered down. “We’ll have to look at the Queen’s speech and what we have to get through. It has to be voted on in Parliament in a week’s time; it’s a matter of practicality. There may be things that we simply can’t put in. That will happen. That will be going on as we speak. We will try to carry as much of the House with us as we can,” he said.

The delay in the Parliament opening is believed to be mainly the result of ongoing talks between May and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)—whose 10 MPs are crucial to her new minority government after last week’s general election threw up a hung Parliament.

“Number 10’s failure to confirm the date of the Queen’s speech shows that this government is in chaos, as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women’s rights,” said an opposition Labour Party spokesperson in reaction to the news.

The reason behind the delay would indicate that the British prime minister is set to make changes to the Queen’s speech, which is prepared by the government of the day. This was seen as inevitable in order to water down some of the proposals the Conservatives now feel have proved unpopular with the electorate as well as taking into account the demands of the DUP to get legislation passed through the House of Commons.

Another reason for the delay is related to the fact that traditionally the Queen’s speech has to be written on goat’s skin parchment paper, which takes a few days to dry.

The ongoing negotiations with the DUP will begin to take official form with a meeting at Downing Street between May and DUP leader Arlene Foster on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, May was holding her first meeting of her new political cabinet with a full-fledged cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday. Later on Monday, she is set to face the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, who will question her on various aspects of her leadership, including the Brexit negotiations set to begin later this month.

May’s gamble to call a general election three years before the Fixed Term Parliament Act would have required her to hold one backfired last week when her party suffered heavy losses and lost its majority in the Commons. With 318 seats, the Tories are left dependent on the DUP to shore up its ranks to go past the 326-MP majority required in Parliament.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who fared far better than forecast in the polls winning 262 seats, has accused May of “squatting” in No. 10 Downing Street and has said his party is ready to take the lead to form a government or face the electorate in another election to win a bigger mandate. PTI

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