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UK Parliament reopens with Queen's speech

LONDON

The British Parliament on Thursday resumed sittings following last week’s early general election that resulted with a landslide victory for the Conservative Party.

Queen Elizabeth II delivered the program of the Boris Johnson government in the House of Lords, formally opening the Parliament with her speech.

The queen said the government’s priority is delivering Brexit -- the country’s oft-delayed departure from the EU -- on Jan. 31, 2020.

“Thereafter, my Ministers will seek a future relationship with the European Union based on a free trade agreement that benefits the whole of the United Kingdom. They will also begin trade negotiations with other leading global economies,” the queen said. 

Her speech also included policies on crime, health, and the environment, as well as a new immigration system.

“A modern, fair, points-based immigration system will welcome skilled workers from across the world to contribute to the United Kingdom’s economy, communities, and public services,” she said.

The government program has a commitment to spend an extra £33 billion ($43 billion)-plus every year on the country’s National Health Service (NHS) by 2023-24.

The new government also promised “espionage legislation,” which would “provide the security services and law enforcement with the tools they need to disrupt hostile state activity.” 

Brexit details

The government will commit to maintain EU rights on employment after the Brexit date of Jan. 31, she said. They will not be part of the withdrawal agreement but be laid out in separate legislation, according to the queen’s speech.

The government laid out in the speech more than 30 bills, one-fourth of them related to arrangements for the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU.

The revised withdrawal agreement Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to with the EU before the election will be coming to the House of Commons on Friday, and it is likely to be amended to ban any extension to the transition period, which will run between Jan. 31 and Dec. 31 next year.

Under the current bill, the transition period agreed between the parties can be extended beyond 2020.

The queen’s speech is a ceremonial formal opening of the both houses of the parliament, and Thursday’s speech was the second in 2019.

The U.K. decided to leave the EU with a referendum held in June 2016.

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