LONDON (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth II appeared in public on Tuesday after the funeral of her late husband Prince Philip to open a new session of British Parliament and present her legislative agenda to her victorious government after the outbreak.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson jumped high after the Conservatives won last week’s local and regional elections in England, but faces new issues of UK cohesion after independence forces emerged in Scotland.
Johnson says his government, after overseeing a successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign, is intent on reopening the economy and “intent to look ahead and continue to deliver on the promises we have made to the British people”.
Those promises focus on a “scaling up” program to bring economic opportunity to the remaining parts of the country, as Johnson uses his vaccine-boosted popularity to make more forays into opposition Labor strongholds.
“Not only will we address the legacy of the pandemic, but we will go further to unite and improve the country, fight crime and create opportunities across the country for businesses and families to build a brighter future,” he said.
The Queen’s speech will outline the government’s plans for next year, including finalizing an environmental law to set legally binding emissions targets, as Britain prepares to host the United Nations climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow in November.
Quarrel over refugees
New measures to combat crime and discourage asylum seekers arriving by boat from France through the canal are also planned.
Tighter immigration and border protection rules were winning promises in Johnson’s campaign to leave the European Union in Britain’s 2016 referendum on Brexit.
But by distinguishing between asylum seekers entering through legal channels and those entering Britain from “safe” destinations such as France, the government has angered refugee groups.
Rosella Bagliucci-Lor, the UK’s representative to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the proposals could violate international law and would be “extremely costly and difficult to implement”.
We cannot see that it discourages the movements of desperate people. Commented before the Queen’s speech.
“We are bound by all laws,” Johnson’s spokesman insisted.
He told reporters that the government’s proposals “are about justice and an end to cruel treatment and things like people smuggling through the canal.”
The boundless kingdom
Usually an annual event filled with five centuries of tradition and processions, the nation’s opening of Parliament has been postponed due to the pandemic.
To maintain a social distance, only a few members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons will be able to participate and participants will have to test COVID-19 negative.
The 95-year-old is expected to bring her 72-year-old son and heir, Prince Charles, as she returns to public service three weeks after the Duke of Edinburgh’s burial.
Prince Philip regularly accompanied his wife to the state’s inauguration until his retirement from public office in 2017. He died last month at the age of 99.
Although the king’s role is to stay above political fray, the UK’s future may be at stake after election results north of the border give fresh impetus to the pro-independence Scottish National Party.
When Scots last voted on the question of leaving the UK in 2014, the Queen issued a cautious note to voters to “think carefully about the future”.
While they chose not to become independent, Johnson’s categorical rejection of the SNP’s demands for a new referendum threatens to open a new constitutional crisis in the post-Brexit world.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday it would be “utterly absurd and outrageous” for the UK’s Supreme Court to step in and rule on the legality of any referendum.
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