In her speech, which sets out the Government’s legislative agenda for the next two parliamentary years, Queen Elizabeth II said ministers were committed to working with parliament, the devolved administrations, businesses and others to build the “widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the EU”.
Deep and special partnership
A total of 27 bills and draft bills were unveiled as part of the speech, with eight specifically about UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The Queen said: “My Government will seek to maintain a deep and special partnership with European allies and to forge new trading relationships across the globe.
“New bills on trade and customs will help to implement an independent trade policy, and support will be given to help British businesses export to markets around the world.”
The Queen confirmed a bill will be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act and that “certainty for individuals and businesses” would be provided.
“This will be complemented by legislation to ensure that the United Kingdom makes a success of Brexit, establishing new national policies on immigration, international sanctions, nuclear safeguards, agriculture and fisheries,” she said.
The Immigration Bill will allow the Government to control the number of people coming to the UK from Europe while still allowing it to “attract the brightest and the best”.
There was little detail on the new bills or policies in her speech, and there was no mention of business rates reforms either, despite it being a pledge in the Conservative Party’s pre-election manifesto.
National living wage
The Queen did confirm that the national living wage will be increased so that “people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers”.
She added the Government will be keeping taxes low, but did not go into detail about how it planned to achieve this.
Pub industry bodies reactions to the speech were mixed. Association of Licenced Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls said that while the speech “rightly focused” on Brexit, it was “disappointing that there was no specific announcement on business rates reform”.
However, Nicholls said the ALMR has welcomed reassurances that business will be a key stakeholder in Brexit negotiations and that there will be specific bills on trade and customs.
British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is clear that this session of parliament will be dominated by Brexit, with limited room for other legislation.”
Clarity still needed
Following the speech, Nicholls said the sector still needs “clarity” on immigration and access to labour.
“We will wait with interest for detail on this and other issues such as skills and employment protection measures, but strongly urge the Government to work closely with us and other stakeholders to ensure they don’t damage growth or investment,” she said.