Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: REUTERS/YUI MOK
Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: REUTERS/YUI MOK

London —  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has secured the consent of Queen Elizabeth to deliver the Queen’s Speech on October 14, a move his opponents say is an attempt to limit opposition to Brexit weeks before the country is due to leave the EU.

Johnson rejected the criticism as “completely untrue”, saying the Queen’s Speech would give him the chance to set out his domestic programme while allowing ample time for discussion of Brexit in parliament.

What is a Queen’s Speech?

It is used by the government to lay out plans for the coming year. It typically lists the main priorities and legislation the government aims to pass.

Queen Elizabeth reads the speech, written by the government. It is the highlight of a day of elaborate ceremony, known as the state opening of parliament, which marks the beginning of a new parliamentary session.

Is Johnson doing anything unusual?

On the surface, no.

Typically, a Queen’s Speech is held every year. Johnson is a new prime minister, who took over from Theresa May in July, and so would be expected to have his own legislative priorities.

Because of the volume of legislation that was expected ahead of Brexit, the current parliamentary session has lasted more than two years. The last Queen’s Speech was in 2017.

The government says a new programme is overdue.

Parliament is normally suspended for a few days ahead of a Queen’s Speech. In recent years this suspension has lasted for between five and 20 days.

Why are some peaople so angry about it?

Because of the timing.

Britain is weeks away from making its most important strategic decision in decades over how, and even whether, it leaves the EU.

The decision to hold the Queen’s Speech on October 14 shaves several days off an already small number of parliamentary sittings before October 31 — the Brexit deadline.

Johnson says he wants to leave the EU with an exit deal to smooth the transition, but if he cannot get one, he will leave anyway.

A narrow majority of MPs has shown they do not want a no-deal exit and are hoping to use parliamentary procedures to stop Johnson and force him to request extra time from the EU.

What happens next?

Parliament returns from its summer break on September 3 and sits for at least a week.

The government has said it will begin procedures to start the suspension on September 9. The last sitting day before the Queen’s Speech is expected to be shortly after that, but has not yet been confirmed.

This gives those opposed to a no-deal Brexit just a few days to get their plans in motion.

On October 14 the Queen will formally reopen parliament and deliver the speech. This will be followed by a debate lasting several days on the contents of the speech and culminating in votes on October 21 and 22.

Winning these votes will be a crucial test of Johnson's ability to govern.

However, if he loses and his government is subsequently toppled by a vote of no confidence, he would have scope to delay his resignation and a new election until after October 31.

Between the speech being delivered and the votes upon it, Johnson will travel to Brussels in search of a last-minute, renegotiated exit deal. The summit takes place on October 17-18.