With ‘radical’ agenda, British PM Johnson sets sights on quick Brexit
British PM focused on quick Brexit, future trade deals and boosting funding for National Health Service
LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled what he called a radical government agenda yesterday, setting his sights on a quick Brexit, future trade deals and on transforming Britain to repay the trust of voters who handed him a landslide election victory.
Just a week after he won the largest Conservative majority since Mrs Margaret Thatcher in 1987, the Queen's Speech offers details of Mr Johnson's plans for Britain after more than three years of Brexit upheaval.
The Queen's Speech - written by Mr Johnson and his government but read out by Queen Elizabeth II from atop a golden throne in the House of Lords - signals the start of the new Parliament and government plans for the coming year.
The speech yesterday showed that Mr Johnson intended to try to satisfy the demands of voters in northern and central England who broke their tradition of backing the opposition Labour Party to support him.
Among pledges to boost funding for the state health service, increase sentences for violent crime and enhance workers' rights, Mr Johnson made his campaign slogan to "get Brexit done" his number one priority, confirming he would lead Britain out of the European Union on Jan 31.
He said he would not allow any more "dither and delay", ruling out any extension beyond 2020 to the transition period to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU, and suggesting he would hold trade talks with other countries at the same time.
"Our first task is to get Brexit done and we will leave the EU at the end of January," Mr Johnson said in the foreword to the Queen's Speech.
"We will release the country from the stranglehold of indecision, restoring confidence to people and businesses. We will avoid the trap of further dither and delay - by ruling out any extension to the implementation period beyond 2020."
On Friday, he plans to begin the process of passing legislation needed to ratify Britain's EU exit on Jan 31, after which date the government department specially created to oversee Brexit will be closed.
Calling his government's programme the "most radical Queen's Speech in a generation", Mr Johnson outlined plans to overturn the economic austerity the Conservative Party has overseen for the last nine years.
He promised to spend more on Britain's much-loved but struggling National Health Service (NHS) by passing legislation to guarantee funding increases, rising to an extra £33.9 billion (S$60 billion) each year by 2023-24.
He also promised better education, better infrastructure and better technology, and pledged a review of Britain's security, defence and foreign policy in the "most radical reassessment of our place in the world since the end of the Cold War".
Mr John McDonnell, Labour's finance policy chief, said the government's agenda offered "nothing new ... for our NHS and public services or people struggling this Christmas", describing the government as "out of touch".
But with a majority of 80 in Parliament, Mr Johnson is pretty much assured of getting his programme passed by the House of Commons, allowing him almost free reign to set the agenda. - REUTERS