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May promises to listen on Brexit as queen presents government program

British Prime Minister Theresa May promised on Wednesday promised to listen more to businesses’ concerns about Brexit as Queen Elizabeth formally opened parliament by announcing the government’s programme for the next two years.

Chastened by an election result which left her Conservative Party short of a majority in parliament, May also watered down pledges on social care reform, education, and corporate governance and energy markets.

The queen told lawmakers from both the upper and lower houses of parliament that the government is committed to building “the widest possible consensus” on Brexit, working with parliament, devolved administrations, business and others.

What is usually a ceremonial address, dominated by costumed pageantry, has become a crucial test of May’s ability to run the country during its most testing period for generations.

“My government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union,” the queen said.

The Queen’s Speech, prepared by ministers and read out by the monarch, comes at a time of unprecedented political flux, with May yet to secure a deal with Northern Ireland’s

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her government.

“The election result was not the one I hoped for, but this government will respond with humility and resolve to the message the electorate sent.

“First, we need to get Brexit right.

“That means getting a deal which delivers the result of last year’s referendum and does so in a way that commands maximum public support,” May said in remarks introducing the policy plan.

Lawmakers will have to approve the speech in a vote, expected on June 29 that will be a de facto vote of confidence.

Minority governments are a rare occurrence in British parliamentary politics where the electoral system usually produces a governing majority.

A briefing document issued alongside the speech said the government would intensify its consultations with businesses and other interested parties to “test and validate positions and to continue to build support from the business community as we move forward”.

May’s programme for government was largely restricted to the technical work of making sure Brexit can happen: a bill that sets out how the government will transpose huge swathes of EU law into British law and separate bills on related topics such as immigration, customs and fisheries.

Beyond Brexit, the plan included a promise to pay more attention to public concerns about austerity, but did not alter the government’s commitment to bring down the budget deficit.

It also outlined plans to allow sectors such as electric vehicles and satellite technology to maintain a competitive edge, as well as promising to deliver an industrial strategy that spread prosperity across the country.

 


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