Here we are again.
Parliament, having been prorogued, is back. Brexit is still unresolved, despite us being seventeen days away from our departure date. Boris Johnson is still acting like a minor deity, despite having no power in Parliament.
However, something has noticeably changed in the air. While the hopelessness of the last few weeks led to some pretty horrendous vitriol from the mouths of the Prime Minister and Parliament as a whole, the mood music is different.
The possibility of a deal being negotiated with Brussels seemed about as likely as an Under-11 XV from North Korea winning the Rugby World Cup for most of last week. However, at a meeting with Irish PM Leo Varadkar last Thursday, Boris managed to bring negotiators back to the table.
Which, despite my many, many misgivings about his premiership, is quite remarkable.
As such, discussions are currently being bandied around the EU with a real, if slim, chance of a deal being struck. For the first time in a while, there is an air of real optimism.
But, even if the momentum might seem behind Bozzle Konks, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It may yet prove a garden bridge too far for our beleaguered BoJo.
QUEEN’S PEACH OF A QUEEN’S SPEECH
Well, not really. I just can’t resist wordplay.
Earlier today, the Queen reopened Parliament with a Queen’s Speech, where she set out the agenda for the government. This is not unusual in and of itself, but a Queen’s Speech usually sets out an agenda for around about a year.
Seeing as this government is actively calling for an election, however, there may be another Queen’s Speech by the end of the year, so they might have to wheel her out for another expensive ceremony again.
Poor Queenie. She doesn’t deserve this bollocks. She just wants to watch that nice young man Alexander Armstrong on Pointless.
Anyway, the event itself was as it normally is – ostentatious, heavily steeped in ritual, and involved a lot of wonderful hats and wigs. Not least the Crown itself, which is now too heavy for the Queen’s head, and so gets its own pillow, like a spoilt cat.
We watched the procession of the Queen from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords, where she disembarked her carriage looking like a blinged-up Yoda.
We watched Black Rod, a white woman from Wolverhampton, summon the House of Commons after getting a door ceremoniously slammed in her face.
We watched Jacob Rees-Mogg, a sentient windsock from a cemetery, be the only person part of the ceremony that looked as though it was “#justanotherMondaylol”.
And then we had the speech itself. It was, as you’d expect, standard fare for this government – low on detail, high on loose ideas on what they’d like to do. Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s Chief Political Editor, described it as a “shopping list” – it’s more of a bucket list, seeing as Johnson, without a majority, can enact very little of it.
Notable mentions for:
- Immigration: Priti Patel’s new reform for immigration to an Australian “points-based” system, designed to ensure only talented and skilled foreigners move to the UK.
- Crime: A far tougher stance, with particular emphasis given on increased prison sentences for violent crime.
- NHS: Yet another mention of Social Care reform, which has been the bane of multiple governments over the last decade, yet no actual plan.
But, as to be expected, Brexit took centre stage, being mentioned in the first line. Tellingly, however, the Queen did not specifically say that we are leaving on October 31st.
Instead, she said “My government’s priority has always been to secure the UK’s departure from the EU on 31st of October.” This might be an admission by the government (who write her speech for her) that they know that this deadline may not be met.
Despite all the ceremony, there was a slight element of sombreness to the proceedings. The Queen must have been left reeling by the unlawful prorogation she sanctioned a few weeks ago, and to have to read out the words of a government that is trying to push our constitution to its limits must have rankled.
While famously inscrutable, there seemed to be an increased element of detachment today. Although that is pure speculation, I must emphasise.
I am no monarchical medium.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Well, very little from the speech itself. Everything is waiting on the EU discussions around Brexit, as they will define what happens next.
Deliberations will continue this week, before a meeting of the EU Council on Thursday evening. A final decision will be made, probably in the wee small hours of Friday morning, as to whether or not to agree to a deal, or to give us an extension.
Then, for the first time since the Falklands crisis, Parliament will convene on Saturday to debate and decide on what to do next. If there is a deal, they will vote on it. If some try to add a referendum to the deal, they will vote on that, too. If there is no deal, they will vote on accepting the extension.
Saturday could well prove to be the day where Brexit was decided once and for all… or just the start of the next phase, now with added referendum / general election.
But, in the meantime, we wait on the EU. While the positive overtures from the weekend are starting to turn sour again, there may still be a chance for a deal.
Stay tuned to Between the Lines this week for all the info you need.