Boris Johnson has promised a new “golden age” after the UK leaves the EU with MPs set to back to his Brexit deal when it returns to Parliament today.
The Prime Minister put a ten-year horizon on the programme for government set out in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, calling it a “blueprint for the future of Britain”.
And speaking ahead of the introduction of the legislation that will take the UK out of the EU on 31 January, Mr Johnson said delivering on his promise to get Brexit “wrapped up for Christmas” would bring about a “new dawn for our country” in the New Year.
But opposition parties accused the Prime Minister of using his new 80-seat majority in the Commons to strip out protections for workers’ rights and the environment from his Brexit legislation, water down commitments to help child refugees in Europe, and stop Parliament from overseeing trade talks with the EU.
On the final day before parliament rises for Christmas, MPs will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) at second reading, starting the dash to ratify the Brexit deal at Westminster and in Brussels before the end of January.
“Today we will deliver on the promise we made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas,” Mr Johnson said.
“Now MPs will start the process of passing the Bill. Then, at the beginning of the new decade, at the beginning of a new dawn for our country, our parliamentarians will return to Westminster to immediately finish the job, take us out of the EU on 31 January and move this country forward.”
Several changes have been made to the WAB since a draft was published in October, with an entire section dedicated to workers’ rights removed.
Downing Street said the government’s commitment to enhancing workers’ rights would be dealt with in separate legislation announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Legal requirements to provide updates to Parliament on the future trading relationship, and to seek the approval of MPs for the government’s negotiating objectives have also been removed.
And the government has watered down a commitment, known as the Dubs amendment, to take unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.
A No 10 spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring that children who are claiming asylum or international protection will be reunited with specified family members in the EU and vice versa.
“The government’s policy on child refugees has not changed and we will continue to do all we can to enable children to claim asylum and be reunited with their families.”
The new draft of the WAB also fixes the end date of the post-Brexit transition phase, which will see EU single market rules continue to apply in the UK, at the end of December 2020, whether new trading terms have been agreed with Brussels or not.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the country was “blindly hurtling towards the cliff-edge” of a no-deal Brexit and said the Prime Minister has “no mandate” to take Scotland out of the EU.
Yesterday the Queen delivered the government’s legislative programme for the second time in as many months, this time setting out an ambitious plan made possible by the landslide Conservative victory last week.
In a bid to consolidate Tory gains in former Labour strongholds across the north and Midlands of England, the Queen’s Speech included legislation to provide a legal guarantee of additional funding for the NHS, plans to toughen sentences for knife crime and terrorism, cuts to business rates, and additional support for high street businesses.
The Queen’s Speech also set out legislation on post-Brexit plans for a points-based immigration system, and new systems for regulation and subsidies in agriculture and fisheries.
Addressing MPs, Mr Johnson said: “This is not a programme for one year, or one Parliament. It is a blueprint for the future of Britain.
“Just imagine where this country could be in ten years’ time: Trade deals across the world, creating jobs across the UK; 40 new hospitals; great schools in every community; and the biggest transformation of our infrastructure since the Victorian age.
“British scientists using new gene therapies to cure the hitherto incurable and leading the dawn of a new age of electric vehicles – not just cars but planes – pioneering solutions to the challenge of climate change.”
“I do not think it vainglorious or implausible to say that a new golden age for this United Kingdom is now within reach.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Queen’s Speech used the “language of Labour policy but without the substance,” warning that “those swayed by the prime minister’s promises will be sorely disappointed.”