Johnson adamant Brexit will occur on October 31st

British PM sticks to line on EU exit as queen gives speech in context of unconcluded talks

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons: set out his government’s priorities at a ceremony  of pomp and pageantry attended by the queen. Photograph: HO/AFP via Getty

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons: set out his government’s priorities at a ceremony of pomp and pageantry attended by the queen. Photograph: HO/AFP via Getty

 

Boris Johnson has told MPs he remains determined to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31st despite signs that talks on a Brexit deal could continue into next week.

Opening a debate on the queen’s speech that outlined his government’s legislative programme, the prime minister said Britain could wait no longer. 

“Let’s get Brexit done so we can take back control of our money, our borders and our laws,” he said. “Let’s get Brexit done so we can regulate differently and better – getting life-saving medicines faster and more cheaply to market for the NHS, galvanising coastal areas with a constellation of freeports, organising our immigration system ourselves so that we are open to talent, open to scientists from around the world but controlling that system so that British business gets the workforce they need.”

 Mr Johnson hopes to secure a deal at the European Council this week and MPs are expected to sit on Saturday to vote on any withdrawal agreement he negotiates. If he fails to secure a deal that wins parliamentary approval by Saturday night, the Benn Act requires the prime minister to ask the EU to delay Brexit by three months.

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Second referendum

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Brexit must be put to the people in a second referendum and that his party would not support any deal along the lines of the one Mr Johnson was seeking.

“To pass this House, any deal needs to meet the needs of workers and businesses. That means including a new customs union, a close single market relationship and guarantees of workers’ rights, consumer standards and environmental protections,” he said.

“We don’t yet know if the government has done a deal. What we are sure of is that this House has legislated against crashing out with no deal and that the prime minister must comply with the law if a deal does not pass this House.”

Wording differences

In her speech, Queen Elizabeth did not say that Britain would leave the EU on October 31st, only that it had always been her government’s priority. But Downing Street dismissed speculation that the queen had rejected the government’s proposed wording.

 “I appreciate there are differences in language but those differences in language are more reflective of the fact that’s how a queen’s speech goes rather than any suggestion that there are any differences in policy. The prime minister was very clear that we are leaving on October 31st,” a spokesman said.

The speech included 26 pieces of legislation, including plans for tougher sentences for violent criminals and a new, points-based immigration system. But Mr Johnson’s government is far short of a majority and, with a general election expected within weeks, few if any of the Bills are likely to be enacted.

“There has never been such a farce as a government with a majority of minus 45 and a 100 per cent record of defeat in the Commons setting out a legislative agenda they know cannot be delivered in this parliament,” Mr Corbyn said.

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