22 Jun 2017

Queen's 'EU' hat causes social media stir

8:31 am on 22 June 2017

The Queen has delivered Prime Minister Theresa May's pared-back legislative programme, which drops pension and social care changes reflecting her reduced election majority.

The Queen sits alongside Prince Charles as she delivers the Queen's Speech.

The Queen sits alongside Prince Charles as she delivers the Queen's Speech. Photo: AFP

Weakened by an election that left her Conservative Party short of a majority in Parliament and reopened debate on the nature of Britain's European Union exit, Mrs May also sidelined reform on social care, education and corporate governance.

Proposals to scrap the winter fuel allowance for well-off pensioners, end automatic 2.5 percent pension rises, expand grammar schools and end free school lunches for all infants have been dropped, while reforms to social care funding would be put out to consultation and a cap on some energy tariffs considered further.

Mrs May promised to listen more closely to business concerns about Britain leaving the EU as she set out a Brexit-focused government programme.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons  following the State Opening Of Parliament.

Theresa May said Parliament's challenge was to heal, not reflect the divisions. Photo: AFP / PRU

The prime minister urged MPs to "seize this moment of national change" to unite and work for a fairer country.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said she had lost authority after axing a raft of manifesto pledges.

Amid continuing talks with the Democratic Unionists about them supporting Mrs May's government, a Downing Street spokesman said it was confident the Queen's Speech could "command the confidence" of the House of Commons in a vote next week.

Delivering the official opening speech, in which she outlined the Mrs May's strategy for leaving the EU, the Queen wore a blue hat decorated with a cluster of blue fabric flowers, each with a bright yellow disc at its centre.

Many on Twitter noted the likeness with the EU flag - a blue ensign with a circle of yellow stars on it

Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament and president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, was also amused.

Guy Verhofstadt, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. was also amused.

Photo: Twitter

A host of proposed new laws designed to prepare the UK for a "smooth and orderly" departure from the EU were announced in the speech.

The government has said "wherever practical the same rules and laws will apply after exit, therefore maximising certainty for individuals and businesses".

On immigration, a bill would legislate for the end of free movement from the EU and make the status of EU nationals and family members subject to UK law. Although there were no specific details about a new system, ministers said they would be able to "control" numbers while attracting the "brightest and the best".

As MPs began debating the government's plans, Mrs May said the country was split "between red and blue, young and old and Leave and Remain" and Parliament's challenge was to heal, not reflect those divisions.

She also apologised for "the failure of the state, national and local" in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, promising a new role of independent public advocate to represent bereaved families in the aftermath of disasters.

The main non-Brexit proposals included:

  • a Civil Liability Bill designed to address the "compensation culture" around motoring insurance claims
  • a Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill establishing a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors and monitor the response of the authorities
  • a Tenant's Fees Bill banning landlords from charging "letting fees"
  • a High-Speed Two Bill to authorise the second leg of the rail link from Birmingham to Crewe
  • a Data Protection Bill to strengthen individuals' rights and introduce a "right to be forgotten"
  • an Armed Forces Bill allowing people to serve on a part-time and flexible basis

There was no mention of US President Donald Trump's proposed state visit to the UK later this year, appearing to confirm suggestions it has been delayed. Ministers said the reason it was not included was purely because no date had been set.

- BBC / Reuters