- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a big new majority in Parliament after winning last week’s general election.
- He plans to use it immediately to ram through his Brexit deal and other election promises.
- The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union on January 31.
- The government needs to race through all the necessary legislation in the space of a few weeks.
- Here is what to expect in Parliament over the next couple of months.
The UK Parliament has returned, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ready to use his new 80-seat majority to push ahead with the pledges he made during the election campaign.
And while there are just days until the Christmas break, there is still much work to be done over the period, including Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” — a process set to begin this week.
Here is to what to expect in terms of legislation and parliamentary shenanigans in the coming days and months.
What’s happened so far?
On Monday, Johnson carried out a mini-reshuffle of his Cabinet. He reappointed Nicky Morgan as culture secretary by making her a life peer in the House of Lords, even though she stood down as a member of Parliament.
He appointed Simon Hart as Welsh secretary and then met the 109 new Conservatives members of Parliament, many of them drawn from parts of England where the Tories had never before been elected.
The Cabinet on Tuesday met for the first time since Johnson won Thursday’s election. MPs then met in the House of Commons for the first time to elect Lindsay Hoyle as speaker, replacing the controversial John Bercow.
MPs began taking an oath of allegiance to the crown, a process set to continue Wednesday.
The Queen’s Speech
Thursday will see the state opening of Parliament, an event that contains the Queen’s Speech and marks the beginning of a new session.
Downing Street says the ceremony, the second in two months, will feature “reduced ceremonial elements.” That means none of the crowns, robes, or carriages that feature in a typical state opening.
The Queen is still expected to attend the event, however, and read out a speech written for her by ministers outlining the government’s program of legislation for the coming parliamentary session.
Expect to hear about Johnson’s plan to spend more on the National Health Service, put more police officers on the streets, increase funding for schools, and, of course, deliver Brexit.
Parliament will then start debating the contents of the speech, a process that lasts days. The debate is expected to last into Friday but could be interrupted for a second reading debate on the Brexit bill.
On Friday, the prime minister is expected to put his Brexit bill back before Parliament.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill must secure parliamentary approval for the UK’s exit from the European Union to be recognized in national law.
Johnson is hoping to rush the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through its first two stages in just a day, as long as the new speaker, Hoyle, agrees to expedite the process.
If he does, the legislation will have its first reading, a formality that involves a vote but doesn’t involve a debate, and then a second reading, which involves a debate and a vote Friday.
Johnson is expected to win the votes comfortably, given his sizable majority.
The House of Commons previously backed his bill at its first stage but rejected his bid to fast-track the legislation through Parliament in just three days to leave by the previous October 31 deadline.
The UK leaves the EU
Provided the Brexit bill passes its first stages without any hitches — which is almost certain — the focus will turn to getting everything completed by January.
The legislation is expected to be reintroduced to the Commons in the first full week of January, starting Monday, January 6.
By Thursday, January 9, the bill is likely to have passed all its committee stages and all remaining stages required for it to pass into the statute books. It will then head to the House of Lords, to receive formal approval from the upper chamber.
That gives peers nearly three full weeks to scrutinize the legislation and approve it ahead of the January 31 Brexit deadline. Once it has been approved by both chambers, the bill will receive royal assent and it will become law.
The UK will then leave the EU by Friday, January 31 — most likely on the date itself.
After that, the UK will enter the “implementation period,” or transition period, in which it will continue to follow EU rules for a period lasting until December 2020. During this time, negotiators will try to reach a new free-trade deal.
Most experts and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, have said it is unlikely that the two sides will be able to negotiate a full new trade deal in just 11 months.
What else does Boris Johnson have planned in the next few months?
As well as the Brexit bill, a flurry of other legislation is expected in January to show the government’s commitment to delivering on its election promises.
Downing Street sources confirmed on Tuesday that there would be a full reshuffle of the Cabinet in February, with reports that up to a third of current ministers could be replaced.
The new government plans to introduce a bill that would ensure the extra £33.9 billion they committed to spending on the NHS was a legal commitment.
The prime minister has said he will start cross-party talks to tackle the growing social-care crisis.
He will also launch a review of defense spending in the early part of next year.
Sajid Javid, the chancellor, is reportedly planning a budget for the end of February or early March.
It is expected to include the manifesto commitment to raising the National Insurance threshold to £9,500.
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