Brexit and health, Britain’s Johnson sets out priorities in Queen’s Speech


LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out his government’s plans on Thursday, fleshing out how he will honor his election-winning pledges to get Brexit done quickly and boost funding for the state health service.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a statement at Downing Street after winning the general election, in London, Britain, December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

In a ceremony that marks a new parliament, Queen Elizabeth will read out the laws which the government wants the House of Commons to approve and will pinpoint Johnson’s priorities after winning a commanding majority at last week’s national election.

The prime minister, who won over many traditional supporters of the main opposition Labour Party in northern and central England, has proclaimed he will lead a “people’s government” and will move to fulfil his pledge to “get Brexit done”.

The Queen’s Speech will include new legislation needed to implement the future relationship Johnson has promised to agree with the EU by the end of 2020. He plans to pass the laws needed to finalize the divorce agreement by Jan. 31.

He will also cement his commitment to spend more on Britain’s much-loved but struggling National Health Service by prioritizing legislation to guarantee funding increases, rising to an extra 33.9 billion pounds per year by 2023-24.

“The NHS is the single greatest institution in this country,” he told a reception of health workers late on Wednesday. “We are now putting the biggest investment in the NHS in living memory. We have to keep that investment going.”

On Tuesday, Johnson told his top team of ministers that they “ain’t seen nothing yet folks”, warning them that there was much to do to pay back the trust offered his government in the election on Dec. 12 when he won a majority of 80.

After more than three years of debate over Brexit, Johnson wants to move quickly to try to unite a country riven by disagreements over how, when or whether Britain should leave the EU. Towns, villages and even families have been fractured.

His aides say he is also determined to try to keep the support of those voters in northern and central England, many of whom voted for the governing Conservatives for the first time, by trying to make their lives better.

With a healthy majority, he should be able to fulfil his priority to “get Brexit done” and is expected to announce that the divorce agreement, or Withdrawal Agreement Bill, is brought back to parliament before Christmas and then passed quickly.

He will also offer some insight into how he wants to tackle the domestic concerns highlighted in the election campaign.

Beyond increased funding for the NHS, he is also expected to outline measures to strengthen the justice system, improve transport, better protect those people who rent their homes and kickstart talks to restore the government in Northern Ireland.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and William James; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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