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Queen’s speech and start of Brexit talks

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The House of Commons returned this week, following the general election. The state opening of Parliament and Queen’s speech, scheduled to take place on 19 June, is to be delayed to allow the Conservatives and DUP to agree the terms of their relationship during the coming parliamentary session. The Queen’s speech sets out the government’s programme of legislation for the new session. With the Conservatives expected to form the new government, this should include at least some of the much anticipated detail of Finance Bill measures to be re-introduced from the previous session.

The week beginning 19 June also sees the start of the official Brexit talks in Brussels. The prime minister’s office announced in a statement on 10 June that Theresa May had confirmed over the telephone to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, ‘her intention for Brexit talks to begin as planned in the next couple of weeks’.

Some in the UK have called for a delay, to enable the government to agree a clear set of negotiating objectives, while the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, commented that ‘the timeframe set by Article 50 of the Treaty leaves us with no time to lose’. European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, also observed that the Commission stands ready to begin the process immediately.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, has called for ‘a new mindset’ in negotiations, saying that ‘business nerves would be calmed by a commitment to transitional arrangements’. For the CBI, the goals of Brexit remain as ‘no tariff or non-tariff barriers, regulatory equivalence, access to the skills and labour companies need to grow, and opening up export opportunities around the world’.

‘Above all’, Fairbairn added, ‘the government must be clear that the UK sits at the negotiating table with an open mind, and urge EU negotiators to follow suit.’

Calling for a delay in the start of talks, Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, said: ‘The need for a transition period now becomes even stronger, providing the time to get Brexit right.’

British Chambers of Commerce director general, Dr Adam Marshall, commented: ‘No business would walk into a negotiation without clear objectives, an agreed starting position and a strong negotiating team. It is hard to see how Brexit negotiations could begin without answers on these important questions.’

ACCA chief executive, Helen Brand, said: ‘Greater clarity is needed in the upcoming Brexit negotiations and government must consult business, the professions and wider society on repeal of existing EU legislation.’

The prime minister has announced several ministerial changes following the general election, including:

  • Liz Truss becomes chief secretary to the Treasury (moved from justice secretary);
  • David Gauke becomes Works and Pensions secretary (moved from chief secretary to the Treasury); and
  • Mel Stride becomes financial secretary to the Treasury (also appointed paymaster general).

Philip Hammond is to remain chancellor of the exchequer.

Jane Ellison, former financial secretary to the Treasury, and Simon Kirby, former economic secretary to the Treasury, both lost their seats at the election.