Home WorldEurope Charles gives the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament in the United Kingdom

Charles gives the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament in the United Kingdom

by YAR

LONDON — Britain opened its Parliament Tuesday with all the pomp of a thousand-year-old ceremony: the imperial crown, carried on a velvet pillow; members of the royal family parading through the House of Lords in military garb; and the Queen’s Speech, which sets the government’s legislative agenda.

Only this time, Prince Charles read the speech, standing in for Queen Elizabeth II, who missed the ceremony – one of her most solemn constitutional duties – for the third time in 70 years. Her absence was surprising and a poignant metaphor for a country in which multiple pillars of the establishment, from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, are in constant flux.

The 96-year-old queen canceled the night before because she was having trouble walking, according to the palace. It was the first time that she had formally handed over her responsibilities to her eldest son and her heir, Charles, a clear sign that the British monarchy has assumed the elements of a regency, in fact, if not in law. .

“The king-in-waiting has to act more and more as if he were the monarch, but not yet wearing the crown,” said Peter Hunt, a former royal correspondent for the BBC. “As the queen has aged, the change has come without fanfare.”

And the government itself faces a host of challenges, including runaway inflation and the threat of a recession, and another potential showdown with the European Union over trade rules in Northern Ireland. In one of the opening lines of the speech, Charles said the government would “help ease the cost of living for families.”

Unsurprisingly, the government did not announce plans to scrap trade deals with Northern Ireland. But it may be in the next few weeks; there was scathing language about his determination to preserve economic ties between UK parties, something critics say is undermined by post-Brexit trade rules in the North.

Removing those rules would reverberate widely, potentially triggering a trade war with the European Union and antagonizing the Biden administration. Washington warned Johnson not to take steps that could undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland and is important to President Biden.

A historic victory by the Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein, in parliamentary elections in the north last week has further stirred the waters. Angry unionists refuse to take part in a government with a Sinn Fein politician at the helm, which could herald years of dysfunction in Belfast. The rise of the nationalists has kindled hopes of Irish unity, which would be an alarming development for a British government already facing an independence-minded Scotland.

“The continued success and integrity of the entire United Kingdom is of paramount importance,” Prince Charles read in the speech.

Charles also affirmed Britain’s steadfast role in supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia. Mr. Johnson’s enthusiastic embrace of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Britain’s proactive agenda of providing arms have helped him turn the tide in recent weeks from months of bad headlines.

Johnson survived last week’s election despite his party losing nearly 500 local government seats, a result below expectations. On Tuesday, he tried to redress the balance, using the queen’s speech to promote deregulation policies that will aim to capitalize on Britain’s divorce from Brussels.

He was helped by the spotlight shifting awkwardly towards Starmer, who is now under police investigation for attending a beer and Indian food dinner in the north of England last year at a time when most social gatherings were banned. He denies breaking the law, but has said he will resign if police find out he did, which is in sharp contrast, and certainly willfully, to Johnson, who has refused to resign, even after paying a fine.

For his part, Johnson also faces more fines and the publication of the findings of the government’s internal investigator, Sue Gray, who is likely to paint a damning picture of Downing Street’s booze-fueled culture.

Whatever pressures they were under, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Starmer managed to converse cordially, even smiling a bit, as they walked together to the House of Lords on Tuesday to hear the Queen’s Speech.

By tradition, legislators were summoned from the House of Commons by a figure called the lady usher with the black stick, who, as a representative of the lords, first had the door slammed in her face as a symbolic sign of the independence of the lords. common. .

It was one of a series of choreographed moves in a day that would normally be reassuringly familiar, except for the lack of its lead player. The queen’s decision to cancel, made reluctantly after consulting her doctors, came after she suffered from “episodic mobility problems”, the palace said on Monday night.

The decision to have Charles read the Queen’s Speech sent royal legal experts scrambling for their rule books. It was a “constitutional innovation,” said Vernon Bogdanor, a professor of government at King’s College London, who has written about the monarchy’s role in Britain’s constitutional system.

On the two previous occasions the Queen had missed the inauguration, in 1959 and 1963, both while pregnant, the Lord Chancellor had read her speech. But Professor Bogdanor said the position of Lord Chancellor had changed over the years: the current occupant, Dominic Raab, is a member of the House of Commons and a Justice Minister in the Johnson government, making him a a less suitable substitute.

To invest her son with the authority to read the speech, the queen had to issue a legal decree, known as a Letters Patent. The decree also designated her grandson, Prince William, Charles’ eldest son, as another of her representatives at the ceremony. Such delegation of royal duties is almost unheard of for the queen, who has promised from the dawn of her reign that she would serve until her death.

However, legally speaking, Britain is not in a regency, according to Professor Bogdanor. To qualify for that status, he said, three of five top British officials — Prince Charles, the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of Ceremonies — would have to agree to that the queen was permanently unable to perform her duties.

“There is no evidence that this is the case,” said Professor Bogdanor. “Given the development of modern technology, the queen can continue to perform her constitutional functions without actually being physically present.”

esteban castle contributed by informing

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