The Queen will deliver her speech in the House of Lords on Monday next week, to mark the start of a new parliamentary session. This gives the Government an opportunity to set out its priorities for legislation in the year ahead. This ‘Queen’s Speech’ is long overdue, with the last one being delivered over two years ago, at the start of what has become the longest session of parliament since the 1600s. The new session allows for the introduction of new government Bills. I hope, in particular, that his will include measures to update our electoral laws to ensure there is transparency and accountability for campaigning online, including on social media. In addition to this, I look forward to hearing when the government intends to bring forward policies to regulate the social media companies to ensure that they take effective action against harmful and illegal content.
However, the coming weeks will continue to be dominated by the ongoing Brexit negotiations as we approach 31st October, the date set for the UK to leave the European Union. In particular, Boris Johnson will meet with other leaders next week at the European Council, to discuss the new proposals the UK has brought forward for a Brexit deal. These measures have set out how the UK can leave the EU whilst still maintaining its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, to ensure the movement of people and goods on the island of Ireland, without creating a hard border between the north and south. The UK Government’s proposals set out how this can be achieved without either Northern Ireland being included in the EU Customs Union area, nor the creation of a ‘backstop’ which could leave the UK under European Union regulations for an indefinite period. The European Council may of course reject these proposals, but that does not mean that we have to go back to the deal negotiated by Theresa May, which was clearly rejected three times by the House of Commons. If it is not possible to reach a reasonable agreement with the EU to leave, then we will have to do so without one. The EU cannot insist that the UK remain in the single market and customs union, or their legal equivalent, as a condition of Brexit. As I have written before, a further delay to Brexit would achieve nothing and should be avoided. This has undoubtedly been made harder however by Parliament passing the Benn Act which requires the Government to seek an extension to the negotiating period if no deal on Brexit had been reached.
Last Friday I was invited by Catriona Anckorn to come and speak to her A level politics students at The Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone. We had an excellent discussion on a wide range of subjects from Brexit, to the powers of parliament and the impact of social media on politics and society. This is certainly a good time to be studying politics, and the students are all clearly taking a wide-ranging interest in many of the major issues currently being considered by the House of Commons. I wish them every success as they prepare for the exams next summer.