Welcome to the most important week in modern British political history.
By 11 p.m. on Saturday, the UK will finally have answers to some of the questions it has been asking since it voted to leave the EU three years ago.
First, we’ll be treated the grand spectacle of the State Opening of Parliament, where Queen Elizabeth II will read Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda to British lawmakers.
Yet, for all the pomp and ceremony, today’s pageantry will be the least important part of a very important few days.
Sure, knowing the government’s plans for the nation is important. However, the single most important part of Johnson’s plan for the UK remains totally unresolved.
The Queen is expected to say that her government’s first priority is to get Brexit done by passing the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. The problem for Johnson is that the Withdrawal Agreement part of this bill doesn’t currently exist in any meaningful way.
It’s being negotiated in Brussels with EU officials and Johnson has very little control over where this negotiation ends up. His hope is that an agreement can be reached on Wednesday, before EU leaders meet on Thursday to agree it, meaning Johnson can bring a deal back to London.
There’s a lot of road to travel before Wednesday. And even if Johnson does get a deal from Brussels, getting it through Parliament will be no walk in the park.
Should he fail on all fronts, then he will have to decide whether or not to break the law. Opposition lawmakers recently passed legislation stating that if no deal is in place by 11 p.m. on Saturday night, then Johnson must request a further Brexit delay.
It’s all a bit of a mess and international observers would be forgiven for asking why, exactly, Johnson is making the Queen read out ambitious spending pledges on things like healthcare, cracking down on crime and pumping money into schools.
Virtually everyone in the UK thinks that there is going to be an election sooner rather than later. So, this Queen’s speech isn’t designed to pass lawmakers in parliament; its purpose is to advertise Johnson and his government to the country at large.
Politics has become something of a game of chess at one of the most critical moments of the UK’s history. Today, Boris Johnson will use the Queen to make his opening move.