“Brexit” At The Heart Of Queen’s Speech

With Brexit at the very heart of the Queen’s speech, her Majesty the Queen announced that the government’s priority is to “secure the best possible deal” as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union in 2019.

The Queen’s speech set out government’s legislative agenda for the next two Parliamentary years and her Majesty the Queen said that ministers were committed to working with Parliament, the devolved administrations, businesses and others to build “the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside of the European Union”.

The speech focused on Britain’s future outside the European Union with a focus on industries such as agriculture and fishing, along with the Great Repeal Bill and an Immigration Bill. A Travel Protection Bill will be introduced to protect holidaymakers by updating the UK’s financial protection scheme for holidays.

The speech opened with a promise to work with business to build consensus on Britain’s future outside the EU.

Ufi Ibrahim, the Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, said: “The hospitality and tourism industry, the fourth largest in the UK, looks forward to working with Ministers to build the widest consensus on Britain’s future outside the EU. The Government is already aware of the industry’s vital need to have continuing access, in the short term, to the EU labour market while we encourage more UK workers to take up a career in hospitality and tourism.

“We have also made clear that the National Living Wage should be decided by the Low Pay Commission after 2020.

“The trade bills announced to help British businesses export to markets around the world should also consider that tourism is the UK’s sixth largest export. With this in mind it is essential that the immigration system encourages, rather than deters tourism to the UK and allows visa-free access for Europeans.”

ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said:  “Today’s speech rightly focused on Brexit but it is nevertheless disappointing that there was no specific announcement on business rates reform which we called on as a first day priority for the new government.

“The current rates regime is rigged against hospitality businesses as it penalises growth and investment as higher turnover invariably leads to higher rates. We will now be looking for reassurances from ministers on a commitment to rates reform in the Budget later this year.”

“However, we welcome reassurances that business will be a key stakeholder in Brexit negotiations and that there will be specific bills on trade and customs – these are important for food and drink to ensure import costs are not increased further. The ALMR will be front and centre in those discussions.

“On immigration and access to labour, the sector needs clarity. We take some assurances from today’s speech but any legislation needs to be expedited to provide certainty to operators and employees alike.

“We will wait with interest for detail on this and other issues such as skills and employment protection measures, but strongly urge the Government to work closely with us and other stakeholders to ensure they don’t damage growth or investment.

“The announcement on increases to the National Living Wage was widely expected and it is vitally important that this doesn’t become a politically-set wage target that could see many businesses struggle to afford increases. A commitment to increases in line with average earnings goes some way to reassure us that this will not be the case, but maintaining the independence of the Low Pay Commission (LPC) to set National Living & Minimum Wage rates is critical.”

British Beer & Pub Association’s Chief Executive, Bridget Simmonds said:

“It is clear that this session of Parliament will be dominated by Brexit, with limited room for other legislation. I am pleased that the speech specifically mentioned the importance of working closely with business, and support for exports and skills.

“As the Brexit bills proceed, we will certainly be making clear our priorities; robust transitional arrangements, trading as freely as possible with frictionless customs arrangements, and future access to the skills we need with the rights of our existing employees swiftly safeguarded.

“We will of course continue to campaign for our other key priorities, not least a more competitive tax regime for the future.”