As for the speech itself? The prime minister and his ministers actually write it, laying out their agenda for the months ahead.
In this case, though, critics charged that the speech was more of a campaign kickoff for an election that everyone expects is coming than it was a realistic program that Johnson’s government can accomplish.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “farce.” He pointed out that Johnson’s government doesn’t have a majority in Parliament and has lost every vote in the House of Commons since coming to power.
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party leader in Westminster, tweeted, “The Queen’s Speech was an election broadcast for the Tory Party more than anything else.”
Another Labour lawmaker, Anna Turley, tweeted after the speech: “All that pomp and felt like a damp squib.”
The queen began her scripted remarks by saying that her government’s priority “has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 October.”
But as Parliament began to debate Johnson’s agenda Monday afternoon, all eyes in the chamber were on their smartphones for news from Brussels, where British and European negotiators were in their third day of secret talks over the fate of Brexit.
Depending on the hour, reports have been cautiously optimistic or profoundly pessimistic. Last week, the Europeans rejected an offer from Johnson. But then Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar came away from a meeting with Johnson saying they could imagine a landing zone for a deal. That cleared the way for more serious talks.
On Monday, Brussels bureaucrats remained gloomy about the chances of a deal. The politicians, however, were less so. The European Union is famous for crafting deals at five minutes to midnight.
The stumbling block this week — as it has been for two years — is what to do about the border between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain an E.U. member, and Northern Ireland, which will exit along with the rest of the United Kingdom. Negotiators are trying to figure out how to preserve British sovereignty and protect the E.U.’s single market and customs union, while preventing the reemergence of sectarian tensions that scarred the island for decades.
In the psychodrama of Brexit, the British press has labeled many weeks “make or break,” with the government facing crunch deadlines.
On Monday, the Telegraph newspaper called this crunch “the crunchiest” deadline of all.
The 28 European leaders are scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in Brussels. They say this is the last possible opportunity for the heads of the 27 other nations to agree to a Brexit deal — at least in theory.
Johnson has insisted — “do or die,” deal or no deal — that he will take Britain out of the E.U. on Oct. 31. But British lawmakers have passed a law that in effect forbids a no-deal Brexit this month and requires Johnson to request an extension if a withdrawal agreement isn’t reached this week.
There’s still a chance Johnson could cut a deal. And if he does, it will be debated in a rare session of Parliament on Saturday. Only four times since Hitler invaded Poland has the House of Commons convened on a Saturday.
Could a Brexit agreement pass? Nobody knows. Some hard-line Brexiteers who voted against the deals proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May have indicated greater support for Johnson.
But Johnson has lost seven consecutive votes in the House of Commons. Since becoming prime minister, his working majority has plummeted from one to minus 43. And the opposition parties have already said they will vote against his Brexit deal, whatever it is.
If Johnson does not reach an accord with the Europeans this week, most observers expect that he will reluctantly find a way to seek an extension — most likely to stage an election sometime this fall.
The queen’s speech Monday gave a sense of what an election campaign might look like, mixing a law-and-order message with promises to spend more on health care.
The queen ticked off 26 new bills making up Johnson’s domestic proposals. The policy announcements included stiffer penalties for some offenders; an end to “freedom of movement” for E.U. citizens coming to Britain and efforts to introduce a points-based immigration policy similar to Australia’s; and an environment bill that would set binding targets for reducing plastic use, cutting air pollution and restoring biodiversity.
Corbyn, the Labour leader, said Conservatives had laid out a “legislative agenda they know cannot be delivered in this Parliament.”
Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to this report.