British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be on the verge of delaying the opening of Parliament as she continues to struggle to create a loose coalition with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and redesign a government program that will be likely to receive enough votes from members of Parliament.
Government spokespeople briefed reporters about the possible delay to the Queen’s Speech – the moment Parliament is resumed and the government sets out its intentions – by pointing out that it is written on paper made from goats’ skin, and therefore takes several days to dry.
A more likely reason for the anticipated delay is that the government will need to rethink its program from scratch and persuade the DUP MPs to agree to it before May’s government can allow Parliament to vote on it.
Questions were also raised about the wisdom of including the DUP in any government of the United Kingdom because such a move would damage Downing Street’s ability to be a neutral referee in Northern Ireland, something that was stipulated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that led to power-sharing in the province.
Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, which shares power with the DUP in Northern Ireland, said the party would oppose the DUP having a role in the central government.
“Any deal which undercuts the process here, or the Good Friday and other agreements is one that has to be opposed by progressives,” he said.
The state opening of Parliament was scheduled for June 19. The Queen, who opens Parliament, had already cancelled engagements to accommodate the date and faces the prospect of having to miss one of her great passions, horse racing at Ascot. There was no official confirmation of the postponement by Monday evening.
Negotiations with the European Union were also scheduled to begin on June 19 but the minister for the UK’s departure from the EU, David Davies, said they too may be postponed.
May called a general election when opinion polls suggested the Conservative Party was almost 20 percent ahead of the opposition Labour Party. That lead was whittled down as the prime minister failed to convince voters she was the right person to lead the country.
The Conservatives won 318 seats to Labour’s 262, which left them short of an overall majority and weaker than they were before May called the snap election.
It was widely expected that May would not allow Philip Hammond to continue as chancellor of the exchequerin the new government but she seems to have had no choice but keep him in the post. Other senior figures, such as Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Amber Rudd, the home secretary, also kept their jobs.
May also appointed Michael Gove, who she fired last year when she became prime minister. He will be the new minister for the environment.