The world leaders have left, flags have returned to full-mast, and work crews have begun cleaning up streets and dismantling more than 30 kilometres of temporary fencing.
Britain returned to normal daily life Tuesday, the first workday since the end of the period of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. And like a dam that had been holding back water for almost two weeks, there was a burst of activity. Labour unions resumed plans for job action, the government made a flurry of announcements, and new Prime Minister Liz Truss managed to cause some controversy less than 24 hours after the Queen’s burial at Windsor.
Ms. Truss took over as Prime Minister just 48 hours before the Queen died on Sept. 8, and government business had been halted ever since.
On Tuesday, her office kicked back into gear with announcements about additional military support for Ukraine and plans for high-level meetings in New York this week with U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron during the United Nations General Assembly.
On Friday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, will deliver a mini-budget that’s expected to be loaded with tax cuts, followed by questions about how to pay for them.
Ms. Truss caused a stir Tuesday by confirming that the U.S. was a long way from negotiating a trade agreement with Britain. That ran counter to the government’s stated ambitions for Britain now that it’s out of the European Union. One of the selling points of Brexit was that the government would be able to strike its own trade deals and no longer have to rely on the EU to conduct negotiations. A deal with the U.S. was the big prize on offer during the last election campaign, and the Tories said an agreement could be reached within three years.
But during her flight to New York after the Queen’s funeral, Ms. Truss said a deal was still a long way off. “There aren’t currently any negotiations taking place with the U.S., and I don’t have any expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term,” she told reporters.
The government is also under pressure to address energy prices, which are set to jump 80 per cent on Oct. 1. Ms. Truss had just unveiled the first part of a plan to freeze natural gas prices for homeowners on the day the Queen died. Nothing further has been announced because of the national mourning period, but the Prime Minister will now be expected to outline the rest of her plan.
The rising cost of living is one reason labour unions have called a series of strikes this summer in a bid for wage increases. Rail services across the country had been disrupted for months, but the unions called off that strike action after the Queen died. On Tuesday, the union representing rail engineers confirmed that strikes will resume shortly.
Away from the return to daily life, the Royal Family remained out of sight. King Charles III decreed on Sept. 9 that the Royal Family would observe a period of mourning until seven days after the Queen’s funeral. Flags at royal residences will remain at half-mast until Sept. 27.
The government also released some figures on how many people paid their respects during the Queen’s lying in state. Hundreds of thousands of people queued for up to 14 hours to pass by the coffin, and the line stretched for more than eight kilometres at times.
On Tuesday Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said approximately 250,000 people had filed past the coffin. She added that a final tally would be announced later, but the preliminary figure was far lower than previous government estimates, which put the total as high as 700,000. By way of comparison, some 320,000 people passed by the coffin of Winston Churchill when he died in 1965.
Not everyone was content to move on from the Queen’s death. The area in London’s Green Park that has been set aside for floral tributes was packed Tuesday, and many people continue to arrive with bouquets.
Sue Abrahams and her friend Sue Payne, who live in Essex, were among those who brought flowers. “We thought it wouldn’t be as busy today,” Ms. Abrahams said.
Both felt uneasy about the return to the daily grind and wanted to remember the Queen one last time. They’d enjoyed the peace and quiet Monday when the roads around their neighbourhoods fell silent during the Queen’s funeral. But now the hustle and bustle was back, and they regretted the quick switch to the normal routine.
“At least here you don’t feel the grind as much,” Ms. Abrahams said as she looked over the thousands of flowers left for the Queen. “It felt busy when I left home, but here it’s still quite touching.”