Guest columnist: Brexit was the biggest part of a busy year

Sir Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh

As this is my last column of 2016 it’s worth looking back on the past year in Parliament.

I have managed to speak in the House of Commons on well over a hundred occasions this year.

These have included floor speeches on important issues to questions asked to ministers – as well as a number of interventions on colleagues’ speeches and the usual chairing of public bill committees.

The year began with debates on renegotiating our membership of the EU, as well as on the proposal to ban Donald Trump from the United Kingdom.

Both are issues which gained added relevance as the year continued, and I’m glad I opposed banning the now President-elect of one of our closest allies.

We also had a very successful debate on the then-Government’s proposals for out-of-school education regulations, which we fear will add undue burdens of red tape to voluntary organisations like church choirs and scout groups.

Speakers from both sides of the aisle made very forceful arguments against these proposals and I would encourage those interested to look up the record of the debate in Hansard as a model of cross-party consensus in scrutinising the work of Government.

My list is not exhaustive but other debates focussed on Central and East Africa, the unfair changes to women’s pensions, English votes for English laws, fiscal autonomy for Scotland (forcing them to spend only the taxes they raise), Syria, Equitable Life, junior doctors’ contracts and local government funding.

There was also the issue of illegal immigrants, Calais, refugees (as opposed to migrants), Sunday opening hours, human rights in Turkey, high speed rail (and the exorbitant cost to the taxpayer thereof), persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the steel industry, tax (and the fact that we have the longest tax code in the world), the terrorist attacks in Nice, the humanitarian situation in Yemen, grammar schools, and the disparity in funding between rural and urban local authorities.

However, nothing – nothing – this year has mattered as much as the issue of Brexit and the European Union.

When historians look back on 2016 they will see it as a turning point towards the better, not just for the United Kingdom, but for all of Europe.

We have always been a European country and we want what is best for the entire continent.

The decision of the British people to leave the EU was made not out of narrow self-interest – though it is what’s best for our country – but to try and create a better working relationship between Great Britain and all of Europe.

For too long has the sclerotic, bureaucratic, and over-centralised EU has dragged down all the countries of this continent.

As 2016 draws to a close, Brexit is the express wish of the British people as well as the stated policy of Her Majesty’s Government.

There is still a great deal of work to be done.

But with regard to the EU our day of liberation is just over the horizon.

May I wish all Gainsborough Standard eaders a very blessed Christmas and my best for the new year ahead.