First published on the Times Redbox
The Brexit camp are trying to make the referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union about control. Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and co promise to bring back control over our laws that parliament apparently doesn’t have. The myth goes that 75 per cent of UK laws originate from the EU. Wrong.
As the ink dries on the Queen’s speech, nothing could make the opposite point more clearly. The House of Commons and the Lords were burning the midnight oil to push the Housing and Planning bill through parliament last week. Not any EU directive in sight on that one. It originated in the 2015 Conservative party manifesto.
The trade union bill was another disastrous piece of legislation. It did not come from the Commission but Conservative Central Office. Recently ditched or defeated proposals for forced academisation or cuts to tax credits were all budget, not Brussels, initiatives.
Look back over the last parliament. Two bills stand out: the Health and Social Care Act, and equal marriage. Andrew Lansley gets all the credit for the former and Lynne Featherstone wants all the credit for the latter.
But the EU was behind neither.
Which bills got put on the Queen’s piece of parchment is much more to do with Brexit-backing Chris Grayling than Belgium-based Jean-Claude Juncker. It is time the Vote Leave camp acknowledge this fact.
Announced reforms to broadband accessibility, the prison system, and care and adoption procedures, have little or nothing to do with implementing the single market, policing free movement, or pursuing continent-wide peace. They are all in the gift – like the EU referendum bill itself once was – of this majority Tory government.
Every government is looking for anyone to blame but themselves. Many have used the EU as a bogeyman for decades now. But the Queen’s Speech shows that ‘he who holds the pen holds the power’. The pen drafting Britain’s legislation is firmly in the hands of Her Majesty’s government.
It is said the next Tory leader, and – at least for a short while – prime minister will be from the ‘Leave’ camp.
The one good thing about this referendum is that that person may finally grasp that it is they who are in control – and that they’ll have no one left to blame.
Richard Angell is director of Progress