Despite all those emotions that have been running high around Venezuela in the last few days, United Kingdom's exit from the European Union (Brexit) remains the number one issue in the country. Last Tuesday, the House of Commons of the British Parliament voted on amendments to the Brexit deal. Even though the current document is called "plan B", it is little or no different from the previous one that was rejected by the Parliament on January 15. This time the most pressing question was which of the seven amendments introduced would be adopted and which would be rejected.
As per regulations British Prime Minister Theresa May may submit one the same document to the Parliament as many times as necessary. And it is not inconceivable that February 14 will witness another debate (the third one) and vote on the terms of the country's withdrawal from the European Union.
As for last Tuesday, members of the British Parliament's lower house supported the amendment which urges the government to rule out the option of leaving the EU without a deal on future relations. The MPs voted by 318 to 310 for this amendment brought forward by Conservative Party politician Caroline Spelman. The MPs also adopted a Brexit bill amendment which requires the government to exclude from the agreement with the EU references to the backstop mechanism. The latter implies that Northern Ireland (Ulster) will automatically remain a member of the EU's customs union and single market if the parties fail to agree on the transparency of the border on the island of Ireland. Now the border line runs between Ulster that is about to leave the EU along with the UK and Ireland that remains a European Community member.
Submitted by Conservative Graham Brady and supported by Theresa May's government, the amendment was approved by 317 votes to 301. The amendment stipulates that the backstop is replaced with some "alternative arrangements" to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Apart from the two approved Brexit bill amendments, the House of Commons rejected five other ones. In particular, the MPs voted 321 to 298 against the amendment introduced by Labor Party politician Yvette Cooper, which would provide for delaying the country's EU departure by up to nine months. Essentially it would transfer control over the Brexit process from the executive branch to the legislative one. Theresa May's government opposed it vigorously, while the opposition Labor Party supported the proposal, in its turn. Another amendment rejected was the one put forward by leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Ian Blackford and demanding that Scotland should not be taken out of the bloc against its will. The amendment was foredoomed, as the rest of the parties opposed any special EU departure conditions to any of the United Kingdom's regions.
Prime Minister Theresa May believes that the Tuesday vote on Brexit bill amendments in the House of Commons proves that chances are high to achieve a deal with the EU. She added that now she will seek to get concessions from Brussels. The only problem is that the EU leadership is not willing to compromise at all, as once again pointed out by Preben Aamann, a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk, immediately after the vote took place in the British parliament. According to him, "withdrawal agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation."
So, all of London's endeavors to talk Brussels into further negotiations will be merely hopes. Which means that the British parliament will have to make concessions and vote for the previously approved Brexit agreement plan. If they fail to reach this kind of decision until March 29 this year (as stipulated in article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon on any member's withdrawal from the European Union), there will be no deal with Brussels, because without approval of the British parliament the Brexit agreement will be considered invalid.
Although last Tuesday the MPs rejected the amendment providing for a no-deal "divorce" with the EU, the final decision on this issue rests with Theresa May's government, as the amendments adopted are advisory rather than mandatory. In this regard, it is entirely possible that London, faced with insurmountable obstacles, will ultimately have no agreement with Brussels. If the so-called "hard" Brexit happens after all, Britain will immediately introduce a visa regime for citizens of EU member-states planning to stay in the country for three months or longer. This was reported by The Financial Times newspaper with reference to British Interior Minister Sajid Javid.
However, it is highly likely that last Tuesday the MPs got frightened not by this, but by severe financial and economic losses Great Britain will suffer in case of a "hard" Brexit. This option of parting with the EU will harm ordinary Britons first of all. Experts warn that in the case of a no-deal Brexit the flow of goods transported through the English Channel may be reduced by 87 per cent of the current level, which will inevitably lead to a number of shortages. It is no secret that Great Britain is profoundly dependent on food supplies from Europe, especially in spring, when about 90 per cent of lettuce, 80 per cent of tomatoes and 70 per cent of fruits are imported from the EU.
For this reason, it is quite possible to expect an increase in Britons' discontent with the shortage of essential goods in the country, which some far-sighted citizens of the United Kingdom are beginning to pile up yet today. The British authorities are actively preparing for such a course of events either. As recently reported by the Sunday Times newspaper, Theresa May's government is contemplating the need to introduce martial law in the country in case of civil disturbances after a "hard" Brexit. This will enable the authorities to impose a curfew, confiscate property, introduce traffic bans and utilize troops if there is a threat to life, health and safety of the population.
Emergency measures taken in such situations may contradict the current British law. But apparently, this is the very essence of democracy as viewed by Great Britain: having fully acknowledged their frustration, the authorities first plunge the country into chaos because of Brexit, and then impose military law or a state of emergency to resolve the situation. It being understood that Britons will endure everything. But will they?..