Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May brought her proposed BREXIT plan to Parliament for approval. It got thrashed, amounting to the largest defeat in British Parliamentary history (432 votes to 202).
The remarkable thing for those not accustomed to British politics is that both the Labour opposition and numerous members of parliament (MPs) from her own party voted against her plan. Labour, which is a centre-left party, believes that the plan is going too far in cutting ties with Europe and jeopardizing the U.K.’s relationship with its neighbors. On the other hand, many Tories—the party that May “leads”—are in open rebellion and believe that her proposals aren’t going far enough in cutting ties with the European Union (EU). Without the support of one of the two factions, May cannot pass a BREXIT plan through Parliament.
Compounding these political conundrums is the ever-approaching deadline. On March 29, the U.K. will officially leave the EU. If an agreement hasn’t been reached by then, the political, social, and economic consequences will be significant. For example, Britain wouldn’t be able to import food. British pharmacies would run out of medicine. Fuel stations would run out of gas. Many fear that social unrest will break out. It is important to note that almost three years after the BREXIT referendum, where 51 percent voted to depart the EU, more British citizens are in favor of staying in the EU than leaving. A recent BBC poll showed that 56 percent wish to stay in the European community.
May, however, survived a vote of no confidence that came after her BREXIT plan’s defeat. This time her conservative colleagues voted for her to avoid a general election.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that it has done contingency planning in case violence breaks out. Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said, “Absolutely it’s right for us…to contingency plan. This is what we do—we have to work out all sorts of scenarios that might hit Britain.”
Contingency plans are nothing new for the British military. All serious armed forces around the world have stacks and stacks of plans in case conflict breaks out with some other country. Contingency plans to be used within one’s own country, however, are less common.
Before the vote, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson had said in Parliament, in the case of a no-BREXIT deal (that is, if the political factions don’t agree to a course of action before the March 29 deadline), the MoD will have “3,500 service personnel held at readiness—including regulars and reserves—in order to support any government department on any contingencies they may need.”
The clock is ticking, and May is running out of options.