Robert Harneis – TDO – (FRANCE)Prime Minister Theresa May has successfully seen off the Remainers’ last hope of stopping the UK leaving the European Union. Fears that there would be a serious revolt by government MPs proved unfounded. The Lord’s amendment that would have compelled the government to come back to the House of Commons with the result of their exit negotiations for approval was defeated by 331 to 286votes with only two Conservative members voting with the opposition. The British leader has a long way to go before she is out of the Brexit thicket but the Commons vote was a clear success and an emphatic endorsement of government tactics.

The SNP's Europe spokesman, Stephen Gethins, said: 'If we pass this today we are passing this Government a blank cheque, a blank cheque on one of the most crucial issues that this Parliament has ever discussed.’ The truth is that the House of Commons gave the government a blank cheque when they voted by an overwhelming majority to allow a referendum on the subject in the firstplaceand the Remainers know it. The House of Commons has a majority in favor of staying in the EU. They agreed on a referendum because at the time the opinion polls showed a 60% majority against leaving. But how could they vote for a referendum and then vote against the result, albeit a result they did not want or expect?

Much has been made of the announcement by the leader of the Scottish Nationalists,Nicola Sturgeon, that she will trigger a second referendum on Scottish independence. However, she knows, and the government knows, that for the moment the threat is empty. First the consent of the UK government is required and will not be forthcoming in a hurry. Second a newly independent Scotland has been told by the EU that they would have to apply for membership which might not be forthcoming.A number of governments in the EU, whose consent would be required, have their own separatist problems notably Spain and are unlikely to encourage such rebellious behavior. The polls for what they are worth show that opinion in Scotland has not changed and still show a 54% vote for staying in the United Kingdom. Finally, and probably most significant, the North Sea Oil and Gas industry remains in a poor state with low oil prices. The thought of oil revenues was a substantial element in encouraging Scots to vote for independence. For the immediate future that is a pipedream.

After the vote, Brexit Secretary David Davis said 'Parliament has today backed the Government in its determination to get on with the job of leaving the EU and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member states.We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation.We have a plan to build a Global Britain, and take advantage of its new place in the world by forging new trading links.’

The negotiations that will now be triggered will not be easy. Satisfying a divided electorate will be difficult. The question of the Northern Irish border remains to settled. The EU will continue to dither between wishing to punish Britain so as to discourage other recalcitrant countries and wanting to do a deal that both sides need. The Remainers will try and make things as difficult as possible for the government, in the hope that things won’t change that much. They overlook the fact that not only is the UK changing its relationship with Europe but Europe itself is changing.

But for the UK the process is now definitely launched and for the first time since the referendum on June 23rd last year, there really is no going back.

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