The 37% of the British electorate who voted to leave the European Union cannot have imagined they were handing the task to a government which is incapable of of negotiating the exit. But that is where we are now.
Preparing for exit without an agreement, put forward by Theresa May yesterday, may be a last desperate attempt to get the virtually stalled negotiations underway again. But threatening to walk away from the talks carried the very real risk that the EU will say it has expended enough effort in trying to get an agreement so just get out of our hair.
It is clear there is no exit policy the enfeebled Conservative government can put forward which would command a consensus of support among Mrs May’s MPs. Put the peers into the mix and the divisions are even more obvious.
May is in office but not in power, regarded as incapable of successfully negotiating a Brexit deal. But her party is unwilling to take the poisoned chalice from her: who else would want it?
Four or five times during yesterday’s debate she dissembled when asked about advice from government lawyers which is believed to be that Article 50 can be revoked. The efforts she went to to avoid answering the questions was as good as confirmation that the advice is that the Article 50 notice can be withdrawn.
I suspect that whatever the legal position this is really a political issue which would require the agreement of both sides. But the possibility of revocation opens up another nightmare for the British government.
We have been told that at the end of negotiations the deal would be considered in parliament. This was not a real choice having only two possibilities, “no deal” or accepting what was on offer. If Article 50 notice could be withdrawn there is another option: stay in the EU.
That possibility would completely change the the game although it would take politicians on both sides of the Commons to except their mantra “we respect the democratic will of the people” has worn thin.
Who knows what the democratic will of the people would be if the question was put now? Even less do we know what that will would be in another six months time.
Meanwhile, the Labour party is sitting on the sidelines building up is own negotiating team in waiting while talking with EU powerbrokers.