Brexit: Theresa May's aim to prove deal is least worst option

MPs in Parliament delivering the result of the Brexit vote on 29 March, when MPs rejected Mrs May's withdrawal deal Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MPs rejected Theresa May's EU withdrawal agreement again on Friday

When does determination become delusion?

Number 10's answer to that may be "not yet".

There is every chance that the prime minister will again - with routes outside the normal boundaries - try to make a version of her Brexit deal the end result of all of this.

Despite a third defeat, despite the embarrassment of repeated losses, don't imagine that she is ready to say a permanent farewell to the compromise deal she brokered with the EU or, straightaway, to her time in office.

There is still a belief in the heart of government that there could be a way round, perhaps to include the prime minister's agreed treaty as one of the options that is subject to a series of votes that will be put in front of the Commons next week.

The aspiration, strange as it sounds, for some time now has been to prove to MPs that the deal is the least worst of all the options, for time to expose the impossibilities of the new compromises some MPs seek politically for the Tory party, and for the cost of a long delay to Brexit to be too great to allow Parliament to find a new way too.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House," said Mrs May after the defeat

Those allies the prime minister still has do believe - from the bunker - that there is still a chance to salvage something that looks like the prime minister's deal from the wreckage.

Meaningful vote two and a half was another defeat - but the numbers of those against Number 10 were falling away.

Time - and stubbornness - may yet prove energetic critics wrong.

But is the coping strategy of "just keep trying" realistically enough?

Ask Tory MPs and you hear a variety of "we're stuffed", "she's over", "it's a disaster".

Labour MPs are simply not yet moving in the numbers Downing Street had long hoped for.

Recent attempts to reach out have provoked more frustration than collaboration. And with the timetable for Brexit slipping away, the prime minister might soon be forced to conclude that the deal she believed in is truly gone.

There may never be a moment of compromise with her at the helm.

Theresa May never wanted to be only the Brexit prime minister.

But the entrenched divisions she inherited, and the miscalculations that have led her to this point, mean the eventual outcome of this chaos will not just be up to her, and will forever mark her moment in charge.

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