How does Theresa May (or, in the case of a sudden government collapse, a successor) get Parliament to vote for a Brexit deal?
Attempting to negotiate a compromise between the conflicting camps in Parliament has run into the sand. The alternative? Fear.
It would be a classic negotiating play: let the clock run down as far as possible and then where everyone is up close against the deadline give them the choice between a compromise they might not really like… or the nightmare alternative of everything falling apart.
This is why so many negotiations run up against the fear of failure, because that fear forces out agreement that would be otherwise elusive.
In other words, it is in Theresa May’s interests for the time to start running out and the alternative of Brexit not happening to loom ever-larger in people’s minds. We already saw the start of that in recent media coverage. Given how rare Theresa May’s forays into media coverage are, that was particularly significant.
Playing up the chances that Brexit may not happen at all is also in the interests of Remainers – because a crucial group for Remainers to win over are those who aren’t keen on Brexit but feel some mix of it is inevitable, there is no practical alternative at this point or that changing course now would be even more problematic.
Both Remainers and Theresa May, therefore, have a shared interest in ramping up talk of how Brexit may yet not happen at all.