The pre-decimal penny seems to have finally dropped for arch-Brexiteer and 'member for the 19th century' Jacob Rees-Mogg, who declared over the weekend that “Mrs May's deal would be better than not leaving at all.”
While he insisted that he would still prefer a no-deal exit to the withdrawal deal negotiated by the Prime Minister, it seems to be dawning on him that parliament's efforts to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal could be a precursor to stopping Brexit entirely.
Rees-Mogg is a leading light in the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs, and it was at his vast Westminster townhouse that his comrades gathered to quaff Bollinger in the aftermath of the PM's huge defeat in parliament last week. What were they celebrating?
May's deal appears to be dead but Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer is now confidently stating that the only two possible paths left for the government are either a second referendum or “forging a close economic relationship” with the EU – in others words, remaining in the customs union.
Other MPs, including Remain-supporting Tories, will today focus their energies on parliamentary procedure, cooking up ways to wrest control of the legislative process away from the government in order to limit the range of possible Brexit scenarios. If enough MPs support these efforts then the Article 50 deadline could be postponed or revoked. In theory, MPs could even force the government into a permanent customs union with the EU.
That would take the bubbles out of Rees-Mogg's Bolly.
Until very recently, pro-Brexit MPs were comfortable with the idea that if May's deal crumbled then the legal default would be a no-deal exit on 29 March, but with parliament determined to prevent such an outcome it looks as if Rees-Mogg & Co have overplayed their hand and are waking up to the possibility that they may get no Brexit at all.
Unless May pulls off the almost impossible task of reuniting her party around an improved deal, then Remainers in parliament will have the upper hand.
Yesterday the Sunday Times reported a friend of Rees-Mogg saying “Jacob is looking for a ladder to climb down.” Today, MPs are scrambling to kick the ladder away.