Theresa May brought Britain one step closer to the Brexit cliff on Tuesday when the PM asked MEPs to give her more time to secure a better exit deal. "We all have to keep our nerves," she told the lower house.
As the Brexit Day approaches on March 29, Ms. Mays publicly stated that the willingness to lead the UK out of the EU without a deal, unless agreement can be reached by Parliament, leads to a collective loss of heart in Westminster and beyond ,
Hilary Benn, chairman of the Labor Department of the Commons Brexit Selection Committee, said that business leaders are "getting blown away" about the prospect that the UK might overthrow the EU without an agreement from the EU at the end of October.
"I do not think the Prime Minister would do that to the country," he said in May's recent Commons statement on her work on Brexit. "It will," warned another Labor MP.
The reality is that no one outside of May's May circle knows whether they would really push the British economy over the edge. even high-ranking Cabinet Ministers are in the dark.
"I do not know what's in her mind," said a close political friend of the Prime Minister. "I'm not sure anyone but Philip really does something." The Philip in question is her husband, not Philip Hammond, the Chancellor.
Ms. May seems to be adapting Richard Nixon's "Crazy Theory" for the 21st century and drawing lessons from the US president who tried to persuade opponents to bow to his will or risk risking something dangerously irrational ,
The British Prime Minister wants to convince Brussels and her Eurosceptic critics at home that she is prepared to harm the UK and EU economy through a chaotic no-deal Brexit, unless they make a compromise on the British divorce settlement.
"I have no idea what she's going to do," a Cabinet minister confided before whispering, "Off the record, what do you I think she will do it? "
Ms May is seeking to amend her Brexit agreement with the EU after being rejected by MEPs last month in a so-called meaningful vote.
The Eurosceptic Conservative MPs strongly protest against the provisions of the resignation treaty to prevent a return to a hard Irish border, and the Prime Minister now wants changes to win them over.
However, Brussels stubbornly refuses to reopen the agreement and the impasse aggravates the fear that a no-deal exit will be a real threat.
Downing Street refused to rule out the possibility that Ms. May would hold a second significant vote on a revised Brexit deal at a March 21 summit just after a showdown with EU leaders in the final week of March.
At that point, Ms May would hope to bring a strong decision to the MEPs: accept the agreement on the table or imagine Britain on 29 March without an agreement under UK law and Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty EU is left.
"If she has the choice to leave the EU without an agreement on March 29 or to seek an extension of Article 50, what will she do?" Complained Ed Miliband, the former Labor Party leader.
Mrs. May maintained a puzzling calm when faced with stubborn interrogations following the same principles in the House of Commons. "If you do not want a deal, you have to arrange a deal," she said. She would return with a deal "as soon as possible".
Leaving the EU without an agreement would be a massive political risk, even if the Eurosceptic Tories insist that the dangers are exaggerated and that the disruption caused by the abolition of 45 years of economic and regulatory ties can be mitigated.
Ms. May was warned last November in a report by economists from the government that a no-deal exit could cause Britain to miss 9.3 percent of the gross domestic product it would otherwise have had during a 15-year stay in the EU would have.
Regardless of whether such an analysis is reliable, this is the official advice of Ms. May. Ignoring it and moving forward with a no-deal exit, it is horribly exposed even if part of the feared economic damage never materializes would happen.
Monday's GDP figures, which show that the UK economy posted the worst performance since the financial crisis in 2018, has increased its stakes. "She plays chicken with people's livelihood," Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
Ms. May's "My Deal or No Deal" stance appeared to have been undermined on Tuesday night when ITV News reported hearing over EU chief negotiator Olly Robbins at a Brussels hearing and said that MEPs would be warned if they had one Reject revised withdrawal agreement Brexit would be delayed and there would be a "long" extension of the withdrawal process under Article 50.
Pro-European MPs, fearing that the PM might turn out to be a "madman" trying to take Britain out of the EU without a deal, are working on a final plan to pass a bill that prevents them from doing so.
Senior MPs, including Labor's Yvettes Cooper, will make another attempt at the end of this month to take control of the Brexit process after a previous attempt failed last month.
Ms May has promised a parliamentary motion to Brexit, allowing MEPs to amend and vote on them by 27 February. This is the moment of truth for Europhiles, who argue that they must postpone Brexit if they can not reach a revised deal.
Success will most likely depend on conservative ministers willing to resign to prevent a no-deal exit. They have been threatening to quit for some time but have not done anything yet.
"Resurrect yourself by stepping down," demands Sarah Wollaston, the Europhile Conservative, chairing the lower house health committee. Another pro-European MP said, "If she does not have a deal by the 25th of February, I would expect the ministers to leave."
But Ms. May will struggle to keep the option of a no-deal exit open. Perhaps she introduces the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli, who in the 16th century wrote that sometimes "it is very wise to simulate madness".