When is a deal a deal and no deal at the same time? In the Brexit negotiations. In fact, the way in which the talks between the UK and the EU were organised propels the process to one overwhelmingly likely outcome: an agreement on how to leave the EU, with no binding agreement on how to live outside the bloc. The former — as the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier made clear this week — is within touching distance. But the latter remains as distant as ever.

This straightforward fact appears to have been forgotten by those who used the summer to speculate about the perils of a “no-deal” outcome. The UK government has sought to dignify its hopelessly fudged Chequers plan by comparing it to the ructions of a no-deal Brexit. Ardent Conservative Brexiters, meanwhile, have sought to claim that no deal would be a perfectly manageable outcome.

Neither has admitted to the British people that under all scenarios, once a detailed plan for Britain’s departure from the EU is agreed, Britain will be floating outside the bloc without any legally agreed future. It will be similar to leaving a house and throwing away the keys, with no idea where to stay next. As this becomes more obvious, the growing dissent in parliament and the country will rise.

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