BREXIT isn’t Brexit, it’s psychological abuse. It has plunged the country into a state of collective clinical depression. All the symptoms are there: repetition of negative thoughts, sense of hopelessness, anxiety about the future, inability to think clearly, neurotic obsession with detail.

As the days tick down to Article 50, the entire nation is in a state of repressed panic, a silent scream.

Theresa May, in her statement on Friday, looked like the rest of us feel. Britain is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Energy levels have dropped, parliament is paralysed, civil servants are exhausted, politicians can barely control their tempers, businesses can’t act because the government hasn’t a clue. The media doesn’t know which way to turn, forced to report, day after day, week after week, the same story: that nothing has changed. Again.

The Salzburg dinner-from-hell was supposed to be the moment of breakthrough to the sunny uplands of the Chequers agreement, but it was just another demeaning spectacle of British diplomatic weakness.

They’re not having it. They never were – not if it means breaking up the single market. May’s “no deal” bluff has been called. Again. We’re back where we started. The Brussels rebuffs have just become sterner, and the PM’s response even more disconnected from reality.

Everyone wants to move on, but we are all – Remainers and Brexiters alike – hopelessly stuck. Nothing seems to work, nothing sticks. Is it to be hard Brexit, soft Brexit, blind Brexit, no deal Brexit or BINO – Both In and Out Brexit. Canada Plus? Switzerland minus?

We spend our days in swirl of half-understood acronyms, ESM, EEA, ECJ, FTA, EFTA, CETA, WTO. There’s not enough time for a People’s Vote, the political parties can’t agree, the government is hopelessly divided and Brussels is on the point of washing its hands altogether.

I’ve been writing about Brexit for two-and-a-half years now and I’m just about at the end of my tether. I’m not alone. Millions of words have been expended trying to grasp what Brexit means – all in vain. We’re no further forward than on the day after the June 2016 referendum.

Political journalists are becoming like zombies, picking away mindlessly at their laptops, their brains turned to mush by exposure to Brexit-speak: red lines, backstops, cliff edges, cherry-picking. The people have spoken ... taking back control ... free and frictionless … deep and special … have-cake-and-eat-it. The cliches gather and envelop us like word fog.

The summits have become so predictable you can write them in advance. “Brussels signals a breakthrough over Irish Border”, say the headlines one day. “Brussels rejects Chequers proposals as unworkable”, say the headlines the next day.

Some say that this is just how negotiations happen in the European Union: through fruitless summits, crises and false dawns. Everyone lays out impossible positions, then prevaricates, then makes last-minute deals over expensive meals at the eleventh hour – or more usually about 4am. That is true to an extent, but that doesn’t capture the sheer torture of the Brexit negotiations which make Waiting For Godot look like an optimistic travelogue.

It’s at times like this that you realise why wars started. When diplomacy gets hopelessly, irreconcilably stuck, and the arguments just go round and round, what a temptation just to bang your fist on the table and march out. Call in the generals. Conflict simplifies complex issues and gives people something practical to do. Dig for victory. Become martyrs for the cause.

Fortunately, we don’t go to war any more. We engage in intellectual combat armed with proposals, doctrines, laws and precedents. Instead of shooting each other, we try to bore each other to death.

That’s what’s been happening over Britain’s excruciating long goodbye to the EU – it’s a question of who can put up with the torture the longest. Who has the numbest bottom and can still speak.

Not even the names have changed. The barmy army of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis, trying to evoke wartime resistance against Brussels. They shuffle in and out of the Cabinet, forming shifting alliances, but come up with no coherent plan. Meanwhile, Theresa May, the Captain Mainwaring of the Brexit phoney war, struts about trying to persuade herself that she is in command.

Her infamous Chequers deal in July, which both Johnson and Davis endorsed on the day, and then disowned the day after, was a fudge wrapped in an enigma. It declared, unilaterally, that Britain would retain the benefits of the single market in goods after we’d left it. Also, that the UK would start collecting excise duties on the EU’s behalf when we were no longer members. This wasn’t magical thinking, it was delusional thinking. In Salzburg, the Prime Minister insisted on something that was patently untrue: that her Chequers plan is still viable.

She says that hers is “the only workable plan on the table”, which is a curious description. Like saying the Titanic is the only workable means of ocean-going transport.

May says Britain cannot countenance customs checks across the Irish Sea because it would break up the UK. So she wants the EU to essentially break up the European Single Market to allow the UK to remain in it without having to observe its rules or pay its dues. It’s not going to fly, never was.

Tusk, Barnier and Juncker repeated what they’ve said all along: that Britain can have a Canada-style free trade deal, or Britain can join with Norway in the EEA, which involves remaining in the single market and accepting freedom of movement.

The opposition parties in the UK are not helping. Labour doesn’t know whether it wants in or out of the single market. Neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Nicola Sturgeon seem very keen on the idea of a repeat referendum. And even the supporters of a People’s Vote aren’t very sure how it could happen since there clearly isn’t any time left to hold one.

Even if there were to be a People’s Vote, no-one is clear what the question should be.

Should it be Yes or No to Chequers (or whatever deal the PM comes up with)? Should it be a multi-option referendum, including Chequers, no deal, and staying in the EU? Or should it be a simple repeat of 2016’s EU: In or Out?

Then again, should there be an option for Scots of leaving the UK, as the SNP’s Mike Russell suggested in June?

Nicola Sturgeon has now suggested that, since we are all at sixes and sevens, we should at least delay the implementation of Article 50 to give more time to decide what we want to do. That is certainly desirable.

But there’s no guarantee that the madness wouldn’t continue. Indeed, even after Article 50 happens, there’s a two-year transition period in which everyone can repeat the argument about trade deals. It is purgatory. There is no escape. We might as well emigrate – that’s if anyone will let us in.