IT was Ronald Reagan who said that in politics, if you are explaining you are losing. Following the events of last night that maxim can be updated. A Prime Minister standing outside the door of Downing Street in the cold and dark of a November evening, after a marathon Cabinet meeting in which she has been the supplicant, does not look much like a winner, even if she was able to announce agreement on a draft Brexit deal.

Despite it being two plus years since the EU referendum, Westminster seemed to be caught on the hop by the sudden announcement on Tuesday  that UK and EU negotiators had done the business and come up with something to put on paper.

The headline writers were agreed that yesterday would indeed be Judgment Day, the beginning of the end.  It was certainly a day that did not want for drama. But where Brexit, and Mrs May, stand now still remains uncertain, despite her Downing Street address. 
It now appears that far from being a masterclass in negotiation, the process of reaching a deal, at least as far as the UK Prime Minister was concerned, turned out to be like one of those supermarket sweep competitions in which the “winner”, in this case a Mrs Theresa May of London, dashes round a shop grabbing as many items as they can before the time runs out. In short, undignified, messy, with lots of elements of high farce, and at the end of the frenzy no-one could agree on whether the country was walking away with a valuable haul or a pile of piffle.
Thus does Brexit continue in the style to which we have become accustomed. It would be asking a lot of the public to expect anything more at this stage. If ever a process is destined to conclude in a shambolic fashion it is Brexit. How could it be otherwise? A referendum held for the wrong reasons, to hold the Conservative Party together, results in a decision that splits the country, and which then has to be implemented by a weak government even more divided than the one before. 
If one had to conjure up a hellish political position to be in, the one Theresa May now occupies might come pretty close.
Yet she has only herself to blame. It was her decision to hold a snap General Election that resulted in her party losing its majority to govern. She was weakened, fundamentally so, and the EU knew it. History will ask if member states could have been more magnanimous. Whether it would not have been wiser, and in everyone’s interest, to smooth the UK’s way out of the club. As far as the EU has been concerned, the UK has caused this mess and must live with the consequences.
It has not been the EU’s finest hour, yet they can hardly be blamed for putting the interests of the 27 who are staying in the club ahead of the one who is leaving. Donald Trump commandeered the title The Art of the Deal for his memoir, but the identity of the West’s real artists and deal makers is clear: the EU negotiators and behind them the ranks of premiers. Their strategy has been to concede a little and in return ask for, potentially, a lot, with the UK-wide temporary Customs Union the perfect example of this. 
This looks, on the face of it, a sensible concession, a bending over backwards in the interests of Northern Ireland and the threat to peace that the imposition of a hard border would bring. 
Yet the insistence that the UK could only leave the backstop arrangement with the agreement of the EU immediately places an obstacle in the way of such a thing ever happening, raising the hackles of hard Brexiters in the process.
Moreover, although the temporary custom union agreement would apply to the whole of the UK, it appears as if Northern Ireland would have to be more aligned with EU rules, making it in effect part of the Single Market and in a different position to the rest of the UK. This runs clear across the red lines of the DUP, on whom Mrs May relies to remain in power. It was notable yesterday that the DUP’s Brexit spokesman said the party’s confidence and supply deal was with “the Conservative Party, not Theresa May”. 
And where stands Scotland in this? If Northern Ireland is to be treated as a separate case and have bespoke arrangements that confer advantages (or disadvantages as the DUP see it), how would that be fair to Scotland and to the EU 27, all of whom have to agree to any eventual deal? Again, it is another apparent solution that brings more problems for Mrs May in its wake.
Like any good negotiator the EU side has insisted on inserting checks and balances to protect its members’ position. 
Mrs May, in her own way, has tried to do the same. This is an instinctive Remainer, remember, who is trying to do the job of a Leaver. Like a schoolmarm who has been taken on to teach science, only to find she must switch to history half way through the term, she is trying to make the best of a bad job.
In some ways she has done so, but at a great cost to her position. Under the plan she presented to Cabinet yesterday, and which was published last night, the UK would be both leaving the EU in some matters and remaining part of it in others. It would quit the EU but stay in the Customs Union. It would take back control of borders, fisheries and agriculture, etc, but only after a lengthy transition period in which most things would remain the same. Even then, will the deal be as promised. Scots Tory MPs remain to be convinced on fishing, hence their letter to the PM last night. 
This draft deal makes a messy kind of sense, but it also leaves the way wide open for Mrs May’s Brexiteer MPs to accuse her, as one did at PMQs yesterday, of failing to deliver the Brexit people voted for (except for viewers in Scotland; whatever the deal negotiated, we would be getting the Brexit we did not vote for).
It leaves many more asking why on Earth the UK is going to all the expense and trouble of Brexit for not very much to change. What has all the commotion been for? A navy blue passport?
Mrs May’s trouble is that she is succeeding in uniting the UK, but only in opposition to her. Since the start of Brexit, and for a long time before, the process has had its own grisly momentum. It is the rolling stone no-one and nothing can stop. 
And so Mrs May, assuming she makes it through the next week with her leadership unchallenged, lives to fight wearily another day. Onwards she goes to parliament, hoping that time, the Whips, and some Labour Leavers will work in her favour. 
Winning, losing, the grind goes on.