WHILE it has become accepted that we are living in strange times, I never thought to see the day when logic in British politics would go through the looking glass, turn right at Narnia, and head for Atlantis.

Yesterday was such a day. How else would one explain a Government presenting the public with two choices, one bad, the other worse, and insisting a decision had to be made?

The day began with the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, confirming the UK would be worse off as a result of Brexit. He could not have been clearer. Interviewed on the BBC’s Today programme, he was asked if, compared to the status quo of being in the EU, every scenario under which the UK left was likely to be detrimental to GDP.

“Yes,” he replied. “You’re right in that analysis. If you look at this purely from an economic point of view there will be a cost to leaving the EU because there will be impediments to our trade.”

Hours later, a Government-produced analysis put numbers on the bare bones of the Chancellor’s statement. In 15 years’ time, it said, if the UK opts to exit under the Government’s plan, the economy could be 3.9 per cent smaller than if we had stayed in the EU. If the UK exits with no deal, GDP could fall by 9.3 per cent. Under any version of Brexit, the cross-departmental assessment concluded, the UK will be poorer in economic terms compared with staying in the EU.

Got those headlines and key words? Smaller. Poorer. Under any version of Brexit.

At PMQs, shortly before leaving for her visit to Scotland, Mrs May insisted that this did not mean people would be poorer than they are today. As the paper makes clear, the UK economy is expected to grow, but it will not grow as much as it would if the UK stayed in the EU. That did not mean, however, that staying was the best deal. Her deal remained the best, she argued, because it delivered on the referendum result while minimising the economic risk to the UK.

Roughly translated, her message to the public was: look, we know this is a mess, you know this is a mess. We can take an extremely costly way out, or a less costly one, but out we must go.

If this is the plan meant to secure Mrs May’s survival in the vote on December 11, someone should point her team back to the drawing board pronto.

Not for the first time, one is left puzzled by Mrs May’s tactics. Rare is the politician who presents the public with two evils and advises them to opt for the lesser. Perhaps only in war, or another time of national emergency, which this is not, would such a choice ever be warranted. The Conservatives have form in this matter, though. They are the original “hold close to nurse for fear of something worse” party. Austerity, for example, was presented as the inevitable lesser of two evils – cuts versus growing national indebtedness – but it was a political choice.

Then there is Mrs May's decision to hit the road before the crucial vote. The votes she needs on December 11 are not those of Scots factory workers or Welsh shopkeepers; it is the backing of MPs she requires. Unable to persuade them on her own, she is appealing to the public in the hope of starting a Mexican wave of support for her plan that will ripple all the way to the door of the Commons.

Yet it is difficult to think of a PM of modern times less suited than Mrs May to taking her case to the people. By nature a private person, she is not a politician who exudes bonhomie, or looks comfortable going with the flow (which makes her offer of a televised debate more amazing; even if it looks like she will only be going up against Jeremy Corbyn). One can no more picture her cuddling a calf (Thatcher) or standing on a soap box (Major) than one can imagine her astride a cannon (Davidson). For good, or ill, she is not that type of politician.

The idea that there will be a surge in public support for her withdrawal plan, and that people will communicate this to their MPs, looks increasingly like fantasy. As recent polls have found, positions among voters are hardening. Leavers are no more for turning than Remainers. Moreover, in a Sky Data poll, just 14 per cent backed Mrs May’s deal, while 32 per cent opted for no deal. She believes her deal is attractive because it is a compromise, but that is also the reason why it has been so opposed. Too many, on all sides, can find fault with it.

From the beginning of the EU referendum and Brexit process there is one thing above all else that the electorate has wanted: clarity. With this would come clear sight of the best way ahead. But voters did not get that clarity. Instead, they were subjected to lies and obfuscations from both sides. There were warnings at the time, from the Treasury and independent sources alike, that Brexit would inevitably come with an economic cost. But they were lost in the fog of war, dismissed as part of “Project Fear”.

This new Treasury analysis, together with the warning from the Bank of England, could be the moment of clarity the public needs. Then again, it was no sooner published than the Brexiteers were accusing the Government of trying to scare the public and MPs into backing Mrs May. It has to be said, moreover, that the analysis itself is not clearly presented, and, being a forecast, it hardly bellows confidence.

Mrs May is taking a huge gamble that the electorate will accept some economic pain as the price of delivering the referendum result. Suck it up and move on: same as any divorce. But the mood could go the other way. Not in favour of calling the whole thing off – not yet, anyway – but in going back and trying for a better deal.

Mrs May insists that such a deal is not on offer. Those who vote against the Government on December 11 do so in the hope, or expectation, that she is wrong. The refuseniks have been presented as reckless, but will their gamble be any worse than the one taken by David Cameron when he called a referendum to keep his warring party together? It was Mrs May and her party who started the UK on this road. Just because she insists we have arrived at the point of no return does not unquestionably make it so.