AS we prepare for another week of parliamentary prevarication and unicorn spotting, there is at least one thing we can be reasonably sure of now: the UK will not leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. As Professor John Curtice says, there is simply not enough time to get the necessary legislation through Parliament, even if MPs took a collective happy pill and voted tomorrow for Theresa May’s bankrupt withdrawal agreement.

So, we at least have breathing space, a pause, a moment for reflection. My own wish would be for MPs to seize the moment and vote to revoke Article 50 altogether. MPs have the power to stop the clock for good, thanks to the good works of legally-minded MPs like the SNP’s Joanna Cherry.

Staying in the EU is the only sure way to stop the endless arguments about Canada plus, Norway plus, customs union, Irish backstop, regulatory alignment, maximum facilitation and all the rest of the gubbins that’s been occupying our addled brains for the last two-and-a-half years. However, this isn’t going to happen.

And I’d have to agree that it would be undemocratic for MPs to simply reverse the result of the 2016 referendum by revoking A50. It may be that Parliament has the power and the constitutional right to do so: referendums are only advisory. But it would leave so much unpleasantness that British politics would be soured for decades. There would have to be a referendum.

This is where my unease turns to genuine anxiety. I have a horrible feeling that Labour’s Diane Abbott was right on Question Time this week when she said: “Be careful what you wish for.” She agrees with Nigel Farage that a repeat referendum is likely to endorse no-deal Brexit, perhaps by an even greater margin than in 2016.

Even if it left us with a mirror-image result, with say 52% Remain against 48% Leave, that would itself be a disaster because it would have no legitimacy. Yes, some opinion polls say Remain would win a comfortable majority, but they said that last time.

The Brexiteers are already field-testing their slogans on social media. The frontrunner is “Tell Them Again”, which may not be as resonant as “Take Back Control” but is still pretty hot. It surfs on the very widespread disgust and alienation that many ordinary people feel about the political elite. It appeals to democratic injustice: how dare the globalists ignore the result of 2016, which David Cameron promised would be for keeps?

What would Remain’s slogan be? It’s likely to be a repeat of the Project Fear line which failed dismally in 2016. “Don’t put your children’s prosperity at risk”, perhaps, or “Think Twice; Think Jobs”. But what many pro-Europeans fail to grasp – and this applied to the Unionists in the Scottish independence referendum – is that it ISN’T the economy, stupid. Brexit voters don’t just make their decisions on the basis of economic rationality, as seen from the CBI and corporate Britain.

People are always motivated more by emotion than numbers – on what they believe to be morally right. The sense that working-class people have lost control is a very potent mobiliser.

As in war – and it is remarkable how much Brexit mythology harks back to World War Two – people are quite willing to sacrifice some comfort for what they believe in.

I may think they are mistaken. As with the people who supported Donald Trump because he promised to Make America Great Again, and bring back the jobs, I think Brexit voters have been sold a false prospectus by politicians who do not have the best interests of working people at their hearts.

But that isn’t really the point. I can well understand the sense of injustice felt by people who have been left behind by global capitalism. They want to kick the system, and the referendum gave them a chance to do it. They need a very strong reason not to kick the metropolitans again. Only Labour can provide that reason, and Jeremy Corbyn has been singularly reluctant to do so.

His refusal even to meet Theresa May was irresponsible in this climate. It may have allowed him to avoid coming off the fence, but it looked petty and weak. Corbyn should have gone in guns blazing, demanded that she drop the red lines, and then mobilised Labour for either rejoining the single market or for a referendum.

Single market membership has always been the logic of Labour’s position, even though Corbyn usually refers to a “permanent customs union”. Only by joining the European Economic Area could Labour deliver friction-free trade, and protect environmental standards and workers' rights. People say that Norway has blocked the UK’s entry to the European Economic Area, but this is not true. The Norwegian PM, Erna Solberg, has repeatedly made clear that Norway would have severe reservations –who wouldn’t? – but would not block UK membership.

This is because the EEA is essentially a Brussels creation. It was set up as a halfway house to membership of the EU back in 1994 when a number of countries were uneasy about joining the political institutions of Europe. The EEA is just the European Single Market under another name.

Brussels endorses British membership of the EEA, and this economic arrangement has a number of advantages over May’s deal. There’s no need for an Irish backstop; no membership of the CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy; no direct jurisdiction of the European Court; and it costs less than EU membership. Of course, it does not bring the full benefits of EU membership. Britain would become a “rule taker” on trade. But the EEA does not preclude future membership of the European Union. Norway, or any other member of the EEA, can opt for full membership at any time. And unlike the backstop, countries can leave the EEA after one year.

Membership of the single market also means accepting freedom of movement, which is why it may well be rejected by Parliament. But it is the only option that has a snowball’s chance of getting a majority, if Labour were to seriously support it. “Norway plus”, as it’s called, has more support than a repeat referendum. Fewer than 100 Labour MPs have called for a People's Vote, and only 12 Conservatives. The SNP has decided to throw its lot in with a repeat referendum, despite having argued convincingly for the single market for the last two years. But that isn’t enough.

To repeat. Were it left to me, I would revoke Article 50 tomorrow. I just want this madness to stop. But given the metrics in Parliament, we have to look at the least worst options, as the Labour-supporting commentator Owen Jones put it last week. May’s deal is dead. MPs owe it to the country, and to themselves, to find some compromise that works. Perhaps that can only be achieved with a referendum. But if MPs fail this week, they risk destroying respect for parliamentary democracy, and opening the way for a more authoritarian form of political leadership.