IT has a bland name that we have heard bandied around for the past two years - but what exactly is ‘article 50’?

It’s a formal legal process that had never before been used until the UK invoked it on March 29, 2017.

The article - only 250 words long - forms part of the Lisbon Treaty, drawn up in December of 2009 as part of a bid to make the EU “more democratic, more transparent and more efficient”. Signed by the heads of state and EU governments, the treaty includes the article, which is a basic five-point plan for any country wishing to depart the European Union.

It states: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”

And its only real quantifiable detail is a provision that provides negotiators with two years from the date of article 50 notification to conclude new arrangements.

Failure to do so means the state falls out of the EU with no new provisions in place.

And so, when the UK told the EU it was leaving, it meant it would no longer "participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it”.

But two and a half years on from the vote to leave and it seems the UK is no further forward.

So could the article be revoked?

Under its wording, the government can obtain an extension from the European Council, provided that the other 27 countries accept unanimously.

And after the Brexit deal was rejected, the Committee on Exiting the European Union yesterday said if Parliament could not agree on a way forward by the March 29 departure day, lawmakers should be able to vote on whether to extend the article 50 negotiation period.

Last night, it was reported that European officials were indeed examining plans to delay Brexit until 2020 after France and Germany indicated their willingness to extend negotiations due to the turmoil in Great Britain.

Chancellor Philip Hammond had raised the possibility of an extension on Tuesday, saying in a call with business leaders that a “no-deal” Brexit could be avoided.

According to the CBI, he outlined how the 29 March date might be postponed.

On Monday, Theresa May declined to categorically rule out an extension, stressing she wishes to deliver a “smooth and orderly” departure.

But as the last two and a half years have shown, nothing is “smooth and orderly” about Brexit.