THERESA May will be ensconced in her Maidenhead mansion this weekend, using her political compass to try to plot a safe way through the dangerous political waters towards Brexit.

Time is zipping by; just 55 days to go until Britain is due to leave the Brussels bloc. In the coming week officials and ministers will continue the big schmooze by having more tea and talks with those nice Labour MPs and trade union chiefs on issues like workers’ rights.

If, by some miracle, the Prime Minister persuades the EU27 to perform a screeching U-turn and agree a change on the backstop, then when she returns home victorious, it could be she will still have to rely on some or all of those 25 Labour rebels, who defied Jeremy Corbyn this week, to squeeze Plan B through the Commons; probably after writing out promissory cheques for several Leave constituencies.

Yet as the Brexit clock ticks down, it is becoming increasingly clear it is less likely Britain will leave on March 29. Why so? A number of reasons.

The talk of using a technological solution to the backstop riddle was itself rubbished by Mrs May only a few months ago. No one sincerely believes it will happen any time soon.

At Westminster, some 400 of the 550 Statutory Instruments required for Brexit still have to be passed and there are less than eight weeks to go.

No 10 blithely insisted it was always envisaged the parliamentary process would be accelerated as exit day approached but, in Star Trek parlance, this would need Warp Factor 10 to get everything through on time. Scrapping the February recess seems a desperately late move and may ultimately have little effect.

The fact each day a Cabinet minister raises the prospect of putting back March 29 - if only for a few weeks to allow legislation to be passed in the event of a new deal being agreed - appears to be a softening-up exercise for when it happens; but for a much longer period.

From all the noises on the continent - Juncker, Tusk, Varadkar, Merkel, Macron, etc - it seems hard to disagree with the SNP leader Ian Blackford; that Mrs May has a “cat in hell’s chance” of getting the backstop scrapped.

All the EU27 chiefs have to do is sit on their hands and wait for the Valentine’s Day vote in the Commons, knowing an amendment to extend Article 50 will be tabled and pushed through with the help of Cabinet ministers, who, by then, may be ex-Cabinet ministers.

The soundbite that jumped out this week was when Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, proudly declared: “We are under pressure but it is all very much under control and we do expect to achieve what we need to do by March 29.”

Self-deception is a long-standing Westminster affliction.