TOMORROW, MPs will resume their attempts to do what the government signally failed to do over the last three years – which is try to find a form of Brexit which can command a majority in Parliament. That this process was left until after the date Britain was supposed to have left the EU is entirely down to the incompetent sectarianism of Theresa May.

The Prime Minister has behaved as if she had a thumping Commons majority when in fact she is a minority leader of an unstable coalition. Even after the Damascene conversion of arch-Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg, who used to described her deal as “vassalage”, her final attempt to get a stripped-down Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament failed on Friday by a substantial majority. You have to give May full marks for her consistency: everything she touches turns to dust, even her own resignation.

But that’s by the by. As everyone has been saying: we are where we are. And where we are is extremely uncomfortable. Brexiters are gearing up to have a belly laugh at the opposition MPs, who will do their best throughout the coming week to find a compromise. Who do they think they are? Playing at being a provisional government? “It’s like allowing the whelk stall to be run by the whelks,” according to the Tory MP Sir Bill Cash. But if no-one else is able to run the eponymous stall, then all power to the whelks.

Last week’s indicative votes suggested that MPs are broadly in favour of a Brexit that keeps Britain in the EU’s economic loop while leaving the political institutions. Curiously, the SNP, who have been arguing for soft Brexit in two white papers and an election manifesto, decided not to vote for the various options, even the Norway model that they have long extolled. The SNP did, however, vote for the proposal from the Labour MP Margaret Beckett for a confirmatory ballot, and this option got the largest number of votes, much to everyone’s surprise. This must be a serious possibility now that Parliament has failed to resolve the Brexit conundrum.

However, this is not a People’s Vote as some have styled it. A confirmatory vote is not a rerun of the 2016 referendum, but strictly a chance for voters to give their views on whatever deal Parliament agrees (if it agrees). The Kyle/Wilson Amendment originally envisaged putting the Prime Minister’s deal to a popular vote, assuming it was passed by Parliament. However, this confirmatory referendum might be difficult to schedule because it could collide with three other elections: a Tory leadership election, the European elections and a General Election. Brenda from Bristol will be in despair.

Even if MPs fail to come up with a working compromise, they can still block a no-deal Brexit. The majority against leaving the EU without a deal is overwhelming. This means May, or her successor, will have to go cap-in-hand to Brussels in the next few days and request another, longer delay to Article 50. This would mean Britain participating in the European elections in May, which excites the Independent Group of Tory and Labour rebels, but is looked upon with dread by the main parties. Brussels too is worried about populist contagion spreading to other EU countries like Italy, but they are legally bound to make British participation a condition of any further extension to A50

Voter wrath, particularly in Labour’s leave constituencies, could lead to a dramatic revival of Nigel Farage’s Ukip, or worse. The Svengali behind the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, is gearing up for the fight and reportedly suggesting a new party to fight for the right to leave. “Tell them again” is the favoured slogan. The European elections might themselves turn into a kind of second referendum on Brexit.

The Tories will presumably have a new leader by then, since Theresa May will surely go now there is to be the long extension she has resolutely opposed. Mind you, it is impossible to guess the Prime Minister’s thought processes. She said she would go if her withdrawal deal passed on Friday. But her gambit didn’t work. Even the opportunity to dispense with May’s services was not sufficient inducement for the Democratic Unionist Party to come on board. The joke doing the rounds last week was that she tried to fall on her sword and missed.

But these things have a momentum of their own, and the Tory leadership election has already begun. Boris Johnson is the narrow frontrunner, but that could change. He might win the membership, but under Tory rules the parliamentary party has to agree the two candidates put to a postal ballot. The remainers in the Tory benches might use this as an opportunity to foil the hard Brexiters by keeping Boris off the list.

Of course, what should happen when a government fails to get its most important legislation through Parliament is not a leadership election, but a General Election. The government cannot govern and, even with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, this should lead to a General Election via a vote of no confidence. Some Conservatives might prefer to fight a General Election than European elections they had promised would never take place. But events are now out of everyone’s control.

Everyone, that is, except the EU, which now holds Britain’s future in the balance. It’s trying not to crow about Britain’s abject national humiliation, but the 27, not the UK Parliament, will now decide the UK’s immediate future: deal or no deal. If MPs agree this week to back a soft Brexit involving the customs union and alignment with the single market, Brussels has promised to fast-track it in a matter of days. But the alternative, a long extension, will also suit the European Union.

That means more money from Britain’s budget contribution, and serves as a warning to other EU countries about the dangers of trying to leave the Union. It also holds out the possibility of Britain remaining in the EU, if a referendum is eventually staged.

Well, that remains to be seen. What is perhaps more likely is that Britain gets stuck indefinitely in a long extension. It emerged last week that the Democratic Unionist Party, which again voted against May’s withdrawal deal, could live with a long extension. Indeed, they signalled that they could live with a customs union – as long as it ensured no border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The DUP may be Brexiters, but they are ardent Unionists first.

A soft Brexit may now be the best way of keeping the UK together. But it should be put to the people in a confirmatory vote, if for no other reason than this was not what most people thought they were voting for in 2016. MPs have the opportunity to decide this tomorrow.

How and why Theresa May failed to seek the only kind of Brexit that could get through Parliament will be left for historians to judge. One of her own Cabinet ministers, quoted on BBC Newsnight, gave the provisional verdict: “She’s the sole architect of this mess because of her inability to engage in the most basic human interaction.” Who says personalities don’t matter in great historical events?