Politicians and journalists, exhausted by months of Brexit wrangling, took what they thought was a well-earned break last week. But Brexit never sleeps. Nigel Farage saw his opportunity and stole a march on all of them with a well-timed and professional launch of his new Brexit Party. The BP has now stormed into the lead in the opinion polls, crushing Mr Farage's former comrades in rival Ukip, and turning the rest of the parties into also rans.

The political parties were fools to give him the political space. Did all those angry Remainer voices on Twitter seriously expect the BBC to ignore the launch of the Brexit Party? It would have been a dereliction of journalistic duty. The Easter break was the Remainers' opportunity and they should have taken it, not left the field clear for their deadly enemy. They could have got together and challenged Farage by launching their own united Remain front, perhaps as the Peoples Vote coalition.

It can be done. The pro-European parties in Poland have formed a European Coalition against the nationalist governing party. They have one electoral list in the European Elections in May, which means that all votes for Remain will register where it matters: in seats. The European Elections are held on a strict form of proportional representation using the d'Hondt method, which tends to work against small parties.

The Tiggers wasted time fiddling with their name. It is no longer The Independent Group but Change UK, which sounds more like a fast fashion website. The Liberal Democrats did their own thing as usual, as did the Green Party. Neither of them appear prepared to sacrifice their identity, even in the cause of opposing Brexit. There is every possibility, on the current polling, that none of the Remain parties will get a seat, except the Scottish National Party, which at least has a solid excuse for not leading a united front.

In Scotland, there is no doubt about the name of the game. Opponents of Brexit simply have to vote for the SNP, which will dominate the European Elections on 23rd May – assuming of course that they are held. But even here, the Brexit Party could still win a seat, now that it has had such a successful launch. There were a million Leave voters in Scotland in 2016. Most of them are utterly fed up with the Tories and regard Ukip as toxic. They don't like Nigel Farage much either, but many feel a sense of betrayal at the failure of the UK government to deliver Brexit and will be minded, as the Leave2 slogan puts it, to “tell them again”.

The Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, presumably hoping to sneak onto the SNP's pro-EU turf, has urged voters to back Labour on the grounds that it is “a movement for radical and real change in the EU”. He appears not to know the policy of his own party, which is of course to leave the European Union, end freedom of movement and collaborate with the Conservative Government to deliver Brexit. Does he ever speak to Jeremy Corbyn? I can understand Labour's dilemma given the structure of its core vote in England, but wilfully misleading the electorate is not acceptable.

The veteran former Labour deputy leader, Margaret Beckett has called on her party to become, effectively, the referendum party, and claims that it would sweep the board if it committed to a Peoples Vote. It is possible that it could do precisely that, given the abject failure of the pro-Remain parties. Polls suggest that a clear majority of voters now support Remain, and Labour could turn the Euros into a de facto referendum, at least in England.

However, what Jeremy Corbyn fears is that winning the European Elections might lose him the general election. He is preoccupied with those 30-40 pro Leave-voting marginal seats that Labour has to win to form the next government. The Labour leader has been doing his best to ride two horses on Brexit: appealing to both Remain urbanites in the south and provincial Leavers in the north.

As for the Tories, they are braced for the most withering electoral rebuff in modern history. Boris Johnson says he won't even bother campaigning, the better to disown the result. Theresa May has managed to antagonise everyone: Leavers, Remainers, hard brexiteers, soft brexiteers, and the legions of the undecided. The conduct of the negotiations on Brexit has left her looking like a lost leader who no longer has the respect of her party, or her counter-parties in Brussels.

Britain, under the Prime Minister's watch, has become a laughing stock across the world. A one-time world power which, to use a contemporary US idiom, no longer knows its ass from a hole in the ground. A country which declared its intention to leave the biggest and wealthiest trading block on the planet, made vainglorious declarations about liberation from the “chains” of the EU, and yet has had to beg Brussels twice for an extension to its departure date. You can't hold us against our will, she says, but please don't let us go.

Remainers seem to be hoping that the latest delay of Article 50 until October has effectively killed Brexit off. Some think Brussels will just extend and extend until we end up in a permanent state of un-leaving. This is far from certain. Britain remains in the legal departure lounge, and Europe is not going to allow us to build a permanent residence there. If Nigel Farage dominates the European elections, as seems likely, it will encourage those countries amongst the 27 who want Britain to be given a hard exit.

Remainers keep insisting that Nigel Farage has “no plan”, no policies, and should be given a rough ride from the BBC for being a one-issue party. But he doesn't need a plan. The Brexit Party is turning the European elections into precisely the referendum on Brexit that Remainers have been crying out for. He has a razor sharp focus on the only issue that matters, while the Remain parties dither.

There is of course the possibility that Tory MPs will save the day by voting for Theresa May's Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, when the brings it back to parliament sometime next month. She hopes the diehards in the European Research Group will realise that the alternative is Jeremy Corbyn as PM. But the Brexit blood pact with the Democratic Unionist Party is holding. I'm not at all sure Tory “spartans” are ready to save Theresa May by voting for a Withdrawal deal which they believe is worse than remaining in the European Union.

Is the runaway success of the Brexit Party going to make them any more likely to abandon their principles? Well, it wouldn't be the first time that MPs have decided that discretion is the better part of valour, and voted to save their backsides. But what many Tories are beginning to realise is that the Conservative Party is not going to recover from this crisis any time soon. The campaign to decide who inherits the wreckage has already started, and the word is that Boris Johnson is the one most likely to succeed.