It seems appropriate that the second series of “The Crown” opens with the Suez Crisis.

In colluding with France and Israel, Sir Anthony Eden made a monumental miscalculation, motivated by personal hatred of General Nasser and a desire to demonstrate “the smack of firm government” in an administration many saw as drifting.

Suez also derived from an unwillingness to accept that Britain was no longer a great world power, but rather one in decline. Ironically, the crisis only weakened its international standing further, destroying its reputation for (relative) straight dealing when it came to foreign affairs and debilitating its domestic economy.

At least the Suez Crisis only lasted a matter of days, its contemporary equivalent – Brexit, in case the analogy isn’t obvious – is already into its second year and probably won’t be settled until 2021 at the earliest. Sure, it doesn’t involve tanks on the streets of Egypt, but the central point is this: even if the UK gets the best possible deal at the end of this process, it will be worse than the status quo.

That remains the case despite the Prime Minister ending last week on a relative high note. Talks can now proceed to their next phase, but there’ll likely be many more weeks like that in the months ahead. At the same time, there’s been some significant movement in terms of what sort of Brexit we’ll end up with.

Basically, it looks as though Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s intervention last Tuesday, warning that geographically differentiated deals would “unravel” the Union and that, therefore, the only logical solution was close regulatory alignment for every part of the UK, used an impeccably Unionist argument to mask a push towards a softer Brexit.

This continued Davidson’s post-2017 election strategy of capitalising on her own party’s weakness to facilitate precisely that. That doesn’t mean keeping the UK inside the single market and customs union but something, as one senior figure puts it, “damned similar”. As any sensible observer can see, the alternative is much worse: a hard Brexit under which the Irish border issue would be irreconcilable and rendering the UK an international pariah, as in 1956.

Interestingly, hardline Tory Brexiters haven’t gone completely nuts about the new position of full “regulatory alignment”, at least not in public, but then some of them are clearly worried their “independence” dream will completely unravel. Reports now suggest Theresa May will use the momentum from Friday’s deal to take on that wing of the party, who’re just as blinkered as the Tory imperialists who cheered on Sir Anthony Eden over Suez.

Where does that leave the Labour Party? Well, they’ve been pretty quiet over the past week, no Hugh Gaitskill-like stand rejecting Brexit as absolute folly. Politically, this is quite sensible – why share the flak with a minority Tory government? – but they’ll have to firm up their position at some point. Yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer toured the television studios with his “Brexit for jobs” line: single market and customs union for a longer transitionary period, and the same “benefits” thereafter.

Significantly, that means there isn’t much between the two main parties when it comes to the next phase of negotiations. In fact, there’s not even much between the Government and Opposition and the SNP, although you wouldn’t know that from yet another week of mixed messages and muddled strategising from the Scottish Government.

The SNP, of course, wants permanent membership of the single market and customs union for the whole of the UK and, failing that, Scotland alone. That is a reasonable and consistent position, but everything else going on around that isn’t so straightforward. On Andrew Marr yesterday morning, the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he believed the UK would, in effect, end up staying in both, so why the usual talk of “chaos” and threats of another referendum?

Chiefly because the SNP’s position on membership of the European Union is still a bit of a muddle. In the same interview, Blackford ducked a question as to whether an independent Scotland would apply to become a full member of the EU, which was the logical extension of Nicola Sturgeon’s tweet about Ireland “powerfully demonstrating the importance of being independent when it comes to defending your vital national interests”. Scotland would not be able to do that as a member of the EEA or EFTA.

On Friday, meanwhile, the First Minister welcomed the deal as a “welcome step forward in the negotiations” which, according to other Nationalists, continues to be a total “clusterf***”. Confusingly, Sturgeon also called for any “special deal” for Northern Ireland to apply in Scotland, even though the whole point of last week’s negotiations was to avoid a geographically-differentiated deal in one part of the UK.

And, inevitably, the “i” word cropped up, the SNP leader also Tweeting that after Brexit, a UK Government could “never again tell Scotland that independence would mean a hard border between Scotland and rUK”. She had a point, but then Brexit will create lots of other precedents too, many of them deeply unhelpful to the prospects for independence, ie the sheer complexity of leaving a Union and the associated cost of doing so.

As usual, many otherwise intelligent human beings are wilfully blind to these realities. Just look at some of the language Nationalists use to describe independence vis-à-vis Brexit, a “get out of jail free card” according to one quoted yesterday, a “parachute” for the Scottish people “if they need it” according to SNP MP Tommy Shephard. They remain convinced, as they did in 2014, that independence is cost free, without any down sides.

Not only is that view astonishingly complacent, but it ignores the fact that Nicola Sturgeon’s central problem remains her own party’s Brexiters, who’re unlikely to be moved by warnings of catastrophe. Without them, she’s unlikely to get an overall majority in 2021; without them, she’s unlikely to win a second independence referendum, assuming there is one. In other words, Brexit is not the panacea many believe it to be.