ADVANCE copies of political speeches generally have “check against delivery” at the top, in case the politician decides to go off script. In his conference address yesterday, the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Vince Cable, was supposed to have referred to hard Brexiters having an “erotic spasm” from leaving the EU. Unfortunately, it came out as “exotic spresm” – at least that’s what I heard him say. His mangled delivery caught out a number of publications, including the Spectator, which had already published a blog commenting on what the LibDem leader didn’t actually say.

Perhaps Sir Vince thought twice about evoking colourful images of Boris Johnson’s EU withdrawal method. Perhaps he was just trying to get noticed – always a problem for his party. Whatever, Sir Vince’s neologism is likely to be all that people remember him for, if he stands down next year as expected. “Exotic spresm” immediately became a thing on social media.

This is unfortunate, because his speech was rather strong on the need for a repeat referendum – or “People’s Vote” –to reconsider the 2016 vote to leave the EU. “Brexit can be stopped and must be stopped” he said, and he’s not alone in thinking so. High-profile Labour figures like Tony Blair and the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan have recently backed an exit from Brexit.

The TUC has said that it will support a referendum on Brexit if there isn’t a satisfactory deal. There are dozens of motions down for the Labour Conference next week calling for a People’s Vote, and many members of the influential, pro-Corbyn group Momentum, are pressing for one. Indeed, apart from hating the Tories, it’s about the only thing that left and right in the Labour Party actually agree upon right now.

The case for a People’s Vote is that, if and when parliament rejects Theresa May’s Chequers deal, the only rational solution then will be to put the question back to the people who started this whole project: the voters. Do they seriously want to go over a cliff with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson? Or would they really rather call the whole thing off?

After all, referendums are only supposed to be advisory, and if we’re faced with the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal, risking the economic dislocation and civil unrest that Sir Vince outlined yesterday, then it seems reasonable to ask the people if this is really what they want. Even lemmings have a right to change their minds.

However, the problem is that, apart from the LibDems, who are politically irrelevant, none of the party leaders seems willing to lead a think-twice campaign. Mrs May has ruled out a repeat referendum on the grounds that we’ve made our bed and are now required to lie on it. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t know what he thinks about anything much to do with Brexit, except for the People’s Vote, which he has rejected in the past. He presumably fears that all those Labour constituencies in the north of England that voted Brexit will feel betrayed.

The SNP is all over the place too. Nicola Sturgeon has been careful to avoid endorsing a referendum on Europe, though she says she isn’t actively opposed to one. The SNP is leery in case it sets a precedent for a think-twice vote on Scottish independence.

Then there’s the timing. The meaningful vote in the House of Commons on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – if she secures one at the November EU summit – will presumably be sometime in the New Year. That leaves little time for a referendum bill to be put through the Commons. Anyway, Mrs May will presumably refuse to submit one.

Of course, she may be gone by then. If her Brexit deal is rejected by the Commons there is an expectation that she’ll either stand down or call a General Election, which is what Labour is banking on. But then again, she might not. Mrs May has spent so long doggedly holding on to office, despite last year’s botched snap election and her disastrous conference speech, that no one can rule out her digging in again for the long haul.

So, the British Government and parliament is stuck, bereft, paralysed in face of this most momentous decision. Unless we get unstuck, the initiative may fall to Brussels to try to find a way out of the impasse. It is conceivable that the EU 27 might offer to delay the implementation of Article 50 in March. If there is no deal that Parliament can agree on, it would seem reasonable give the UK breathing space to hold either a General Election, or a referendum on remaining within the EU.

This might amount to the same thing. If Labour , the LibDems and the SNP were to put a repeat Brexit referendum in their manifestos for a General Election and then win – that would surely put the People’s Vote on a sound democratic footing. But that’s a very big if. Moreover, it would inflame Brexit supporters if the EU appeared to be interfering in domestic UK politics and conniving at a repeat referendum. There is already a “Britain Betrayed” campaign getting off the ground, led by Nigel Farage and Ukip over Chequers.

They suspect that the EU negotiator Michel Barnier has been making positive noises about a deal because he believes Mrs May is about to concede more. There are reports that Brussels is prepared to allow goods to cross the Northern Ireland border without customs checks. This has infuriated SNP supporters because it has supposedly been drafted in such a way as to prevent any such arrangement applying equally to Scotland.

However, Ms Sturgeon may not reject it out of hand if it looks like keeping Britain in some kind of regulatory alignment with the European Single Market. Nor might Labour. None of the the parties in Westminster actually wants a no-deal. If Mrs May succeeds in securing a deal that looks like Britain remaining in the European Single Market in all but name, the opposition parties might back her against her hard Brexit rebels. Perhaps that’s what an exotic spresm means?