WELL, here we are again in the long-running production of Sartre’s Huis Clos (usually translated as No Brexit) in which not only the characters on stage but the audience are required to suffer indefinitely. The play’s most famous line is “L’enfer, c’est les autres”, a sentiment that, alas, far too many people have adopted as their motto, given the way in which quite moderate positions are now described as “betrayal” or “treachery”, while those previously considered extremely marginal – such as a total ban on immigration, tariffs and regulation, or a United States of Europe, complete with army, common currency and unified legal system – are presented as if no reasonable person could doubt their desirability and inevitability.

Those who claimed that negotiation would be easy can’t have thought about the etymology of the word, which derives from the Latin for “not leisure”. Few could have anticipated, though, what hard work it would be if you gave charge of it to someone whose primary qualities are an obtuse inability to understand the issues and a stubborn refusal to listen to anyone else, or acknowledge basic facts. But thanks to Theresa May and the red lines she’s drawn up, to a pattern that makes no sense and bears no resemblance to anything mandated by the referendum result, we’re at the point where anything that does get negotiated can be guaranteed to be unsatisfactory.

She wanted an extension of six weeks, the EU wanted either none at all or a year, and the compromise is six months, with the deadline set for Halloween, a date for which all the hot takes and lame jokes will have been made by the time you read this. Whether it will have numerous sequels or desperate attempts to reboot the franchise is anyone’s guess.

What it does in the meantime is horrifying enough. The main parties had been steeling themselves for terrible results in the local elections for Northern Ireland and many English boroughs on May 2; now they also have, barring some miracle, elections to the European Parliament (the one we were supposed to be out of) on the 22nd.

We can predict that these polls will be a nightmare for the parties, because no one in his right senses would want to vote for either the Conservatives or Labour under their current leaders. As evidence, see the recent by-election in Newport West, where turnout was down 30 per cent, and the two main parties’ share of the vote (previously 91 per cent) fell to 71 per cent. Indeed, unless both parties get rid of their stubborn and obstructive leaders, it doesn’t seem likely that an election of any kind would even allow most people to express whatever their current opinion is.

And before we even get to the noted haruspex Sir John Curtice fishing around in the entrails of the results, we can also predict that they will tell us nothing very useful. That’s not just because a vote for the Tories (with opinions ranging from Dominic Grieve to Mark Francois) or Labour (Kate Hoey to David Lammy) won’t actually disclose the electorate’s opinion on Brexit. Nor just because both pro-Remain fanatics and monomaniacal Brexiters will have a range of oddball fringe parties to choose from: ChangeUK, the Brexit Party, Renew, Prosper UK and the latest incarnations of Ukip and the SDP will be lining up alongside mainstream parties – the LibDems, SNP, Greens – that, along with their faithful supporters, traditionally cater for protest voters.

There is also the likelihood that many Leave voters will simply refuse to turn out – part of the reason Leave won, after all, is generally thought to be that it persuaded non-voters there was an issue where their voices, unrepresented by the main parties, could finally be heard. If your opinion is that we’re back to the normal business of ignoring unfashionable political opinions, it’s understandable that you might be too disgusted to vote for anyone.

This, naturally, would suit Euroenthusiasts fine, since they think that the great unwashed had no business voting the wrong way in the first place, and should either keep away from the polling booth because they are stupid and racist, or hurry up and die because they are old and out of touch.

Diehard Remainers have, in any case, not stopped campaigning since they lost the vote, rather as committed Scottish nationalists (unsurprisingly) didn’t give up trying after their bid for independence was rejected. This follows the well-established EU principle that the wrong votes, such as those in Denmark, Ireland, Greece and Italy, should be rerun or ignored. One interesting aspect of Brexit, though, has been that Brussels, if it is secretly taking that position, doesn’t look like it’s explicitly trying to reverse the decision, though its demands may amount to that in effect: the noisiest wrecking attempts have been domestic.

The SNP’s argument is that, since the majority in Scotland rejected Brexit, the democratic thing to do is ignore the fact that the majority of those who constituted the electorate in the referendum approved it. And also, handily, that it provides a mandate for another referendum to contradict yet another referendum where the voters got it wrong. But at least that’s consistent with its general purpose.

There’s no such fig leaf for those, like Anna Soubry or David Lammy, or for that matter Tony Blair and John Major, who want a “People’s Vote” (which they assume will be a vote to Remain) or to revoke the whole thing. Their position is not selectively picking some apparent majority, in Scotland or London or Gibraltar. It’s just flatly arguing for ignoring the result.

All elections are people’s votes, of course. Whether there’s a tiny turnout for the election of MEPs or a huge one, and whether it’s a landslide for Remainers or for No Deal Brexiters or – as with all votes so far on the subject – indecisive and at the same time divisive, it will almost certainly be uninformative. It will also be pointless, since those elected will either serve for just a couple of months, or we’ll still be watching Chuka Umunna and Nigel Farage, or similarly preposterous characters, yelling at each other in Brussels in five years’ time. Perhaps Hell is not just other people, or other People’s Votes, but all the other people’s votes. It certainly seems like endless torment.