When May fails this week we’ll be searching hard for reasons to be cheerful

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Theresa May has taken personal responsibility for Brexit negotiations. And has failed to make a breakthrough, so far. Whatever has been agreed on money and the movement of people (and we do not yet know), Ireland remains as a stumbling block that may be insurmountable.

I have already discussed the Irish issue. There is only one solution and that is for the North to stay in the Customs Union. But the DUP won't have it. And nor will thirty hard-right Tories who have set what they know to be a series of impossible demands for Theresa May.

I don't feel sorry for Theresa May. She set out to deliver something she does not believe in, and cannot. She cannot because UK parliamentary arithmetic does not allow it. That is, unless the Labour Party agree to support her, which would be utterly bizarre. And for once Jeremy Hunt is right: unless the Tories do back Theresa May they will get nothing like the Brexit they want.

The real question though is for how long this situation can persist. We are, in effect, about half way through the time available to negotiate a Brexit deal and are getting nowhere fast by the look of it. I think it fair to assume there will be no Irish deal that May can deliver. And in that case we have a government that deserves to lose a vote of confidence because it cannot deliver on the sole major policy agenda item it has facing it. That's why Labour cannot support May.

But what would Labour then do? Can they manage to portray the Tories as utterly split? That is the only basis for winning essential Tory votes, but they have the likes of Kate Hoey, who is utterly bizarre on Brexit, undermining that prospect.

And can Labour offer a solution that will appeal? This is bound to be based on the customs union, at least. And it is bound to have a long transition. Are Labour able to sell this as both consistent with 2016 and the only thing possible to secure economic and social peace in these islands?

It's a question to which I do not know the answer. But I do expect it to be asked, and soon, because if May comes back empty handed this week the Brexit negotiations are effectively over. There will not be time to achieve anything that can appease her own party if it cannot be put on the table and agreed as a viable option by the EU now.

So, we're at crunch time, as the NHS is failing, social division is rising, an economic crisis is coming and the electoral system is not delivering answers.

The late, great, Ian Drury comes to mind. We need reasons to be cheerful. But we may have to search quite hard.