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Timothy Garton Ash is Professor af European Studies at Oxford University and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

As Britain agonizes over its destiny, I’ve been in Brussels discovering what other Europeans think about Brexit – and therefore what real options Britain still has. Essentially, there are just two. Europe’s door is still open for Britain to stay if we vote to do so in a second referendum, preferably before the European elections in late May. Otherwise, most of our fellow Europeans would rather we left on March 29, leaving everything else to be sorted out later and allowing them to get on with confronting their own big challenges.

Of course it’s impossible to generalize about the views of some 450 million other Europeans, but among the leaders and official representatives of the 27 other member states, and the European institutions, there is a remarkable degree of consensus. They are fed up to the back teeth with how long the Brexit drama has taken and how unrealistic the British side has been. If you sit with Germans talking to French, or Poles talking to Italians, it’s as if Brexit has already happened. Their mental time is spent on the Eurozone and Italy, Donald Trump and trade, post-Merkel Germany, their own populists and the coming European elections.

One other thing on which the 27 member states all agree is that they all agree. This unity results from an unusual combination of strength and weakness. The EU’s bargaining position is exceptionally strong, because Britannia has put a pistol to her own head and said “give us a good deal or I will shoot myself.” Yet because of all those other crises, there is also a pervasive sense of weakness. This translates into a conviction, repeatedly made explicit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that Britain’s position outside the EU must be seen to be worse than that of anyone inside.

Behind this united front, there are different tendencies. A small minority positively want Britain to leave the EU, so that France, Germany and other core states can push ahead with making a federal Union. Martin Selmayr, the Metternich of the European Commission, is widely identified with this view.

Others say frankly that the English – and they know the United Kingdom well enough to mean specifically the English, rather than the Scots, Irish or Welsh – need to be taught a lesson. You English must have your noses rubbed in it, one former EU foreign minister told me, and discover how cold it is outside. A Dutch friend working for a European institution says the English must go through “a valley of tears.” Well, thanks a lot, my friends.

At the other end of the spectrum is a significant minority, especially of north Europeans and people with close British connections, who are deeply distressed at the prospect of Britain’s departure.

Ms. Merkel has led a chorus saying that the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation. This is also intended to help British Prime Minister Theresa May get it through Parliament.

Gobsmackingly, the wording of the declaration on the future relationship has yet to be settled. All we have at the moment is seven pages of draft bullet points, full of waffle, but crucially envisaging “ambitious customs arrangements that build on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement.” The current timetable foresees this declaration being agreed upon by Tuesday, with member states then having 48 hours to evaluate it. It beggars belief that the outline of the U.K.-EU relationship for decades to come is being handled like a last-minute student essay crisis.

For the growing army of Britons, in all parties and from all walks of life, who are now convinced that the only good way forward is a second referendum, the crucial question is how the EU would react to a parliamentary vote to make that happen – once Ms. May’s deal has been rejected in the “meaningful vote,” as it now seems almost certain to be.

On this variant, and only on this variant, the answers I have heard from the highest levels in the EU are entirely reassuring. Although one cannot absolutely guarantee in advance the attitude of every member state, the overwhelming consensus is that the EU would extend Article 50 to allow time for any referendum in which one of the options would be to stay in the EU on the current terms. There’s a legal and political difficulty around the European elections, for which a redistribution of the British seats in the European Parliament to other member states has already been decided on the assumption that Britain will leave on March 29, but that, my interlocutors agree, must not stand in the way of a much larger, historic prize. Many express a concern that if Britain voted to stay in by a narrow majority – say 52:48 the other way – the United Kingdom would be an even more difficult, truculent partner, getting in the way of things that the rest of Europe needs to get on with. But that’s a risk they will take, albeit often reluctantly.

So here’s the good news: Europe’s door is still open, if we decide in a people’s vote to turn round and stay in. Otherwise, we can swallow the deal Ms. May has negotiated, and live unhappily ever after.

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