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Since Britain has spent the past two years making a dramatic point of being ever less worldly and ever more British, it seems fitting to use the most British possible word to describe Brexit, their chosen vehicle for doing so. The word is omnishambles.

First uttered by Malcolm Tucker, a profane political spin doctor in the satirical BBC show The Thick of It, the expression quickly migrated into the real halls of Westminster, where it became a popular term of partisan abuse. The Oxford English Dictionary named it Word of the Year in 2012.

Omnishambles refers to a situation of utter chaos and mismanagement. If you’ve been following the unfolding Brexit saga, that should sound familiar.

The next stumbling block in what increasingly looks like a hurdles course run in potato sacks will come on March 12, in a parliamentary vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest deal to exit the European Union. She is expected to lose badly. The decisive votes will likely be cast by members of her own party – as they were when Ms. May’s previous deal went down to the worst parliamentary defeat in nearly a century.

Then, as now, Brexit hardliners on the Conservative back benches can’t stomach the prospect of an Irish backstop agreement. This is the mechanism that would temporarily keep Britain in the EU customs union while the parties negotiated a new trade deal, in order to prevent the imposition of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The hope for a better backstop appears dim. European negotiators have taken to anonymously briefing against their British counterpart, Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox. They say he is out of his depth on the minutiae of European law and trade rules.

Meanwhile, the basic positions of the two sides are simply too hard to reconcile: The EU wants above all to avoid jeopardizing the Irish peace by installing physical border checks, while Brexiteers feel that the “backstop” could drag on and keep Britain in the customs union indefinitely, scotching a meaningful Brexit.

So the omnishambles shambles on. If the May deal is voted down on March 12, Parliament will then vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal. The hardliners alone will back that. A no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for business, consumers, the poor, Ireland – just about everybody. It’s an ideologue’s fantasy.

If “no-deal” loses, MPs will have a chance to push back the departure deadline for a “limited” time. That might actually secure a majority. Punting has been the only thing the Mother of Parliaments has consistently managed since Leave won the referendum in June, 2016. (Indeed, major health and transport projects are reportedly on hold, starved of attention since Brexit.)

Even the most promising-sounding solutions to the omnishambles turn out to be fairly shambolic themselves. The idea of a second referendum has lately moved to the mainstream, with the Labour party backing another popular vote if all else fails. But another referendum comes with its own problems. If Remain were to win, Leavers would feel betrayed and have little compunction about staging a third referendum when they had the chance.

Finally, Labour’s preferred Brexit deal, which would keep Britain in the European customs union and maintain close alignment with the EU single market, would hardly be Brexit at all.

In short, all the options are bad. Ms. May has hardly helped matters. Her decision to call an election in 2017, and then all but lose it, cost the Conservatives a majority in Parliament and made kingmakers of the sectarian Northern Irish DUP, which badly weakened her hand. Since then, she has seemed a mere victim of events.

Then again, what events. Despite her shortcomings, Ms. May receives too much scorn for her role in the Brexit mess. Every second news story refers to some fresh “humiliation” for the PM. Well, consider what she’s facing down: a population that demanded an act of national self-harm; a group of Conservative ultras who insist on making separation as painful as possible; a feckless opposition that is as divided as her own party; and a partner across the table with the incentive to make everything as difficult as possible.

Oh, and by the way, Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29. Three weeks from now. In case you were looking for a definition of omnishambles.

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