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May and Corbyn both under huge Brexit pressure

With Theresa May's government stumbling from one crisis to another, it is almost impossible to predict the final outcome of her increasingly desperate attempts to manage the UK's scheduled departure from the EU.

However, while a no deal Brexit can certainly not be ruled out, all the indications are that it remains the least likely of the options on the table.

The attempts yesterday by cabinet ministers to insist that they were ready to `ramp up' preparations for crashing out of the EU on March 29, without any consensus over the arrangements, had the distinct feel of a hastily arranged PR exercise.

Sending warning letters to 140,000 businesses, and even claiming that some 3,500 military personnel were on stand-by to support the authorities, did not exactly give the impression that a confident and credible strategy was in place.

It was difficult to argue with the assessment of the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable who accused Mrs May of engaging in `psychological warfare' to facilitate a proposal which still appears to have little prospect of surviving a delayed vote in the House of Commons.

Even if the prime minister's plan ultimately collapses, it is extremely difficult to envisage MPs allowing the emergence of a no deal Brexit which would be economically disastrous for Britain with even more calamitous consequences at every level in Ireland.

The so-called Norway Plus model, which is favoured by some of Mrs May's closest colleagues, including influential cabinet minister Amber Rudd, and would allow the UK to stay in the single market, is steadily coming into view as a viable alternative.

Although the prime minister has endured a torrid term of office, and has already confirmed that she will stand down before the next general election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has so far singularly failed to present himself as someone who is capable of replacing her in Downing Street.

His recent comments opposing the backstop element of the withdrawal agreement, which guarantees a frictionless border in Ireland, have caused consternation within his own party, and his views on the proposed second EU referendum have regularly lacked clarity.

Mr Corbyn has said his priority is an early general election, but tellingly he has consistently been unable to establish any form of lead in the opinion polls over what is widely regarded as the most inept Westminster administration in living memory.

While most speculation has been about the identity of the next Tory leader, a change at the top of Labour, with the name of Keir Starmer on many lips, would transform the party's prospects.

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